The next Vin Scully or Jack Buck has a nice ring to it, but we’re glad that Artie decided to run the bases home to Pizza Hut instead. Read more to learn about Pizza Hut’s Chief Executive Officer, Artie Starrs.
Let’s start with your childhood, tell us what you had in mind for a career. I had Cooperstown on my mind…not as a player but as a broadcaster. I wanted to go to broadcasting school after I graduated and give baseball play-by-plays, to be the voice of the New York Yankees. Some of my favorite memories from childhood stem from my pitching days in Little League and grabbing a pizza at Pizza Hut afterwards with the team (hold the mushrooms, please).
What moments in your personal life – and in the world as a whole – either changed or shaped your job at that time? One of my best friends passed away on 9/11. This loss really put a lot of things in perspective for me, both personally and professionally. I’ve got a greater sense of purpose and deeper appreciation for things that mean the most me, like family and friends. In fact, before I take an airplane trip, I always take a few moments to reflect and check-in with my family.
Speaking of family, tell us more about someone who inspired you when were young. My Grandfather was always someone I looked up to and he really shaped me into the person I am today. He was simply a humble, low-key guy who worked hard to provide for his family. He owned a farm near my college, and I would visit him often – he influenced me a great deal and at such a significant point in my life. I remember him always saying that “you put your pants on one leg at a time like everybody else” and that just resonated with me.
Let’s talk about you coming to Yum! and Pizza Hut in 2013. Tell us what drew you to the brand. What ultimately drew me to Pizza Hut was the unique balance between three things: its reputation as an iconic brand, its culture and the opportunity to work with local entrepreneurs. Entrepreneurship is the backbone of our country, and our franchisees epitomize the true spirit of what it means to be an entrepreneur and giving back to their community. And we continue to build and grow our culture, and this excites me about the brand.
And as the brand continues to grow under your leadership, what are you most focused on the remainder of the year and into 2020? 1) Finalize/execute on the plan to reopen new modern assets in our markets, 2) Successful integration of our marketing calendar (i.e., innovation with new calendar construct), and 3) Partner closely with Pizza Hut Connect to accelerate our digital and technology growth and execute on our roadmap.
Switching gears a bit, tell us a fun fact about yourself? I get a vanilla soft serve ice cream cone (almost…and sometimes two) every day. My grandmother – who was a child of the depression and whose parents were Irish immigrant – always used to tell us “be happy with your ice cream cone!” It was a two-fold statement around being happy with what you have and recognizing joy in the little things.
And what’s your go-to on the $5 ‘N Up Lineup? A thin and crispy pepperoni pizza and Cajun wings – you can’t beat it!
Any parting words to share or best advice you’ve been given?
There are exceptions to every rule, but most great leaders and influencers tend to listen more than they speak. It’s always a balancing act between the two, but I firmly believe great listening propels great thinking. Colleagues and teammates are more likely to truly listen to people who are great listeners themselves. Break through happens in a business like ours when this cycle of truly listening, deeply thinking and authentic communication is working full circle!