Restaurant Brands chief executive Russel Creedy says the fast food operator's plans to have 25 Taco Bells trading in New Zealand in the next five years is a "conservative target" hinting at more to come.
The NZX-listed company, which owns and operates KFC, Pizza Hut and Carl's Jr stores in New Zealand, Australia and Hawaii, will open its first Taco Bell store in LynnMall in the first week of November, and Restaurant Brands plans to have another open in downtown Auckland by March.
Restaurant Brands initially planned to have a second Taco Bell store open ahead of Christmas, but due to the opening of Precinct Properties' $1 billion Commercial Bay development being delayed until March next year, it has set the company back at least three months, Creedy told the Herald.
It has been unable to take over the tenancy of its secured site from another retailer who is yet to relocate into Commercial Bay.
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The Herald understands the second store will be located on Queen St, close to the company's flagship KFC store on Fort St, though Creedy was unable to confirm this.
By the end of 2020, Restaurant Brands would be operating seven Taco Bell locations in New Zealand, and around the same number in Australia, Creedy said.
Restaurant Brands will open two stores in Australia - one in Newcastle, another in western Sydney, before Christmas.
Creedy said the company, 75 per cent owned by Mexico's Finaccess Capital, planned to have at least 25 trading in the New Zealand market in the next five years, and at least 40 in Australia, including drive-thru locations.
"If we can go faster, we certainly would like to," Creedy said.
"The brand has huge potential, New Zealand alone, it's foreseeable to have 50-60 Taco Bells at least going forward. That would address the main urban centres."
Restaurant Brands is set to spend at least $65 million on the Taco Bell roll-out in Australasia in the next five years, he said.
The soon-to-open LynnMall store will be traditional in aesthetics and menu, though with limited options compared to US stores. The brand will serve tacos, burritos and quesadillas, along with frozen margaritas, beer and an alcoholic drinks menu.
Outside of Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch are next to get Taco Bell stores.
"Regional New Zealand is on the radar," Creedy said. "The intention is to be able to put a Taco Bell into those cities as soon as we can.
"Christchurch and Wellington will certainly get Taco Bells, hopefully, one each next year depending on availability of real estate."
Creedy said he did not believe the Taco Bell brand would outperform Restaurant Brand's market darling, KFC, which has experienced increased sales and improved margins in recent years.
Restaurant Brands' net profit after tax for the 28 weeks to September 9 was $20 million, down $0.4m or 2 per cent on the first-half of last year.
The fast food operator posted improved margins at its KFC stores which meant its earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation were $72.6m - up $3.4 million or 5 per cent up on the same period a year earlier.
Meanwhile, sales from its Pizza Hut business in New Zealand were down 7.1 per cent, attributed to competitive pressure and new food delivery companies entering the market.
"Overall, the Pizza Hut brand in New Zealand is doing better than it was six to 12 months ago. I'm still not happy with it, and I think it still needs a lot more work," said Creedy.
Restaurant Brands anticipates its profit after tax to be at least 10 per cent higher in the 2020 financial year as it continues to open new stores.