NEW YORK — Yum Brands named the head of its Taco Bell chain as its next CEO, marking a major promotion for the creator of Doritos Locos Tacos.

The company, which also owns KFC and Pizza Hut, says Greg Creed will become CEO Jan. 1, 2015. The 56-year-old Australian replaces David Novak, who has served as chief executive since 1999.

Creed is credited with turning around Taco Bell’s image with the rollout of its popular Doritos-flavored tacos in March 2012. Since then, the chain has been touting its “Live Mas” slogan and trying to push into new areas. It rolled out a more premium line called Cantina Bell positioned to compete with Chipotle, as well as a breakfast menu that includes a waffle taco. Whether Cantina Bell and breakfast prove to be successful is yet to be seen, however.

Creed has served as Yum’s chief operations officer and is known for his personable and frank manner.

“I’m the Australian guy selling Mexican food to Americans,” he said in an interview with ABC’s “Nightline” last year.

In the U.S., Taco Bell’s recent performance has been a source of pride for the company, as KFC and Pizza Hut have continued to struggle with declining sales.