NEW YORK - Yum Brands (YUM) named the head of its Taco Bell chain as its next CEO, marking a major promotion for the creator of Doritos Locos Tacos.
The company, which also owns KFC and Pizza Hut, says Greg Creed will become CEO Jan. 1, 2015. Creed replaces David Novak, who has served as chief executive since 1999.
Creed is credited with turning around Taco Bell's image with the rollout of its popular Doritos-flavored tacos in March of 2012. Since then, the chain has also introduced a Cantina Bell line positioned to compete with Chipotle, as well as a breakfast menu that includes a waffle taco. The 56-year-old Creed had previously served as Yum's chief operations officer, and has worked in Australia and New Zealand.
The promotion isn't surprising; Creed has largely been absent from media interviews in recent months, with Taco Bell president Brian Niccol instead making public appearances on behalf of the chain.
Yum said that Novak, 61, will become executive chairman.
The company, based in Louisville, Kentucky, has seen mixed results from its three fast-food chains around the world. In the U.S., Taco Bell has been the bright spot as KFC and Pizza Hut have continued to struggle with declining sales.
In China, however, KFC is the company's flagship chain. It makes Yum the biggest Western fast-food operator in the country and has been an important growth driver for the company. More recently, however, the company is working to recover from a controversy over its poultry supply that sent sales down in last 2012.
Yum Brands Inc. said it will also form an Office of the Chairman that includes Novak, Creed and Sam Su, the 62-year-old head of the company's important China division.