When Emerge expanded its territory and acquired 30 new Pizza Huts in Arizona, we faced a big challenge of not only establishing ourselves in new territory, but doing so in the middle of a global pandemic. Despite these obstacles, Pizza Hut became our star during lockdown and this huge undertaking surpassed expectations and yielded amazing results. One year later, we couldn’t be prouder of our choice and the teams behind our Arizona Pizza Hut units.
An Opportunity for Growth
We used this purchase as a challenge to make our way into the delivery business during the pandemic, and establish ourselves well in the market by getting to know the three main brands that Yum operates: KFC, Taco Bell and Pizza Hut.
The market in Arizona was fairly dominated by a well-known organization previously owned by a local for over 20 years. Taking over the restaurants mid-pandemic, via video calls, texts, phone calls, emails, etc., wasn't exactly easy with only one operator in town (compared to our usual acquisition meetings where almost the entire executive team and the support team is in place), but the fact that we acquired these restaurants far from our hometown units in Houston and all the brands that we have currently in Texas, added to the challenge and was a great choice to promote our growth.
Transforming the Work Culture
By acquiring 30 new restaurants, we were given a fresh opportunity to improve overall results and KPIs (Key Performance Indicators) and since opening, we've developed a lot of individuals that never had a chance to be promoted.
Before we came in, this market had been operating for 20 years with the same people running the show. There were some that had been General Managers for over 10 years! Now we're here, we’ve been able to give opportunities for people to grow. We first put our hundred-day integration plans in place and focused on bringing an extremely high level of recognition and culture into the restaurants. In the first six months we took over, we promoted 10 to 15 General Managers and developed two brand new Area Coaches into the next role: an ACD (Area Coach Designated) position.
It’s really telling when you’re able to hear from our employees, managers, coaches, even district managers that “in three to six months, Emerge has recognized and valued us much more compared to the last 10 years with the previous organization.”
The biggest challenges in the delivery business for Pizza Hut
One of the biggest obstacles we had was delivering pizzas to a customer’s home without actually being able to knock on the door and greet them with a smile as a customer. That was only possible if the customer was okay with it, but if they chose contactless delivery, it just came down to a knock on the door, leaving the pizza where instructed and then leaving. It was tough for us being in the customer service industry to not even see the customer's face or reaction when they received the fresh product so it took a lot of adjustment on our part.
The staffing situation has also been a challenge. We had to really think outside the box and ensure that we kept our restaurants staffed and always ready to serve our customers because no matter what the pandemic brought to the world and to our daily lives, people still had to eat. Pizza Hut was one of the brands that really delivered on this.
Being able to stay home and get a hot, fresh pizza delivered whenever you want it without having to worry about exposing yourself to this pandemic really made us stand out from the other brands and restaurants in the business.
Making Pizza Hut a Part of Emerge!
We’ve brought in our Core Values: Love, Urgency, Persistence and Honor. Our people know that we move fast and grow fast and that we want to develop them, train them, take them to the next level and recognize their improvements. Anybody that works for us needs to know that we're a family of restaurants that work together to always achieve one thing: grow our business through our people and create opportunities for everyone.
The future for us is obviously to continue to grow. We want to acquire more Pizza Hut restaurants from Pizza Hut International into the Emerge family of restaurants, and we're going to be very aggressive with that.
Pizza Hut’s Impact on Emerge!
The impact of having Pizza Hut added to our portfolio was incredible. Acquiring these restaurants in the middle of the pandemic was a huge win for us since sales were going through the roof with a double digit increase and with people staying home so much, the delivery sales sky-rocketed.
It showed our other brands, leaders and personnel that we can accomplish anything no matter the storm. No matter what the challenges are, we're able to do what we do best: acquire restaurants, develop our people and continue to grow.
Pizza Hut’s greatest victories
We pride ourselves on being able to give opportunities to individuals that have never had them. To be able to develop themselves not just as leaders, but in their personal lives as well.
As mentioned above, 10 to 15 team members that used to be either shift supervisors or assistant managers were given the opportunity to become General Managers and improve their careers on a personal and professional level after we took over. Three general managers became area coaches for us as well.
Those will always be the biggest wins for this market. It’s not just the fact that the business grew profit-wise and sales-wise, but we grew as a company and then we grew a pretty solid amount of individuals in their personal and professional careers. Some of these individuals that we promoted continue to be on our bench to go on to the next level as we continue to grow as a company. Now they're able to provide more for the families and have a better future for themselves and their kids. The sky's the limit.