Pizza Hut, KFC, Taco Bell sales bounce as restrictions ease

Yum Brands’ first-quarter profit more than tripled from a year ago, while sales were bolstered by strong performances from its Pizza Hut and KFC brands in the U.S. PHOTO CREDIT: Mark Lennihan

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Profit for the company that runs Pizza Hut, Taco Bell and KFC restaurants more than tripled during the first quarter and same-store sales surged as coronavirus restrictions began to lift this year.

Yum Brands earned $326 million, or $1.07 per share, for the period ended March 31, which last year was marked by exploding COVID-19 infections in the U.S. In that three-month stretch last year, the company’s profit fell to $83 million, compared with $262 million in the same three months in 2019.

So the bounce back for the company’s restaurants was better than pre-pandemic levels. Wall Street analysts had projected per-share earnings of 85 cents this quarter, according to a survey by Zacks Investment Research, which Yum beat by 22 cents.

Revenue jumped 18% to $1.49 billion, also beating expectations.

Sales at stores open at least a year, a key gauge of a restaurant operator’s health, climbed 9%. KFC’s same-store sales increased 14% in the U.S., while Pizza Hut’s grew 16%. Those results were double its performances overseas.

Shares rose more than 1% before the opening bell today.