KFC’s Nikki Lawson to lead Taco Bell global branding

KFC's Nikki Lawson moves to Taco Bell
KFC’s Nikki Lawson moves to Taco Bell

Big changes afoot for KFC South Pacific’s managing director Nikki Lawson. After nearly 20 years with the chicken brand Lawson will be shifting her attentions to Yum’s Mexican fast-food chain, Taco Bell, when she takes on the role of global brand chief in April.

Lawson has been managing director of the KFC South Pacific (a Yum! Brands subsidiary) since 2016, moving into the leadership role after three years with the brand as chief marketing and development officer.

Lawson will report to CEO Mark King, who has been in the top role at Taco Bell since August 2019.

King said in a statement, “One of our biggest opportunities moving forward is positioning Taco Bell as the powerhouse global brand that it is, pushing us to continue to be a brand beyond QSR.

“With her proven track record and unbelievable heart, I can’t think of anyone better for the job than Nikki, and I know her addition will strengthen Taco Bell’s position for another decade of global growth.”

The global brand role has been vacant since August last year when previous incumbent Marisa Thalberg moved on.

At KFC Lawson has delivered a record number of asset upgrades, boosted the brand and customer engagement through insights-driven advertising and customer touchpoints, and raised social media engagement.

Lawson has also improved corporate social responsibility practices including work with the KFC Youth Foundation and programs to help young people build confidence.

In a statement Lawson said “I’ve loved every moment of leading the KFC brand in the SOPAC region and working with the dynamic people and franchise partners who are at the heart of the success we have enjoyed. To now have the opportunity to join the incredible Taco Bell brand is beyond exciting.

“I’m so impressed by their innovative culture and strong connection with customers and look forward to driving the next chapter of Taco Bell’s growth and purpose across the globe.”

The franchise network comprises about 7,100 restaurants globally.

  • Nikki Lawson was a judge for the Top 30 Franchise Executives 2020 report, which will be released on 25 February at a franchise industry event in Melbourne.