KFC loses a trio of executives to early retirement

The U.S. market’s chief operations officer and chief financial officer and its director of national field operations are all leaving.
KFC executive departures
KFC is losing three key executives over early retirements. / Photograph: Shutterstock.

A trio of U.S. executives with KFC are taking early retirement, continuing a substantial shakeup in the management of the Louisville, Ky.-based chicken chain.

The Wall Street Journal first reported the departures, of Chief Operations Officer Monica Rothgery, Chief Financial Officer Trip Vornholt, and Director of National Field Operations Jeff Griffin.

The Journal said that the departures are due to rising interest rates and their impact on parent company Yum Brands’ old pension plan. All three have worked with the chain for decades. The pension program ended in 2001.

“The pension plan, which ended in 2001, affected a very small group of U.S. employees and most of them decided to continue with the company,” Yum Brands said in an emailed statement. “Retirements are a normal part of business operations, and Yum has a deep bench of experienced leaders across the system and attracts world-class talent to ensure the continued strong performance and success of our brands.

“We’re confident that the KFC leadership team will continue to deliver on the strategic vision to accelerate the growth of the brand in the U.S.”

Yet it follows a period of substantial upheaval among the chain’s U.S. executive team.

Kevin Hochman, who had been the brand’s U.S. president, was named CEO of casual dining operator Brinker International. The brand named a new chief marketing officer last year. Sabir Sami was named CEO of the global brand just more than a year ago. Tarun Lal was named president of KFC U.S. in July.

It also comes despite generally strong performance at the company, though same-store sales declined 7% in the second quarter. KFC grew its unit count for the first time in 17 years in 2021.  

All three executives have extensive experience with Yum Brands. Rothgery was named KFC U.S. COO in 2019. She started at Yum in 1992, when she joined Taco Bell as a restaurant general manager. Vornholt has worked with KFC since 1997. Griffin has been with the chain for more than 30 years.

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