Stuffed crust pizza rivalry: What Yum! Brands CEO says about Papa John’s

·Anchor, Editor-at-Large
·2-min read

Them fightin' words. 

Yum! Brands (YUM) CEO David Gibbs says he isn't sweating during the stuffed pizza wars underway between his chain Pizza Hut and fierce foe Papa John's (PZZA).

"I guess imitation is the sincerest form of flattery," said Gibbs on Yahoo Finance Live, referring to the battle for stuffed crust fans' stomachs. "There is always people trying to imitate what we are doing, but I think people tell the difference between the original and the imitation."

Burn.

Papa John's debuted its "epic" stuffed crust pizza in December 2020, challenging Pizza Hut — the long-time leader in the space. Since then, Papa John's has ridden a wave of popularity — and higher sales — for a product it has heavily marketed. For the six months ended June 27, Papa John's North American same-store sales have gained 14.8%. 

But Pizza Hut's performance has been no slouch this year, either suggesting diners continue to like its OG stuffed crust pizza (and whatever else is on the menu). Same-store sales at Pizza Hut North America have clocked in at a 7% increase.

And luckily for Yum! Brands, it has KFC and Taco Bell in the portfolio to counteract any lost stuffed crust pizza sales at Pizza Hut. 

The restaurant giant said Thursday that third quarter worldwide same-store sales rose 6% for KFC and 5% at Taco Bell. Third-quarter earnings beat analyst estimates by 14 cents. 

Yum! Brands shares were relatively unchanged in Thursday afternoon trading.

Gibbs said he is ramping up growth worldwide at KFC given strength in the business. That nugget didn't go unnoticed by the Street.

"COVID flare-ups remain a near-term risk (with Yum China's comments last evening regarding still-challenging sales in China supporting this), but with the company's unit growth re-accelerating and sustaining at a faster pace for longer, we expect shares to continue to grind higher over time," said Wells Fargo restaurant analyst Jon Tower.

Brian Sozzi is an editor-at-large and anchor at Yahoo Finance. Follow Sozzi on Twitter @BrianSozzi and on LinkedIn.

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