Pizza, taco cravings in lockdowns propel Yum Brands quarterly beat

(Reuters) - Yum Brands Inc YUM.N said on Thursday online orders surged in the second quarter as more people ordered pizzas and tacos while under coronavirus lockdowns, driving better-than-expected sales and profit for the restaurant operator.

FILE PHOTO: A KFC restaurant is pictured in Burbank, California April 19, 2011. REUTERS/Fred Prouser

Restaurants have modified the way they serve their customers to ramp up safety and ensure fast and contactless delivery as online orders surge.

For Yum, which operates about 50,000 restaurants globally, online sales hit an all-time high, said Chief Executive Officer David Gibbs.

“Digital sales were a big driver of the dramatic improvement in sales from the initial impact of COVID-19.”

Gibbs said sales trends for open stores stabilized in June “just a few points short of flat”, even though a majority of its dining rooms were still closed, and the trends have continued into July.

Pizzas have been a hit with consumers, with rival Domino's Pizza DPZ.N also posting robust quarterly U.S. sales.

Sales at Pizza Hut stores open for more than a year fell 9% in the second quarter ended June 30, but were better than analysts’ expectations of a 11.98% decline, according to IBES data from Refinitiv.

Comparable sales at Taco Bell fell 8%, but were above estimates. However, KFC did not fare so well, with sales slumping 21%, compared with a 17.32% fall forecast by analysts.

Overall, same-store sales fell 15%, while analysts’ were expecting of a 16.02% slump.

Excluding one-time items, the company earned 82 cents per share, 28 cents above estimates, helped by $84 million in pretax income from its investment in food delivery firm Grubhub Inc back in 2018, at a time when Yum’s focus on delivery was growing.

Net income fell about 29% to $206 million.

Reporting by Nivedita Balu in Bengaluru; Editing by Devika Syamnath