Neil Manhas, general manager of Pizza Hut Delivery, talks about Pizza Hut UK’s now 100 per cent franchise network, what the brand looks for in investors, and why now is the time for entrepreneurs to take a slice out of the pizza market
How big is the Pizza Hut franchise network currently?
NM: Pizza Hut operates 600 Huts and employs 14,000 people across the UK, including at our dine-in arm, Pizza Hut Restaurants, and a variety of Delivery, Express and now forecourt locations. In 2020, we announced exciting plans to grow by 125 new locations over three years, which will create around 2,000 jobs.
Our growth strategy is really working. Over the past two years, we had amazing double-digit sales growth from pre-pandemic levels in 2019 and we will build on this success this year. Collection sales have grown by more than a third, with transactions increasing by 35 per cent from 2020. Our customers loved the seven campaigns we launched in 2021, particularly our Beyond Meat range, which was so popular that we made it a permanent menu feature.
How important is franchising to Pizza Hut/Pizza Hut delivery’s future plans?
NM: Our franchise network is at the heart of our growth model and central to our success. A big development last year was Pizza Hut becoming 100 per cent franchised in the UK following the sale of our equity business. Of course, Yum! is one of the largest franchisors in the world – so this model is engrained into our operating model from the very top.
Partnering with experienced franchisors like Nine Group, Starboard Dining and EG Group has helped us build on our strong growth, create jobs and contribute to communities across the UK through our free deliveries to the NHS in 2020 and our New Founders Programme, which supports entrepreneurs from disadvantaged communities.
What qualities does Pizza Hut look for in a franchisee?
NM: We want each franchisee to bring their own style and experience to the role. While, like many franchisors, we require potential franchisees to have sufficient capital and experience to support our growth, there are a few special qualities we look for:
1. Drive – we want franchisees who share our ambition to grow in the UK
2. Passion for pizza – we don’t want just anyone with business acumen! We want to see a franchisee that cares about pizza, the quality of our product and Pizza Hut’s values.
3. Community leader – Pizza Hut wants to create an exceptional environment for our people so that they can learn, work and thrive. We need franchisees who feel the same way and want to help their teams to grow. They must be willing to go above and beyond to contribute to our social good programmes such as our New Founders Programme which provides franchisees with exciting opportunities to give something back, by helping budding entrepreneurs from underrepresented backgrounds.
Why should an investor opt for a Pizza Hut franchise as opposed to another pizza franchise brand?
NM: Pizza Hut offers the scale, experience and – crucially – unique support franchisees need. We are one of the largest pizza companies in the world and have an incredibly strong legacy in the UK. Our first franchise opened here in 1973 and the first UK Pizza Hut Delivery store launched in London in 1998. Especially as we now operate a 100 per cent franchised network in the UK, we are one of the most experienced and established franchises in the country, which is something we’re very proud of.
On a global level, Pizza Hut is one of the world’s most internationally recognised brands, offering familylike support to our franchisees. As part of YUM! which owns many international fast-food outlets, we’re able to grow and share learnings from our global expertise in this space, specifically franchisee business, marketing and supply chain.
Critically for ambitious franchisees, despite being a well-established brand, we are still set for rapid expansion, and following the pandemic, the delivery business is booming. The pandemic proved that even if everything else stops, there will still be a need for our franchisees to deliver the food our communities crave.
How does Pizza Hut support and onboard new franchisees?
NM: All of our franchisees receive training and support, including the use of the Pizza Hut Delivery brand tried-and-tested systems, at every step of the franchise journey. As a first step, we provide franchisees with a thorough onboarding operations training programme before opening.
We also have a Franchise Council, Marketing Board and Hut Excellence Board where we communicate updates and franchisees can seek support at any point in their journey Our relationship with our franchisees is a close and supportive one. I know this is absolutely integral to everyone working together to provide the best experience possible for our customers.
It was well documented that pizza delivery chains registered record sales during the 2020 lockdowns. Did this consumer appetite for pizza carry on into 2021?
NM: Yes, it did, and we believe the increased demand for delivery is a trend that is here to stay. Sales throughout 2021 were consistently higher than pre-lockdown, with a double digit increase since the pandemic began in 2019.
We’re now actively recruiting more staff, including drivers, restaurant general managers and shift managers to support this expansion and our growth plans for 2022.
What creativity and innovations can we expect to see in 2022 and beyond?
NM: We are always looking at ways to utilise technology to make things simpler for our team and our customers. Over the past year, we developed industry-leading technology to support effective delivery operations, which became more essential than ever during COVID-19 lockdowns. For example, we deployed two innovative new systems Dragontail and HutBot in the UK.
Dragontail has revolutionised how we prepare and dispatch our orders by making Pizza Hut’s delivery experience more trackable than ever before. Offering Covid-safe kerb-side pick-up, as well as accurate ETAs and real-time customer care allowed franchisees more flexibility while adding additional reassurance for every customer.
Meanwhile, HutBot, our shift running tool, has supported store managers through a challenging year with plenty of changes and helps smooth over unpredictability in staffing caused by the pandemic.
We also created a learning platform - Hut University - which provides our staff with easy access to training on their mobiles, making it easier for them to take their leadership and business know-how to the next level. In 2022, we will look to build upon this even further!
Meet the franchisees
Pizza Hut Restaurants
Pizza Hut Restaurants is a UK franchisee of Pizza Hut International, a subsidiary of Yum Brands, which also owns the likes of KFC, Taco Bell and many others.
As the UK dine-in arm of the business, Pizza Hut Restaurants has over 4,500 employees, operating around 170 restaurants across the UK.
Like many hospitality businesses, Pizza Hut Restaurants faced many pandemic-related challenges but kept a number of sites open to help deliver meals to the NHS in 2020. Since then, measures have been introduced to provide a COVID-safe experience for customers and restaurants have been experiencing high footfall.
Pizza Hut and Starboard Hotels, one of the UK’s leading independent hotel owners, developers and operators of hotels, established a new franchising partnership that expanded Pizza Hut’s footprint into the Midlands, Yorkshire and the North West. The franchise arrangement was negotiated by Christie & Co and came into effect early in 2021.
As a franchise partner, Starboard now operates 27 delivery and takeaway Huts, supporting around 540 jobs as well as the ambitious growth of Pizza Hut Delivery across the UK.
The partnership opens considerable investment into dozens of communities through the renovation of existing Huts, as well as the opening several new Huts. It also allows the franchisee to run their own businesses while being part of a global brand.
Mizan Syed, Exultant Group
Mizan Syed is another one of Pizza Hut Delivery’s brilliant franchisees and, having been on a journey with the brand for 17 years, he has a passion for being a part of Pizza Hut’s growth. He started off with one Hut and has grown within the business to now own 24 sites and counting in London, Cambridgeshire, Birmingham, Peterborough and Yorkshire – running a team of more than 500 people.
According to Mizan, one of the reasons he chose to partner with Pizza Hut was that it has “always been a place where you can grow”, and this is certainly what Mizan has done throughout his time with Pizza Hut.
He is going from strength to strength and in 2019 won Franchisee of the Year for Pizza Hut. With a commitment to support local, Mizan’s stores delivered some of the 300,000 free pizzas that were received by NHS and frontline workers during the pandemic on behalf of Pizza Hut.
Pizza Hut and EG Group, a leading convenience retailer, established a new franchising partnership to bring Pizza Hut into the ‘on-the-go’ travel market. As a franchisee, EG Group operates eight new Pizza Hut stores in petrol forecourt stations across the UK.
The expansion has brought investment to local communities, creating approximately 90 jobs, which include growth opportunities for new and existing team members. As a franchisee, EG Group has Pizza Hut’s signature branding and familiar menu while providing a new option for customers to order on the go. This has allowed Pizza Hut Delivery to further adapt its offerings in line with customer demand and the wider industry trend towards convenience.
EG Group-operated stores offer five classic flavours including Margherita, Pepperoni, Supreme, Meat Feast, and Veggie Supreme, as well as newer addition the Beyond Meat Supreme pizza. EG Group has innovated Pizza Hut’s convenience offering and uses a combined approach of by-the-slice and full-pizza options.
James Fell is the head of content (franchising) for What Franchise and Global Franchise magazines.