With more than 45,000 restaurants in over 135 countries and territories, Yum! Brands is truly a pioneer in the global quick service restaurant (QSR) market. Since spinning off from PepsiCo in 1997, Yum! Brands has continuously developed successful food franchises such as Taco Bell, KFC and Pizza Hut into markets spanning the globe. Focusing on emerging markets such as the North African region (including Morocco, Egypt and Tunisia) and Sub-Saharan Africa (including South Africa) has been crucial to the growth of these brands.
The African continent in 2018 is one of opportunity and growth, and as Yum! Brands looks to further develop the Pizza Hut brand it has called upon the services of Ewan Davenport, Yum! Brands General Manager for Pizza Hut Africa.
“With this development of Pizza Hut, it’s an incredibly exciting growth pipeline,” he says. “We are not just growing Pizza Hut as a global brand, we are to a certain extent growing pizza as a food category in itself because it’s not as prevalent in Africa as it is across the world.”
Davenport understands the African market, having worked with SABMiller. It is this experience in the delivery of global and regional brands into local markets that has provided Davenport with a key understanding of the market dynamics and, more importantly, how these global practices and brands will and will not be successfully received.
“In Africa, affordability will always be a challenge, be it in the pizza category or the beer category. It’s not always going to be readily accessible to everybody,” he says. “This has had a huge influence on the value chain because we are trying to deliver pizzas to the high standards of the Pizza Hut global brand.”
At the time of writing, Pizza Hut operates over 200 restaurants across the entire African continent, with the intention of maintaining a steady momentum of new openings. The company recently opened its 100th store in the Sub-Saharan Africa region, which includes South Africa, and has bold growth plans in the region over the next several years.
As a global brand with global standards that must be adhered to across every franchise in every country, Pizza Hut focuses on four growth drivers to deliver unrivalled success.
Distinctive, relevant and easy bands, unmatched franchise operating capability, bold restaurant development and unrivalled culture and talent; these are the four core values that distinguish the company and are crucial to tapping into the high growth opportunity African QSR market.
For Davenport, the key to success has been and will continue to be an uncompromising approach to delivering brands.
“One thing the company does not compromise, no matter where it is in the world, is our food safety standards,” he says. “We have world class food safety procedures and all of our food and our ingredients and suppliers are held to the highest of standards. This does not change here in Africa; we expect our suppliers to meet the same standards that Pizza Hut meets anywhere else in the world.”
As a franchiser, operating in multiple countries brings with it challenges. Different markets, different consumers with different tastes and different suppliers.
“We try to localise as much as possible in Africa from a purely supply and sourcing perspective,” says Davenport.
“So, we work with suppliers in the countries we operate in, which is a significant contributor to local jobs, and we work in partnership to help develop local supply capability.”
As the company doesn’t look to compromise, Davenport does admit that it operates to an 80/20 rule, remaining open to some level of local adaptation to align with regional and local flavours.
“But we absolutely don’t stray too far from the global Pizza Hut experience,” he says. “People are coming to Pizza Hut to have Pizza Hut after all.”
Say the name Pizza Hut anywhere in the world and a recognisable, consistent and ultimately successful brand comes to mind. So when Davenport speaks of people heading to Pizza Hut because they recognise that brand, how does that work across a continent where pizza is not as popular as other QSR brands?
This is where technology, particularly accessibility, proves crucial to Pizza Hut. In the modern world, the consumer has technology at his or her fingertips, is digitally enabled in almost every aspect of their life and, more importantly, demands that same level of digital accessibility from brands such as Pizza Hut.
“One of our big strategies across Africa is how can we expand and lead the charge in terms of digital access to our pizzas,” he says. “Online ordering is essential as mobile penetration is much greater than people realise in this region and Africa has a number of online tools that are relatively underutilised.
“There is an opportunity, and as far as Pizza Hut goes, we will expand our online presence and ordering accessibility significantly over the next three months.”
Embarking on an expansive growth journey into a new geography, a new market that is already densely populated, cannot be achieved alone. As Pizza Hut works with local partners, in some cases growing their capabilities, Davenport cannot stress enough how important it is to have these local partners and establish strong working relationships.
“We are an almost entirely franchised organisation across the African continent – we ultimately rely on working with local franchise partners to develop our brand,” he says. “We guide our partners from our Restaurant Support Centre and help our franchisees in their day-to-day operations and growth.
“As an entity coming into a country, it’s very easy to try and establish a business without fully understanding the inner workings of that country. We’ve found that our brands have been at their most successful when they have a really strong local operator to partner with, who knows how commerce works within that country and also understands the African trading environment.”
That role of a foreign, global brand setting foot into the African continent and trying to cement itself as a leader, brings with it a sense of responsibility.
Pizza Hut, provides significant working opportunities to local people and extensive training programmes. As a business, it’s entirely focused on people.
This is something that is close to Davenport’s heart.
“We do put a massive amount of emphasis on generating and propagating our culture. And as part of that culture, training and looking after our people is at the heart of it,” he says.
“As a company we recognise hard work and we believe that positive reinforcement and recognition will encourage people to continue doing the right thing and obviously continue the growth of the Pizza Hut brand as well. The face of our brand is in fact the many incredible team members operating throughout our restaurants. If we accelerate a positive culture built around respect, recognition and passion for our brand our customers will feel the love too.”
But it’s not just growing an internal culture. Pizza Hut is a strong ambassador for empowering the local community. Through an initiative called A Slice of Africa, a number of staff members will embark on a journey to visit a Pizza Hut store in every country across its entire African footprint and deliver Red Reading boxes to African children, kicking off Pizza Hut Africa’s Literacy Project. These boxes are Pizza Hut branded pizza boxes containing books and reading materials, as Pizza Hut looks to get more children reading across the globe.
For Davenport, that is the real endgame, not just exponential growth as a brand but growth as a key contributor to the African continent.
“It’s an incredibly exciting time right now for Pizza Hut,” he says. “Not just from a growth perspective, but the excitement and acceleration from our franchisees and partners running alongside some incredible work we do to make a difference within the communities we serve.
“That for me, is one of the most fulfilling things I can do and the pinnacle of my entire career so far, and I’m very grateful to be a part of it.”