You can certainly describe Jens Hofma as a ‘hands-on’ boss. Every month the chief executive of Pizza Hut goes to work at one of the chain’s restaurants to keep his finger on the pulse and experience the day-to-day challenges that his 10,000-strong workforce face. Pizza Hut is something of an institution in the UK restaurant market, having been a fixture on British high streets long before the casual dining circuit became what it is today.
But history alone is not enough to guarantee success and as the restaurant world has grown up around it, Jens has had to lead the brand through a strategic revamp to keep it fresh and relevant. Cue a £60m modernisation programme aimed at upgrading the look and feel of its restaurants, including the addition of open plan kitchens and updated menus. The relaunch of its flagship outlet on the Strand earlier this year embodies the way that Pizza Hut is now going about restaurant and kitchen design, with management describing the £500,000 project as a “milestone” for its business in the UK. That refurbishment preceded similar work at its Marble Arch, Piccadilly and Queensway restaurants, as well as a series of successful regional refurbishments in towns such as Reading.
Pizza Hut’s UK business is owned by investment group Rutland Partners, which runs the restaurants under franchise from US firm Yum!. Speculation continues to mount that a sale might be in the offing as Rutland looks to realise its three-year investment in the business. How that pans out remains to be seen, but for Jens the focus is simply on improving the chain’s financial footing and market positioning. With the group’s profits doubling to £3.3m last year, things are certainly moving in the right direction. Pizza Hut operates around 300 stores in the UK, but in a newspaper interview recently Jens made it clear that 2016 will herald a return to new openings, with four or five launches annually from there onwards. “It depends a bit on site availability, which is a clear issue in the hospitality sector in the UK at the moment,” he said. “Everyone wants to expand and there is a limited number of great sites available.”
“It depends on site availability, which is a clear issue in the hospitality sector in the UK. Everyone wants to expand and there is a limited number of great sites”