Search
Close this search box.

CHRIS TAYLOR

IT IS NO EXAGGERATION TO SAY THAT THE PANDEMIC DECIMATED THE HOSPITALITY INDUSTRY. BUT NOW IT HAS BOUNCED BACK, IS VIBRANT AND BEARS TESTAMENT TO A SECTOR THAT IS RESILIENT, OPTIMISTIC AND EVEN MORE FOCUSED ON GIVING CUSTOMERS A GREAT EXPERIENCE WITH JUST OVER 1600 RESTAURANTS IN THE UK. YUM! REPRESENTS SOME OF THE BEST-LOVED BRANDS, INCLUDING PIZZA HUT AND HERE WE LEARN HOW CPO, CHRIS TAYLOR HELPED GUIDE THE COMPANY BACK FROM THOSE DARK AND UNCERTAIN TIMES.

I REALLY DO BELIEVE THE BEST DAYS OF WORKING IN HOSPITALITY ARE AHEAD OF US



 

IT IS NO EXAGGERATION TO SAY THAT THE PANDEMIC DECIMATED THE HOSPITALITY INDUSTRY. BUT NOW IT HAS BOUNCED BACK, IS VIBRANT AND BEARS TESTAMENT TO A SECTOR THAT IS RESILIENT, OPTIMISTIC AND EVEN MORE FOCUSED ON GIVING CUSTOMERS A GREAT EXPERIENCE WITH JUST OVER 1600 RESTAURANTS IN THE UK. YUM! REPRESENTS SOME OF THE BEST-LOVED BRANDS, INCLUDING PIZZA HUT AND HERE WE LEARN HOW CPO, CHRIS TAYLOR HELPED GUIDE THE COMPANY BACK FROM THOSE DARK AND UNCERTAIN TIMES.



CHRIS, TAKE US BACK TO YOUR EARLY LIFE AND HOW YOU FOUND THE PATH TO A CAREER IN HR.  

My early years were in the Northeast of England and then our family moved to Cheshire, due to my Dad’s job, when I was in my early teens. My first job was in a newsagent, serving customers over the counter and then I moved on to the local Marks & Spencer through sixth form and university, so retail was my earliest work experience. At M&S, I started as a customer assistant – carried out various roles there in the food hall – and then moved into the operations team. I subsequently worked in other retail companies, in a variety of roles, including Toys “R” Us, which was an incredible company to work for. It was relatively quiet all year, then absolute mayhem in the run up to Christmas, with children charging around on bikes and throwing balls everywhere. Great fun and I survived two Christmases! Then, back to Marks & Spencer, with the opportunity to jump into management and I was then with M&S for nine years in frontline retail manager roles. It was a great way to start a career, but an opportunity presented itself for me to join KFC in a multi-site role, for what is the world’s largest restaurant company, Yum! At this point in my career, HR had hardly come on my radar as a career, because I was an operator on the shop floor, in the mix of serving customers. I always felt that I was a retailer at heart, but I was also very aware of the importance of well-trained and motivated people making all the difference to the enjoyment of work, the satisfaction of customers and the success of business. Subconsciously, I was beginning to make those links.



TELL US ABOUT YOUR FIRST HR ROLE AT KFC.  

This was a regional HR role at KFC and I thought if it didn’t work out, I could always go back into operations. But it turned out to be one of those sliding door moments in life and, from that point, I have stayed in HR all my career. Yum! really is an impressive organisation in both scale and approach, with 55,000 outlets around the world and what makes it stand out in the sector is providing people with opportunities in areas they might not necessarily have the skills and experience for in the moment. They take chances on people, to enable them to grow into a role and I was definitely one of the beneficiaries of that because I had never worked a day in HR in my life before. I remember feeling like a fraud and initially I didn’t know why they had put so much faith in my hitherto unknown potential. Consequently, in those first few months, I found it challenging and felt like I was making it up as I went along. But actually, the answers were in the amazing team around me and thanks to their collaborative mindset and openness, my knowledge and capability grew rapidly. I was looking after about 60 restaurants across the Midlands, incorporating some brilliantly vibrant and diverse parts of the country – Birmingham, Nottingham and Derby – and was working with some of the best area managers and regional managers I have come across, all of whom have gone on to have brilliant careers.



WHAT WAS THE MOST IMPORTANT LEARNING FOR YOU IN THESE EARLY DAYS?  

I think what I learned quickly was the importance and power of creating a culture that people thrive in. Although it was and is, a high-performing business, it has always been a high-recognition culture too, one that is really heart-led and it was also clear that HR held an important role in that culture. At site level, there were restaurants that were showing consistently great results and those that were struggling and, most often than not, the difference was the culture that the leader was creating in those restaurants, from a position of isolation. So, my role was to go in and help restaurant managers and area managers create the culture and the right environment that was working in the best outlets and the differences were almost immediate. I quickly realised how important culture could be and how fundamental good frontline managers are. The majority of people across our brands, work for a Restaurant General Manager and the frontline managers are under the most pressure and have the hardest jobs. All at once, they’re trying to run the restaurants, cover the people management role, run the P&L, look after customers and manage all the day-to-day turbulence that comes with running a restaurant. Not only that, they are also the coach of their team and so you can see that it’s a tough multi-discipline role. So at KFC – and continuing now at Pizza Hut – we have put the restaurant general manager role (RGM) at the centre, as the number one role and we focus on all of the pressures and pinch points to support and help to make this role easier. It’s about giving them the tools and the skillsets that they need to be successful. We have some incredible character development tools, such as something we call Heartstyles, our signature character development tool, which we give to all our restaurant managers to help them be the best leaders that they can possibly be. Right back when I first started with KFC, it was about coaching that mindset through the area managers, so that they themselves were coaching the RGMs to be the best leaders that they could be. We have had some really great success stories and I am really proud that a couple of the restaurant managers from that patch went on to become area and regional managers. That is how success lasts for more than just one good month or one good period, because you have engaged people and highly motivated and high-performing leaders in roles. That for me is the perfect formula.



THIS SECTOR SEEMS TO ACHIEVE DIVERSITY ORGANICALLY AND WITHOUT BEING SELF-CONSCIOUS ABOUT IT.  

When we opened up KFC in Waterloo, the restaurant manager created a wall of all the nationalities of the team members. It really struck me as something special, because there were 18 different nationalities across a team of 50 people. That’s diversity in every sense of the word and I reckon you would struggle to find a more diverse sector. The idea of supporting people to be the best versions of themselves has become something of a cliché, but it is unavoidably fact. So, the best way to really capitalise on the true values in diversity, is to not dictate to people how to act or what to say. We have to create the environment where we welcome that diversity and people feel comfortable to be their true self at work. When teams truly engage with customers in a way that is real and uncontrived, then that connection is like magic. If people are free to be themselves, that unlocks inner potential. Data can reveal a great deal about engagement and customercentricity but seeing it in reality is the real litmus test. As a business that is made up of little micro-businesses, each restaurant will operate differently and the ones where great leadership creates trust and respect are the ones that achieve the best customer satisfaction scores.



TELL US ABOUT YOUR NEXT CAREER STEP.  

As regional HR manager at KFC, I was certain that HR was where I wanted to spend the rest of my career. But I had this crossroads moment because an opportunity came up within KFC and it would mean moving my family down south. It was an agonising decision because it was a leadership role within the HR team and validation of the impacts that I had achieved as regional HR manager, but my children were well established in school. However, we decided to take the plunge and it was the best decision we have made to date. The big driver was my certainty that HR was my calling and this new role was a very definite step up. The role was to lead in-depth centres of excellence within the function and my experience in leading the training team and education team at KFC and a breadth of knowledge out in the field, quickly proved a useful foundation for this role and a pivotal point in my career. I had the operational grounding and for the next nine years, I was to rotate around the centres of excellence, building core leadership characteristics, developing great teams and setting the standards and values in respect and trust. When you consider that we had over 1000 restaurants and 30,000 employees in the UK, there was a lot of travel, but it was incredibly rewarding and dynamic – helping to build people into confident and capable managers and leaders, understanding policies and procedures and capable of dealing with the realities in people management. Personally, I was operating on a massive scale from a coaching perspective and I was beginning to form a vision for my next career move. There are points in your life and career when you have to stop and consider your changing mindset and expectations and you have to take a pragmatic look at yourself and your skillset. From an experience perspective, I was ready, but from a mindset point of view, I had doubts.



YOU WERE MADE CHIEF PEOPLE OFFICER, TELL US ABOUT YOUR EARLY EXPERIENCES.  

I remember sitting around the table with the Chief Development Officer, the Chief Operations Officer and the Chief Marketing Officer and struggling with justifying my position on the top table. I thought, these people are experts in their fields… am I? I guess the fear of not being up to task is only natural and it’s something I have learned to overcome. I have learned over the years to really focus on what I bring to the role and stop worrying about the things that I don’t. Having experienced this, I always say to my team that, whenever you’re contemplating career paths and potential moves, it has to feel uncomfortable. You have to look at it and say, “can I really do that, am I capable?” That’s when you know you are out of your comfort zone and into the growth zone.



IT MUST BE FRUSTRATING THAT HOSPITALITY STRUGGLES WITH ITS PROFILE AS A PLACE FOR CAREERS.  

Very much so and it is a perception that is fundamentally wrong; there is fantastic career potential in the sector. I speak to so many people whose first job was in hospitality or retail. There is fantastic opportunity for people that want flexible jobs around studying or family, but because it has a reputation for being flexible, it seems transient, hard work, low-paid and long unsociable hours. Some of that is true, but the skills that people learn in those early days of working in a team, being responsible, resourceful and serving customers, provides essential skills for whatever career or sector people move on to. The art of hard work, connecting with customers, teamwork and following procedures, sets young people up for life. There are some people who craft out wonderful careers for themselves in hospitality, gaining leadership and commercial experience through growing into management roles. We are also pragmatic about the investment we put into all colleagues and we accept that some will move on with those skills and capabilities and we are really open about that. We will commit to give you those skills, you will be part of our team, you’ll add value and then you’ll go off and have a successful career in doing whatever you want to do. I think everyone working in hospitality really needs to embrace that as a mindset.



PIZZA HUT IS SUCH A WELL-KNOWN BRAND, BUT THE COMPETITION IS INCREDIBLY TOUGH. WHAT ARE YOU DOING NOW TO MAKE THE BRAND A COMPELLING CHOICE FOR CUSTOMERS AND WOULD BE EMPLOYEES, AMIDST SO MUCH CHOICE?  

Pizza Hut has been in the UK for 50 years and when we started, we were predominantly a restaurant business, which has expanded into a considerable portfolio of 150 restaurants. But over the years, customers have changed and so have their expectations and how they want to interact with brands. So now we have 370 delivery express units and we are adapting further in the future with all of our platforms accessible through our app. It’s an increasingly disrupted, unpredictable and changeable world in all sectors today and so being agile and creative about every aspect of the business is essential to staying relevant and competitive. You cannot afford to stop listening to your customers, particularly the criticisms. Our plan is to become even more digital, with a brand that is relevant to younger consumers coming through and that means operating sustainably and making the right choices about how we operate. The danger is, after 50 years of success, complacency can start to creep in and there are many businesses that have fallen foul of that. So, staying close and attuned to our customers is extremely important.



MUCH HAS BEEN SAID ABOUT THE PLIGHT OF THE HIGH STREET AND TRADITIONAL RETAIL. HOW DO YOU SEE THE FUTURE?  

I’m optimistic, but we need to keep adjusting to customer needs and expectations. We have just been through a period of fundamental transition for retailers, including restaurants, which have had to adapt to digitalisation. What happened was, bricks-and-mortar in the high street became showrooms, where people browsed and then bought online. We are almost through that stage now, but many stores, both chains and independents, have gone. Now what we’re starting to see is a more determined regeneration of the high street, with brands emerging, new concepts and businesses trying different approaches and new experiences. There is little doubt that many of the traditional-style stores are struggling and closing, but this new generation is channeled into difference, creating interest and moments of joy for people when visiting towns. Postpandemic, people do want to go to high streets; they want to socialise, sit outside and have a drink and food. You can feel the energy and the vibe. To see people back in restaurants is a huge relief and despite the cost-of-living crisis, people really do look glad to be back in vibrant settings. More than any other sector, hospitality was hit hardest by COVID and there is an awful lot that we learned during that time, about looking after our teams, along with better operational standards and technology. The crisis definitely accelerated the transformation of our brands within Yum! and while it was an incredibly challenging time for us as a business, for so many people, there was life-changing tragedy and so everything has to be seen in context. That period was a test of resilience and flexibility and we were proud to be able to continue to pay our team members and serve our customers throughout. I look back on this now and realise that this was us at our best and the people-first culture really shone through.



UNQUESTIONABLY, IT WAS A CRISIS THAT HAS CHANGED PEOPLE. WHAT ARE YOU EXPERIENCING IN HOSPITALITY AND WHAT IS THE DATA TELLING YOU?  

The world changing will not be a revelation to your readers. I read about some data which said that people are no longer making a choice on where they work over a year or even months. If they perceive they are in a bad job, they’re giving notice that day. We have talked about the perception of hospitality being a bad job – long and unsociable hours and difficult customers – so for businesses in this sector, it is in our control to add as much good into the experience as we possibly can. Flexibility is key and the mutual balance has to be right for both colleagues and the wider business. If people genuinely feel that they are being treated fairly, they will stay longer and feel compelled to do their best. We are working with our franchise partners to add more good into the team member experience, such as offering benefits including access to sick pay and various insurances – should the worst happen – and discounted shopping. These are benefits that aren’t actually very common within restaurants or within hospitality, but we are determined to be the business that thinks and works outside the expected parameters. A great example is Heartstyles – as I mentioned earlier – which is being rolled out across all our outlets, to genuinely give people life skills to be successful. This is backed up by more education opportunities, including apprenticeships and degrees and supporting people with career planning. This was all founded on a culture of recognition, which is a real core foundation of Yum!. It’s a very simple equation and a fine balance, that if you are complacent and don’t put enough good into the experience, it tips towards greater attrition, as people have choice and will look elsewhere if they feel neglected. It is definitely a work-in-progress and increasingly, you have to be creative, flexible and have an open ear to what people are telling you.



WHAT NEEDS TO BE DONE TO PROMOTE HOSPITALITY AS A CAREER CHOICE?  

I think there is ultimately more choice now for people than there has ever been before. I saw something this week that said that people are seeing three job adverts a day, which is giving them access to roles like they have never had before. The way we see it is, ultimately you have to create jobs that people want to be in. Every single day they are making that choice of, “is this a job that I want to be doing? Is this a good job, or is this a bad job?” There are certain things in the hospitality industry that make jobs slightly harder – whether that is long and antisocial hours or dealing with difficult customers; these things are real and sometimes not in our control. What is always in our control is employee experience and that is one of the things we are really working on, providing better benefits, training, culture and, most importantly, acknowledging and celebrating all the things that we are really proud of. We’re determined to move beyond the standard initiatives and really think creatively about making a better experience for our team members.

Collectively across the sector, we have a responsibility to change the perception of what working in hospitality is. In so many ways, it is the perfect starting point for people, from students and people beginning their careers, right through to pensioners, looking for a flexible way to earn extra money. You come across so many people whose first job was in hospitality or in retail and many have gone on to have great careers, due to the great work ethic and values around serving customers. Yet the perception is that hospitality is low-skilled and many other misconceptions besides. So as an industry, we need to come together to really tell the stories of our colleagues and teams and there are many examples of people progressing into incredible careers. We have people within Pizza Hut now who have become franchise owners and who started out as team members and are now running million-pound businesses. This is such a strong and positive picture and we need to showcase these stories more clearly. We also need to be comfortable in the fact that people might not want to stay with us or within this industry forever and that’s fine. Many will start with us, learn new skills and have experiences that will last a lifetime. They’ll learn the art of hard work, teamwork and how to follow procedures and all those elements that hospitality gives people and I believe that’s an incredibly important part that we play, not just in the hospitality sector, but the labour market in general. We need to come together as a collective to tell those stories and change those misconceptions of working in hospitality.



CHRIS, GIVE US A VISION OF THE FUTURE FOR PIZZA HUT AND WHAT YOU'RE PLANNING FROM AN HR POINT OF VIEW TO SUPPORT THE BUSINESS AND ITS FUTURE AMBITIONS?  

This is a really exciting time for Pizza Hut in our journey, as we mark our 50th anniversary in the UK. It has been a remarkable story over this time, as the business has adapted and evolved and there is much more to come in the future. Ultimately, we want to be the number one choice in pizza – not the biggest, or the one that takes the most money – we want to be the number one choice. We have chosen those words very deliberately, because we want to be the number one choice for our consumers, our partners – franchisees and third-parties – and most importantly of all, we want to be the number one choice for people to work in. We have many different things planned to move us to that point, but broadly, it’s about being more digital, being a more modern, younger brand and be more accessible. All those things are going to be really important to us.

From an HR point of view, it’s about being able to attract talent with a culture that is unrivaled in hospitality. The way I look at that is, it is almost split into two or three different parts. The first and most important part is the team member experience. We talk internally about how the customer experience will never be better than the team experience and that brings into play that good job/bad job element. We intentionally tap into that team experience, so that people genuinely want to be a part of our business. We don’t want to be an also-ran, we want to be the number one employer choice and we’re not far off that. So, the team member experience is our number one priority and that is where we’re working with our franchise partners and we’re very excited about the results so far. We have a relatively small head office, with around 60-70 people, where we also want to build on our unique culture, to create a very high-performing team in our head office, too. If team members are the first part, the second part of our plan is to continue to create incredible careers for people. I’m an example of someone who has grown through the organisation and there are many more within the Pizza Hut team that have achieved great things in their careers. We are working on career planning, upskilling, training people and giving opportunities. I mentioned Heartstyles earlier and that runs right the way through. Then it’s about really working with our franchise partners to help them build their capability. That comes through helping them with organisational design, with capability and supporting them with tools, processes and systems. Ultimately, we need all parts of that equation to be firing on all cylinders to deliver that brand growth. I must mention too about our commitment to showing up in the wider community, as well, as that is an increasingly important area of engagement. We have what we call The Recipe For Good (our ESG strategy) and we have invested a million pounds into something we call the New Founders Programme, which is about creating opportunities for underrepresented entrepreneurs, which is right at the heart of how our business thrives and grows – built through entrepreneurial franchisees, that have started up and built their own businesses and become successful; we want to pay that back through our New Founders Programme. Over the last 18 months, we’ve invested a million pounds into this and have supported over a thousand entrepreneurs from underrepresented backgrounds. We’re in the process of injecting a similar amount of money again to progress what is turning out to be a real success. As with all these programmes, I really hope and genuinely believe that more people will start to see the benefits of working in this fun and vibrant world. It needs to be more than a means to earn money. This needs to be a sector which people are proud to work in and that will come through young people looking at potential careers, seeing the benefits, feeling the learning and growing in skills and confidence. I really do believe the best days of working in hospitality are ahead of us, but we need to do much better as an industry, collectively.

FOR FURTHER INFO WWW.PIZZAHUT.CO.UK WWW.YUM.COM

Read more

Latest News

Read More

Revolutionising HR: How Augmented Analytics and AI are Transforming Workforce Management – ARTICLE FROM ISSUE 236 – JUNE 2024

19 June 2024

Newsletter

Receive the latest HR news and strategic content

Please note, as per the GDPR Legislation, we need to ensure you are ‘Opted In’ to receive updates from ‘theHRDIRECTOR’. We will NEVER sell, rent, share or give away your data to third parties. We only use it to send information about our products and updates within the HR space To see our Privacy Policy – click here

Latest HR Jobs

University Of The Arts LondonSalary: £58,193 to £70,291 per annum

The Head of HR will lead and direct the routine functions of the Human Resources (HR) department including hiring and interviewing staff, payroll, benefits,… £51,521

Our client: Highly successful entrepreneur owned luxury hospitality destination where delivering the superior brand experience is at the centre of growth and expansion. This business

Our client: Highly successful entrepreneur owned luxury hospitality destination where delivering the superior brand experience is at the centre of growth and expansion. This business

Read the latest digital issue of theHRDIRECTOR for FREE

Read the latest digital issue of theHRDIRECTOR for FREE