Mr. Dedrick, 49, plans to pursue outside business ventures as well as academic course work. He will remain with the company in a transitional capacity until early 2009. Yum is the parent of KFC, as well as other fast-food chains. Yum's president-U.S. brand building, Emil Brolick, 60, will take Mr. Eaton's place as COO; the company would not comment on whether the brand-building post will be replaced.
'Enormous talent' moves up
Yum CEO David Novak in a press release said Mr. Eaton, a 12-year company veteran, "is the perfect choice as KFC's new president," noting "he is one of our very best leaders, with enormous talent, strategic thinking, energy, commitment and a stellar track record of consistent results in one of the most developed markets in the world."
Mr. Eaton comes in at a tough time for the $5.3 billion chain, which has about 5,300 U.S. restaurants. KFC has struggled with its deep-fried identity in recent years, vacillating between healthier options and those most beloved by its hard-core customers. It's also lost share to its portfolio counterpart Taco Bell, which now accounts for about half of Yum's profits, said Lehman Brothers analyst Jeffrey Bernstein.
Mr. Novak has said that KFC and Pizza Hut face bigger challenges in the current economic environment, as the concepts are geared more to dinner occasions and higher check averages.
Less grease, more grilling
KFC is pinning its turnaround hopes on a massive grilled-chicken rollout, which is expected to go on through 2009. Healthier options have failed for the brand in the past, but analysts have described the initiative as a necessary first step in appealing to a broader audience.
Before taking over as Yum's COO earlier this year, Mr. Eaton filled a variety of Yum and KFC positions on the international side. He spent seven years as senior VP-managing director, Yum Restaurants International, in the South Pacific region. Mr. Eaton was previously regional operations director of KFC in the same region. He also served as general manager of KFC New Zealand and finance director of KFC in the South Pacific.
Under his leadership, KFC Australia posted 27 consecutive quarters of same-store sales increases. He's also credited with product innovation and operations improvements in that region.