I have seen the three-headed monster Yum! Brands (NYSE:YUM) likes to call its "multibrand strategy." By grouping together Pizza Hut, Taco Bell, and KFC restaurants in one location, Yum! is looking to mesmerize consumers with an assortment of pizzas, tacos, and fried chicken. The company has also successfully expanded its popular food concepts into many "hungry" international markets.

As the second-largest fast-food chain behind McDonald's (NYSE:MCD), Yum! has consistently attempted to differentiate itself from the Mayor McCheeses and Ronald McDonalds of the quick-bite world. The company reported some tasty results for its third quarter, as a 25% gain in international profits helped push earnings of $0.61 per share ahead of the $0.60 analysts' expectation and last year's $0.53 per share earned.

System restaurants in operation at the end of the quarter increased 27% in China, 8% in Pizza Hut South Korea, 7% in the U.K., and 6% in Mexico. Franchise-only businesses experienced 6% growth, with Asia, southern Africa, the Middle East, and the Caribbean/Latin America being key contributors. In the U.S., 129 multibrand stores were added in the third quarter (with nearly 2,500 currently in operation), which added up to impressive year-over-year growth of 23%.

Blended same-store sales at the company's restaurants in September were up 3%, bolstered by 4% and 6% growth at Taco Bell and Pizza Hut, respectively, which made up for a 1% drop at KFC. Yum! has also raised its full-year 2004 earnings guidance to $2.35 per share (before special items), a cent better than the previous earnings expectation (on same-store sales growth in the 3% to 4% range).

Looking forward to 2005, Yum! CEO David Novak said that, "we are confident of continuing to deliver our stated goal of at least 10% growth in EPS." The company expects to reach this goal by opening at least 1,000 new international restaurants and growing U.S. same-stores sales in the range of 1% to 2%.

Yum! has effectively fought rising commodity prices with tremendous cost controls. With companies like Wendy's (NYSE:WEN) recently slashing earnings expectations as a result of the recent hurricanes and escalating commodity prices, the line between Yum! and some of its lesser competitors has been boldly drawn.

The company has generated nearly $800 million of cash flow so far this year, but has utilized only $421 million as part of its capital spending plan. The Yum! shares, which are trading at 16 times the 2005 earnings estimate of $2.60 per share, appear to be fully valued relative to its 11% growth rate, but gain additional strength with its new 0.96% dividend yield.

Grab some yummy food and a few napkins while chewing on these takes:

Fool contributor Phil Wohl spent more than 12 years on Wall Street and has been known to chomp on a taco or a slice of pizza when the mood hits. He does not own shares of any of the companies mentioned.