KFC CEO – Who’s in Charge of the World’s Favourite Chicken Franchise?

18/11/2018 08:00 | Franchise CEO

KFC CEO

KFC is one of the world's largest fast food franchises and a popular restaurant the world over. While we all know that Colonel Sanders was the man originally behind the finger-lickin’ blend of herbs and spices, not many people know who are the people who are running the brand now. Here, we take a look at KFC’s internal organisation, with an emphasis on its CEO.

>> Read more: CEO Definition.

Who is the CEO of KFC?

Currently, the KFC CEO is Roger Eaton. In place since August 2015, Roger Eaton has a long history in the business and has presided over a period of growth for the fried chicken empire, as well as having to deal with some challenges. While KFC has continued to thrive under his stewardship, it’s also been overtaken as the largest chicken-based fast food restaurant by Chick-fil-A.

This could be conceived of as fairly mixed results. However, Roger Eaton remains an enormously popular figure within the organisation and a respected part of the KFC family. This is one of the reasons that the news of his departure from the role at the end of the year had such an impact. However, to understand the full scope of the situation, it’s necessary to understand the internal organisational structure at KFC.

Yum! Brands

KFC is a subsidiary of a parent company known as Yum! Brands. Yum! acquired the chicken business in 1997 and has run it alongside many other world famous brands. These include Taco Bell and Pizza Hut. In fact, Yum! operate approximately 45,084 restaurants in more than 135 countries, making it the largest fast-food restaurant company in the world by units.

Within Yum!, many internal divisions reflect the large number of businesses under its control. At the very top of the business, there’s the executive chairman and CEO, Greg Creed. Then comes the COO of Yum! and CEO of KFC, Roger Eaton. In his position, he has full responsibility for the KFC division of the business.

Roger Eaton early history

Roger Eaton was born and raised in South Africa, where he earned a Bachelor’s degree in Commerce and a Post Graduate in Accounting from the University of KwaZulu Natal in Durban. He is an accredited accountant in both South Africa and Australia, where he moved later in life.

Roger Eaton has spent much of his career with Yum! Brands and its previous incarnation, Tricon Global Restaurants, Inc. However, before working at Yum!, he held positions at Hoyts Pty Ltd., a parent company for both Hoyts Entertainment Ltd. and Hoyts Media Ltd. There, he worked his way up to the position of General Manager of finance. Roger Eaton also holds a position as Independent Director of Molson Coors Brewing Company.

Roger Eaton’s work at KFC

Roger Eaton has played an important role at Yum! and KFC for more than 20 years. Alongside his position as president and CEO of the KFC division, he has performed work relating to franchising in Asian markets, served as Chief Concept Officer for KFC, and been named YUM! Operational Executive. The sheer diversity of the roles Eaton has assumed is a testament to his abilities as a C-level figure.

When discussing the news that Roger Eaton would be retiring at the end of 2018, Yum! CEO Greg Creed was quoted as saying that “Roger’s imprint on our culture, people and the KFC brand is vast and his legacy is lasting. I want to thank Roger Eaton… for his tremendous service, dedication and significant contributions.” It appears as though the decision to step away from the business was based on his desire to spend more time with his family and to relax his workload.

KFC CEO salary

The CEO of KFC during Roger Eaton’s tenure is estimated to earn approximately $5.1 million annually, though a large percentage of this is in stock options. The CEO’s basic salary is thought to sit at around $820,000, with the remainder coming in the form of restricted stock awards, exercisable options, and un-exercisable options. This makes it one of the most financially rewarding positions in the fast food industry. However, there is currently no information as to whether this will change once Roger Eaton has retired.

The next chapter

As Roger Eaton will retire at the end of the year, the KFC division of Yum! will soon have a new CEO. At the same time that news broke that Roger Eaton would be stepping down, the company also announced that his replacement would be long-standing Yum! employee, Tony Lowings.

Tony Lowings has a 24-year history with Yum! Brands and his loyalty has been rewarded with one of the organisation’s top roles. On the 1st January, he’ll take over as CEO of KFC and lead the fast food giant into a new era. Fortunately, Lowing’s history means that he’s adequately prepared. Having held a variety of positions before his time at the company, most notably with BOC and Lend Lease, he began working with Yum! in Australia and New Zealand.

Tony Lowings’ time at KFC

Tony Lowings began his career at KFC in 1994, as a planning director. From there he ran the KFC New South Wales market and pretty soon after he landed the role of General Manager of KFC and Pizza Hut in Australia and New Zealand. As an Australian, this was the perfect way to cut his teeth as in management. However, he soon experienced a real culture shock, as Yum! asked him to move to Miami to oversee the Latin American market for KFC, Pizza Hut, Taco Bell, Long John Silvers, and A&W. While the USA wasn’t too far from home, working in South America required him to approach management in new and different ways.

Since then, he has held positions including Managing Director of Asia-Pacific and President and COO of KFC. The step up to CEO will be his biggest test yet and presents a significant challenge.

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