Online push helps KFC parent Yum beat revenue, profit estimates

A customer walks out of a KFC restaurant in Shanghai, China, October 9, 2015. Yum Brands Inc, the owner of KFC and Pizza Hut, releases its first-quarter earnings results after the bell. REUTERS Aly Song/File Photo

(Reuters) - Yum Brands Inc beat quarterly estimates for revenue and profit on Thursday as online demand for tacos, pizzas and fried chicken from Americans surged, helping cushion weak sales in certain markets due to renewed pandemic-related curbs.

The COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated online orders and most U.S. fast food chains, including Yum and its rival McDonald’s which invested early on in their e-commerce businesses, are reaping the benefits.

“Digital has been such an important part of our resilience during the pandemic,” Chief Financial Officer Christopher Turner said on an earnings call.

Digital sales for the KFC owner jumped 45% to a record high of $17 billion in 2020. KFC and Pizza Hut divisions posted same-store sales growth of 8% each in the United States, partly offsetting declines of at least 4% each in their international markets.

Turner said Yum would invest more in its digital unit this year by controlling expenses in other areas, while Chief Executive Officer David Gibbs said dine-in sales would be a lesser part of its overall business.

The company said renewed restrictions in Europe has caused a slowdown in international business from the fourth-quarter, while its U.S. same-store sales strength has waned after jumping in the mid-teens in the first few weeks.

Yum’s fourth-quarter revenue rose about 3% to $1.74 billion, beating the Refinitiv IBES estimate of $1.72 billion.

Excluding items, it earned $1.15 per share, compared with expectations of $1.01.

Shares of Yum, which had risen about 8% last year, were trading flat in the morning session.

Reporting by Praveen Paramasivam in Bengaluru, Editing by Sherry Jacob-Phillips and Arun Koyyur