The man who brought Dorito-shelled tacos to America is rising to the top job at Yum Brands. Greg Creed, who has led the Taco Bell chain since early 2011, will replace David Novak as Yum's chief executive on January 1 next year, the company said on Thursday. Creed also will join the board, and Novak will become executive chairman. The move will give Yum, which also owns the KFC and Pizza Hut chains, a leader known for clever marketing and innovative new items at a time when fast-food chains are battling over Americans' dining dollars. Creed oversaw the introduction of the Doritos Locos tacos, the premium-priced Cantina Bell menu and most recently a slate of breakfast fare that includes waffle tacos. Under his leadership, the Mexican-food chain went from a laggard into Yum's fastest-growing US brand. "While it can never be good news that a CEO like Mr Novak is stepping away from managing the day-to-day business, we feel confident that he leaves the company in good hands," David Palmer, an analyst at RBC Capital Markets, wrote in a note. "We expect Taco Bell's upcoming year to be one that reinforces Greg Creed's track record as a leader with a proven ability to deliver results." The Kentucky-based firm's shares have gained 0.8 per cent this year, compared with a 1.4 per cent decline for the Standard & Poor's 500 Restaurants Index. "He's an incredibly creative problem solver," said Patti Hart, CEO of International Game Technology, where Creed has been on the board since 2010. "Bring your work to Greg and he asks those few critical questions that bring your work to the next level." His guidance helped the casino-gaming company remain customer-focused when it revamped its brand last year, Hart said. Creed will take over at a pivotal time for Yum's operations in China, where it gets about half of its revenue. The firm has been trying to rebuild trust with customers there after one of its suppliers was investigated for selling food with too much antibiotics. Those efforts have started to bear fruit. The firm said first-quarter sales at its mainland restaurants open at least 12 months jumped 9 per cent, the first gain after five straight quarterly drops.