Yum Names Niccol as Taco Bell’s CEO After Creed Is Promoted

Yum! Brands Inc. named Brian Niccol as its next Taco Bell chief executive officer, filling a role that will be vacated when Greg Creed becomes Yum’s CEO in 2015.

Niccol, currently Taco Bell’s U.S. president, will take the new position on Jan. 1, the same date Creed ascends to the top job, Yum said yesterday in a statement. Niccol, 40, will be tasked with doubling the chain’s sales in the decade ending in 2022 and opening 2,000 new restaurants.

Yum, which also owns the KFC and Pizza Hut chains, named Creed to the CEO position after he oversaw the introduction of the Doritos Locos tacos, the premium-priced Cantina Bell menu and most recently a slate of breakfast fare that includes waffle tacos. Under his leadership, the Mexican-food chain went from a laggard into Yum’s fastest-growing U.S. brand.

In filling those shoes, Niccol will use innovation and restaurant development to keep the company on the growth path, Louisville, Kentucky-based Yum said in the statement. Before becoming the chain’s U.S. president, he had served as chief marketing and innovation officer and came up with the Live Más tag line. He also worked as a general manager for Pizza Hut USA and held management positions at Procter & Gamble Co.

Creed is taking the reins at Yum during a pivotal time for its operations in China, where it gets about half of its revenue. The company has been trying to rebuild trust with customers there after one of its suppliers was investigated for selling food with too much antibiotics.

Those efforts, which have included an ad campaign focusing on food quality and a revamped KFC menu, have started to bear fruit. The company said last month that first-quarter sales at restaurants open at least 12 months jumped 9 percent in the Asian nation, the first gain after five straight quarterly drops.

Yum shares were little changed today, closing at $74.67 in New York. The stock has climbed 6.4 percent in the past year.

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