New owners want to revamp Pizza Hut

Pizza HutThe new owners of Pizza Hut say the chain won’t challenge Domino’s for market leadership but will be reinvigorated to become a “very strong number two” in the pizza delivery business.

Three former McDonald’s executives and a Sydney-based private equity firm are now running Pizza Hut in Australia following a deal with the fast food retailer’s US parent company.

Allegro and former McDonald’s executives Peter Rodwell, Lisa Ransom and Chris Leslie have taken charge of about 270 Pizza Hut stores across the country, after buying the master franchisee licence in Australia from US retailer Yum! Brands.

Chester Moynihan, Allegro founding partner, said the deal was “a unique opportunity to leverage a recognised brand within a growing market”.

“Our immediate focus will be strengthening the network of Pizza Hut stores across Australia through increased investment, resources and management focus,” Moynihan said on Tuesday.

He said Pizza Hut was one of the first pizza companies to home-deliver in Australia and he wanted to revive the group’s “innovative legacy”.

“Pizza Hut has been a household name in Australia since the early 1970s. It was one of the first pizza companies to home deliver in Australia and we want to revive this innovative legacy to enhance the experience for customers,” said Moynihan.

“This is a unique opportunity to leverage a recognised brand within a growing market segment. We see this is an exciting outcome for our investors as well as a growth opportunity for Pizza Hut franchisees and employees,” he said.

Pizza Hut, Australia’s second biggest pizza retailer after Domino’s, had lost its way over the years, Moynihan said – although he still preferred the taste of Pizza Hut’s pizzas over Domino’s offering.

“The area that it’s fallen down has really been in delivery, in the ease with which customers can order – the customer experience, predominantly via digital.” Moynihan said.

“Our goal is to fix that. We don’t want to overtake Domino’s as the number one. Our goal is to be a very strong number two.”

Allegro has not disclosed the value of the deal or Pizza Hut’s financial state.

There has been speculation that Allegro is also interested in Eagle Boys which was put up for sale after going into voluntary administration in July.

Moynihan was non-committal about Eagle Boys but said Allegro had aspirations to grow the Pizza Hut business.

Moynihan said that by investing in the brand and marketing, Allegro and its co-owners could help make the businesses of Pizza Hut franchisees successful.

The new owners intend to set up company-owned stores in addition to franchise outlets, with the aim to have 10 to 20 per cent of all outlets company-owned.

“Our aim is to have skin in the game and I think our franchisees would want us to have skin in the game,” Moynohan said.

Moynihan said the new owners did not want to get involved in a price war with Domino’s to win customers.

“We think our customers want value rather than price,” he said.

Pizza Hut has about 10 per cent of the $4 billion takeaway food market in Australia, research from market analyst IBISWorld says.

Executives Peter Rodwell, Lisa Ransom and Chris Leslie will make up the management buy-in team and will take leadership roles in the business.

Rodwell will be executive chairman, Ransom, chief executive officer, and Leslie will be chief operating officer. The new management team will be meeting with Pizza Hut franchisees soon.

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