In less than 25 years, Pizza Hut has added more than 1,300 restaurants across China. But Randall Blackford, the general manager of Pizza Hut’s operations in Africa, says the restaurant operator is taking its time expanding on the continent.
In Africa, “we are a small company right now and will stay small for some time,” he says. “It gives us flexibility to respond to local tastes, to engage more. We can’t be first, can’t be the cheapest, so we got to be the best.”
Blackford has reason to be cautious: The world’s largest pizza purveyor, a unit of Louisville-based Yum! Brands, failed in sub-Saharan Africa seven years ago, after consumers were cool to its prices and dine-in model. This time around, Pizza Hut is targeting takeout and delivery service. It will limit drop-off distances to a few miles, which means eventually it will have smaller stores in lots of neighbourhoods.
From its current eight stores in South Africa and Zambia, it aims to have 200 stores across the continent in three years.
While fast-food purchases in South Africa are growing, with about 34.8 million people expected to buy meals from such restaurants by 2017, up from 31 million now, much of that nation’s fast-food industry is homegrown, according to Euromonitor International analyst Elizabeth Friend. In countries such as Ghana, Kenya, and Nigeria, there’s less competition than in South Africa.
Almost half of Africa’s fast-food restaurants are focused on chicken, then comes burgers. Pizza is a distant third, accounting for about 5 per cent of total spending.
Not only is Pizza Hut focusing on takeout and delivery this time around, it’s also trying to resonate with locals through signage and napkins using slang such as “laaik it local” (like it local) and with toppings such as boerewors ,a spicy South African beef sausage.
To offer more affordable items, Pizza Hut has added fries to its menu in South Africa. Chicken wings and breadsticks are also options.
Pizza Hut, which operates eight outlets in Sub-Saharan Africa, wants to have 200 stores there within three years.
Bloomberg News, edited by Hospitality Ireland