While a design refresh of the 320-strong restaurant chain is on the cards following its purchase by Rutland Partners last year, Pizza Hut UK's operations director Mike Spencer told BigHospitality it would only come when the company was confident all its staff met the right standards.
“We start with the people, then the menu and the design of the restaurants. There is no point spending £500k on refurbishing a restaurant and inviting customers in to then have them put off by the service,” he said.
Investing in staff
Over the last three years, the company, which launched a service apprenticeship in May, has invested heavily in staff training, particularly of its managers.
Four Centres of Excellence have been set up where managers are sent for three days of training. They are then given four to six weeks to put their learnings into practice back in their restaurants before being assessed by their area manager, who is responsible for 'signing off' the restaurant, or not, depending on standards.
"They usually get signed off on the second visit," said Spencer, "If they aren't signed off after the third visit then we ask them to step down.
"We are getting some great results out of it. The restaurants we have signed off are seeing a sales growth of 4 per cent compared to those that haven't and positive guest feedback is 10 per cent higher."
Daily 'huddles' are also encouraged to take place with all staff at the start of shifts to discuss areas of achievement and improvement while recognition pins are given to staff to wear to underline achievement.
"The scheme started with YUM! about three years ago," said Spencer, "and Rutland Partners were keen for us to continue with it. With Pizza Hut we believe it all starts with the guest experience, so you have to invest in your labour to achieve that."
Lack of innovation
Spencer admitted that the brand, which operates under franchise by US owner YUM! brands, had been affected by increasing competition within the sector and he hoped that the renewed focus would lead to profit growth.
According to BigHospitality's sister publication M&C Report, YUM! Brands sales across its franchise and company operations fell 2 per cent in the three months to 15 June, although it had benefited from the sale of Pizza Hut's restaurants to Rutland Partners and Spencer said the company was 'beginning to see the green shoots of growth'.
"The last five to 10 years the brand has not been that innovative and hasn’t been able to invest much into the restaurants, but we are making steps to change that," Spencer said.
Four restaurants within the group - Birmingham Bull Ring, Solihull Touchwood Shopping Centre, Northampton Sixfields Leisure Park and Northampton Riverside Business Park - have been refurbished since Rutland's takeover and Spencer said up to 15 sites would be revamped by the end of the year as part its new owner's £20m investment into the business.
A 'return to the American spirit' of the brand is expected to be reflected in future changes to the business with a new look and menu expected to be rolled out across a number of sites next year.