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Beyond the Border

Beyond the Border

Taco Bell is increasing efforts to grow its presence internationally with plans to add 2,000 restaurants over the next decade.

Scott Mezvinsky is tasked with leading plans for Taco Bell's international expansion. Mezvinsky has spent nearly 20 years with Yum! Brands in various international roles and was named Taco Bell's managing director, North America in 2023. His responsibilities expanded earlier this year to include overseeing the brand's international division. Taco Bell currently has almost 7,500 units in the United States and more than 1,100 restaurants internationally.

Taco Bell is looking to match its Yum! sister brands’ success on the global stage. KFC has more than 30,000 international restaurants and Pizza Hut has approximately 19,000 global units. Mezvinsky has years of experience in guiding the growth of those brands in other countries and will look to duplicate those efforts with Taco Bell.

Taco Bell first started operating overseas in 1973, but it took 36 years for the brand to reach 160 international restaurants. The company has currently identified four target markets for expansion – China, India, Spain, and the United Kingdom. The initial plan is to reach at least 100 units in each market before continuing to grow and further increase its footprint in additional countries.

“One of our ambitions now is not only to make sure we get the brand right in those four markets and that we continue to grow in those four markets, but what are the next markets that make sense for us to enter with the right franchisee partners so that we can have those wider footprints and hopefully get some scale from a geography perspective?” Mezvinsky said during a recent interview with Nation's Restaurant News.

He believes the markets that perform the best are those with established franchise partners who share the company's vision to build the brand overseas. Taco Bell has seen interest from franchisees as they begin to scale internationally, with some already operating other Yum! Brands concepts.

 “The evolution of that strategy is we’ve gotten to 100 restaurants in four markets, so now let’s make sure the brand’s working and doing what it needs to be doing from an economic perspective, from a brand consumer perspective. How do we get to 250 restaurants? What are the next stages?” he said. “In parallel, what are the next markets that we should be thinking about to get to 100 restaurants? It’s an ‘and’ not an ‘or.’”

International franchisee prospects can look to Taco Bell's success in the United States to see the brand's consistent growth over the last several years. The chain opened 207 net new units in the U.S. last year, the most it has opened since 1999. The company attributes that growth to mid-20% profit margins and more than $2 million AUVs, according to Technomic Ignite Data.

Published: June 25th, 2024

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