The move will give Yum, which also owns the KFC and Pizza Hut
chains, a leader known for clever marketing and innovative new
items at a time when fast-food chains are battling over Americans'
dining dollars. Mr. Creed 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.
"While it can never be good news that a CEO like Mr. Novak is
stepping away from managing the day-to-day business, we feel
confident that he leaves the company in good hands," David Palmer,
an analyst at RBC Capital Markets in New York, wrote in a note. "We
expect Taco Bell's upcoming year to be one that reinforces Greg
Creed's track record as a leader with a proven ability to deliver
Mr. Creed will take over at a pivotal time for Yum's 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
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% in the Asian nation, the first
gain after five straight quarterly drops.
Mr. Creed, who has been with Yum for about 20 years, also helped
manage through the company's 2006 E. coli outbreak that was linked
to Taco Bell restaurants in the U.S. Northeast. During the
outbreak, which sent 53 people to the hospital, Taco Bell closed
stores to make sure they were free of the potentially deadly
Previously, Mr. Creed served as chief marketing officer for Taco
Bell and led the $200 million "Think Outside the Bun" ad campaign
that debuted in 2001. He also was Yum's chief operating officer
before taking the helm at Taco Bell.
Taco Bell's same-store sales fell 1% in the most recent quarter,
which ended before the nationwide introduction of the new breakfast
menu, which also features egg burritos and the bacon A.M.
Crunchwrap. For all of last year, the chain's U.S. same-store sales
rose 3%, compared with declines at KFC and Pizza Hut.
There are more than 40,000 Yum Brands stores
globally, of which the company owns about 20 percent.