Overall ranking: 70 (new entry)
Restaurateur ranking: 20 (new entry)
Jens Hofma is a veteran of the food industry, having served in a series of high-profile roles in the sector before he took control of Pizza Hut UK's restaurant operations. After rising to finance director at Nestlé early in his career, he became chief financial officer of Yum! Restaurants International in Europe, general manager of Yum! Restaurants International in Germany and the Netherlands between 2007 and 2009, and then general manager of Pizza Hut UK in 2009. Yum! sold Pizza Hut's UK restaurants to private equity firm Rutland Partners in October 2012, reportedly for a token £1. Rutland retained the management team, including Hofma, and pledged to invest £20m in the business immediately and then re-invest £40m of cashflow over the five following years. Hofma has remained in place throughout the process.
What we think
Pizza Hut was one of the pre-eminent mass market restaurant brands of the 1980s and 1990s. Such was its success, that at one time it was reportedly opening a restaurant a week. But by the mid-2000s, with nearly 400 outlets, the brand was tired and suffering from lack of investment.
In 2009, Hofma, who hails from Holland, was drafted in with the task of stemming the brand's losses in the UK, having enjoyed a successful period working for Yum! Brands in Europe. Until 2006, Pizza Hut was run as a joint venture between Yum! and Whitbread, but Whitbread sold its 50% share for £112m and by 2009 the company had racked up three years of consecutive losses.
Hofma's challenge was compounded when Yum! decided to offload the UK restaurants and appointed PwC to find a buyer. But with Rutland's involvement came the investment that the business needed.
Led by Hofma, the company embarked on a gradual "re-imaging" of the business, introducing new menus with more emphasis on sharing and a more informal and relaxed look. It has also introduced a cocktail bar and alcohol offer, which it continues to grow.
By the end of 2017, around 90% of Pizza Hut's restaurants had been through the re-imaging process, while the number of sites had gradually shrunk to around 260 in a bid to improve profitability and cash generation.
There are still challenges. In the financial year to 4 December 2016 (the most recent year for which accounts are available), Pizza Hut increased turnover to £232.7m, up from £225.3m in the year before, but still saw a 33.8% year-on-year decline in pre-tax profit to £5.2m, which it blamed on increased royalty and staff costs. However, it could still point to increased trading EBITDA of £28.3m, up from £24.7m. How the results look for a difficult 2017 remains to be seen.
Meanwhile, Hofma's tenure has seen other positive developments, such as the introduction in 2016 of a major apprenticeship scheme, as part of which it pledged to offer 1,500 places over five years, running from level one to degree level. Hofma also likes to keep a close eye on how the business is working on the ground, undertaking a shift waiting tables at the brand's restaurants every month.
While Pizza Hut isn't the force it once was, it's still one of the UK's largest casual-dining brands and earns Hofma a place in the Top 100.
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