Yum Brands (YUM) - Get Report, owner of KFC, Taco Bell and Pizza Hut, on Monday said business in China again is finally picking up as the coronavirus levels off there, offering a hopeful glimpse of the road ahead for the hard-hit fast-food sector in the U.S.
Yum China (YUMC) - Get Report said roughly 95% of its restaurants in the country are either "partially or fully open now," as businesses slowly reopen and people go back to work. Closings peaked in February, when 35% of its restaurants in China had shut down due to the coronavirus, the company said.
New, locally generated cases of covid-19 in China have been on the decline, with most of the new infections attributed to students and others returning from overseas.
Still, Yum, in an update on its website, also noted that 10% to 20% of its stores still offer only takeout service or are operating on shortened schedules.
While the amount of disruption to business from the virus varies from region to region, overall same-store sales "in recent days" were down 20%, according to Yum China.
That's narrowed considerably from the 40% to 50% dropoff the fast-food chain's restaurants saw in late January during the Chinese New Year.
"Traffic at open stores remains well below preoutbreak levels and is recovering slowly," Yum China noted in its update. "Sales performance fluctuates as the recovery is uneven, and the situation continues to evolve."
Shares of Yum Brands at last check were little changed at $58.10 a share. Yum China were up 2% to $41.50.
KFC started up in Beijing in 1987, Yum China's website says. At year’s end 2019, it had more than 6,500 restaurants in more than 1,300 Chinese cities.
The first Pizza Hut in China opened in Beijing in 1990, and at year’s end the chain had 2,200 restaurants in over 500 cities.
And the first Taco Bell in China opened in Shanghai in December 2016. It at year’s end operated seven outlets.
The death toll in China from covid-19, while having slowed dramatically, reached 3,270 on Sunday, with a total 81,093 people having been infected since the virus broke out, according to the government's official tally.