Times of Oman
Sep 03, 2015 LAST UPDATED AT 09:51 AM GMT
Jubilee Platter
September 27, 2013 | 12:00 AM
Photo - Hi

Establishing the fast food trend in Oman, and introducing a 'Pizza Frenzy', Pizza Hut, the international fast-food giant, has come a long way. This year marks 25 years of its presence in Oman which has been heralded with a Pizza Carnival.

It started as a small affair, and at a time when nothing seemed to be in its favour. There weren't many takers for what it had to offer; neither did it seem belonging to the place. That was way back in 1988, when Pizza Hut, the restaurant chain from US, was brought into the Sultanate by 'Khimji International LLC', in a small set up at Al-Qurum.

Twenty-five years on, the venture has evolved into the biggest fast-food chain spreading its flavour all over the country, with more than 32 outlets and 350 plus employees. Hailed as the trend-setter of fast food in Oman, it was 'Pizza-Hut', which introduced the locals to the-very popular around the world-Italian dish 'Pizza'!

According to Yogesh Shah, General Manger, Restaurant Division, Khimji International LLC, it was very difficult doing business in the early years, as the entire concept of fast-food was "alien" to the country with only two other joints operating at the time (Kentucky Fried Chicken and Texas Fried Chicken). "We literally inculcated the taste of Pizza amongst the Omani people, leading them to explore the delicacy by giving free trials and promotional discounts. Things worked out for us and gradually the people started to find Pizzas immensely to their liking. Today more than 70 percent of our customers are Omanis, and pizza is more of a part of their staple diet", said Shah, who has been associated with the restaurant since its inception.

Going by its motto, 'Pizza and Much Much More', being at Pizza Hut is much more than just dining. "It is a wholesome experience of being content and having a happy time with your near and dear ones", said Shah. Exclusivity is a main feature of the joint. Offering customised options for every age group, the eclectic menu has more than 72 dishes, including salads, starters, pastas, flatbreads, and deserts along-with the quintessential pizzas.

Having won many excellence awards including the 'Oman Excellence Award' (2009), and the 'Best Restaurant Award' (5 times), the chain today has a footfall of  more than a hundred thousand customers a week, and sells more than 3 million pizzas a year. Broadening its operations to cater to the ever increasing demand, Pizza Hut has split its outlets into several different formats; the original family-style dine-in locations, store front delivery and carry-out locations. The channelising is aimed at smooth and fast order deliveries and increased overall customer satisfaction. Out of the 32 outlets, 12 cater only to the home delivery and take away orders.

Pizza Hut's carryout business has roughly doubled in recent years, to about 30 percent of sales, according to Winston Reddy, Head of Operations, Pizza Hut Oman. He informed that the take-away outlets are located at Grade-A locations, with vehicle and foot traffic convenience, making it more comfortable for the customers to stop by and pick up their dinner, rather than dialing the store once they get home. Pizza Hut also boasts of being the first restaurant chain in the country to have online ordering facility with more than 90 thousand registered customers.

Staying ahead
The chain has adopted strong and unique strategies to maintain its leading position in the market. To maintain highest standards on all round parameters, the chain has implemented initiatives like 'CHAMPS', a competitive rating system, across its branches, which focuses on the assessment of six core areas of service – Cleanliness, Hospitality, Accuracy, Maintenance of Assets, Product Quality, and Speed of service. The outlet with maximum ratings is rewarded accordingly, and sent to Dubai to participate in the final round.

Shah said implementing such initiatives kept the staff motivated to perform to the best of their abilities and coordinated their efforts optimally. Employees are also trained for multi-tasking for increased efficiency of the work-force. "Cross-training the staff in both front and backdoor operations makes it more efficient and fit for more than one role which is beneficial to both the firm and the employees," he added.

Customer relationship is another core area of focus for the chain, extending many facilities to its loyal customers, like the delayed payment facility, where a customer could take away his order and pay later on. So much care is taken of the customer's preferences and tastes that if a customer does not find the order to his/her liking, they could opt to order the same or a different dish without paying for the current one. "We constantly focus on value to our customers and their priorities. We want to make our customers feel more at home, by being reaching out to them on personal level. This helps strengthen the bond with our customers even more", Shah pointed out.

A menu ever more elaborate
Coming up with a new Pizza every six months, constant innovation and new dishes regularly has been the foremost reason for Pizza Hut's success according to Winston. In recent years, Pizza Hut has expanded its menu, with items like pasta, subways, wings and cheese-stuffed bread. As many as the years completed by the chain in the country, 25 new dishes were also launched recently to mark the achievement. Having more than 72 dishes on offer, the promising menu offers delicacies for all age groups. New low fat and oil free dishes have also been included, keeping in mind the health conscious people.

Two new varieties of pizza, 'Super Supreme Pizza', and 'Chicken Fajita Pizza', salads like 'Halloumi Salad', and 'Crispy Chicken Salad', along-with many new breads, lasagnas, and deserts like the 'Footlong Cookie Dough' are the main highlights of the new dishes.To attract customers, the restaurant has launched a month long 'Pizza Hut Carnival', giving away assured free treats from the new assortment in an exciting roulette game.

According to Winston, diners were more accepting of innovations. Many new variants, such as the recent cheeseburger-ringed pizza, dubbed the "Crown Crust Pizza" – on a cushion, have gained immense popularity amongst the customers.  The overwhelming product looks like a standard meat-laden pizza – but topped with the accouterments of a taco and ringed with mini burgers dripping with melted cheese. Pizza Hut also launched pies with hot dog-stuffed crusts recently.

Creating opportunities, transforming lives
The restaurant chain has also been a beacon of hope for the locals, generating ample employment opportunities at all levels. At a time when working at restaurants had a social stigma associated with it in the country, Pizza Hut changed the scenario by bringing the locals across the restaurant business in proper organised form.

Encouraging the locals to participate more, the management even introduced an incentive system to reward good referrals. Today the restaurant employs 55% Omani staff. Acting on the "equal opportunities for all" principle, even women are having their fair share in the chain's success story with the gender ratio being 1:1, and many working in the upper and middle level hierarchy.

Considered to be the one of the best places to work at in the industry, the restaurant has the highest satisfaction levels among its employees, with highest salary along with perks like free food, medical benefits, furnished accommodation, up to 70% in house discounts, overtime, and double extra time on holidays to all its employees.

Many policies to motivate and boost the confidence of the employees have also been implemented, like the R&R system (Reward and Recognition) in which an outstanding feat or virtue, like any act of honesty or courage of any employee is acknowledged and appreciated instantly. "The idea is to give a sweet surprise all of a sudden. Nobody can work efficiently until they are not motivated and in a happy state. This is the DNA to encourage the employees big time, which no amount of money can do," asserted Shah.

Uncompromised quality

  • Aiming to preserve the originality and real taste of the recipes, the restaurant has a common 'Commissary Kitchen' facility set up at Wadi-Kabir, which provides processed and prepared raw material to all its outlets throughout the country. The restaurant also procures all of its supplies only from its stock facility in Dubai- No local buying!
  • A 'Mystery Customer',  a quality inspector, visits the restaurant outlets twice a month to check on the quality of food and services being rendered.
  • The only restaurant in Oman with HACCP certification (Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point), Pizza Hut is also the largest importer of cheese in the GCC,  more than 500 tonnes every year from Australia and New Zealand.
  • Adopting a unique environmental initiative, the chain is also investing in ideas for opening up energy efficient 'Green Stores' across the country.

Anil Khimji
Director, Khimji Ramdas

"As we turn 25, I look back at the milestones that define us. We owe a keen sense of gratitude towards our customers who helped our venture transform into a huge success story. We proudly remain dedicated to our cause of delivering great service to our customers."

Salim Saleh Mohammad Al Balushi
Assistant Operations Manager

"When I joined here 16 years ago as a crew member, I was a novice. The restaurant gave me a big platform to grow. Today I coordinate with a team of 50 members under me. Doing a job here not only boosted my financial prospects, but my personality as well."

Sulaiman Rashid Al Hosni
Frequent Pizza Hut Customer

"The biggest attraction at Pizza Hut is its surprise element. Every now and then there is a new scrumptious treat on the menu. I always look for the promos and new treat trials at the restaurant. The experience at the Pizza Hut never grows old."

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