"KFC - which has held the number-one market share within the quick-service chicken segment for decades - will eventually lose the top slot to privately-held Chick-fil-A," writes analyst Mark Kalinowski of Janney Montgomery Scott in a report to clients today.
He still recommends KFC-Taco Bell-Pizza Hut owner Yum Brands to investors, "based in part on meaningful growth opportunities outside of the United States, most notably China"; but he notes "unfavorable marketshare trends" for all three of Yum's major brands within the U.S.
Chick-fil-A could take a decade or more to pass KFC based on sales trends. That "would be a remarkable changing of the guard," since less than a decade ago KFC was still four times larger. But Chick-fil-A offers "superior" operations (including faster service according to industry bible QSR), a focused marketing campaign ("Eat Mor Chikin") that KFS lacks, and rising same-store sales (4% this recessionary year).
Plus - while KFC is everywhere - Chick-fil-A has room to grow, with no presence in 12 states and little in some big states like Illinois.