Not sure what you want to do for the rest of your life? (Same here.) Are you someone willing to take risks? Then listen up!
Meet Luis Veras. During his more than ten years with Pizza Hut, Luis has seen the business from every angle. From starting as an external partner, to becoming a team member, and then buying his own franchise, Luis has never backed down from a challenge or shied away from exploring what each new career path offers. For those of us still thinking about our career goals, Luis offers a first-hand perspective on what it’s like to take advantage of every opportunity Pizza Hut has offered. So, feeling a little entrepreneurial spark in your veins? Read on!
Q. How did you start working at Pizza Hut?
I came to the US in 1996 for grad school in the Chicago area. After graduation, I started a job with KPMG [an audit and consulting firm] in their Chicago office. Yum! was one of my clients, and in 2005 I had the opportunity to be recruited by them. I joined the Pizza Hut team as a finance coach/director out of the Irvine, California office for a little over a year before Pizza Hut asked me to set up a team focusing on marketing analytics and strategy, which was a completely new area for the company at the time—and a new area for me as well. This brought me from California to Dallas, as well as from finance to marketing analytics, where I was able to learn about a number of different areas within Pizza Hut—a little product development, a little marketing, a little operations. I had always expressed an interest in joining the Operations Team, and in 2008 there was an opening for a general manager position at KFC. They wanted six general managers to take charge of regional operations. I took over the Southwest region’s operations, covering about nine hundred restaurants from Texas up to Colorado.
In 2010, Pizza Hut started going through a refranchising process in the Dallas area. I was approached by the COO to see if I was interested in becoming a Pizza Hut franchisee. I raised my hand and said yes! In 2010, I became a franchisee with 18 restaurants in the Dallas area. So you can see that over my career, I’ve been a Pizza Hut vendor, a team member, and now a franchisee. I’ve truly seen the business from every angle.
Q. What advice do you have to anyone looking to build a career at Pizza Hut?
It might sound cliché, but approach everything with an open mind and a passion for what you do. If you don’t find something that you love, in the long-term you’re not going to be successful. Have clarity about what it is you feel truly passionate about, and if you’re not clear about what that is, don’t be afraid to ask for opportunities to help you explore your options and discover something you love. Yum! is a great company and Pizza Hut is a great brand: they’ve offered me the chance to explore a lot of opportunities even though I didn’t have a marketing nor operations background when I first started. I can say with certainty that the opportunities for growth are there for you if you’re willing to raise your hand, take a chance, and be open to mobility.
Q. What are some of the challenges to each of the roles you’ve had?
As a franchisee, the biggest challenge is that I have to wear multiple hats, and that I’m working 24/7. For example, if I have an HR issue, I used to have an HR person I could turn to for support [when working as a team member]; now, I’m the HR person. As a small business owner, I touch all the different parts of the management of the organization. I have to be a lot more hands-on and more detail oriented. I’ve shifted my focus to being primarily tactical in my work, rather than strategic.
As for my prior roles, I think my biggest challenge in KFC operations was that I was new to the brand and had to learn a lot about brand standards in a short time frame. As with any new position, each time I change roles there’s a steep learning curve.
Q. What are you most proud of that you’ve accomplished during your career?
I’m proud to have mentored, coached, and developed some great people at Pizza Hut. I’ve been able to help people grow into their careers both on the corporate side and now as a franchisee. I’ve mentored people that have moved onto bigger opportunities within operations at Yum! as well as to other external positions. It’s a sign of success for me when I see people I’ve coached get hired by other top companies, even though we wish they would stay at Pizza Hut. In my current business I try to develop people in all my stores.
Q. Do you think being a franchisee is a career path that someone with entrepreneurial instincts should consider?
In my opinion, being a franchisee is the best of both worlds—you can be creative and entrepreneurial and independent, but at the same time you don’t have to completely start from scratch—you are part of a larger system that is Pizza Hut. As a franchisee I’m in the position to benefit from the advantages of being a small business owner and the perks of working with an established brand. If one were an entrepreneur starting from scratch, you wouldn’t have infrastructure and support that comes with being a franchisee, and so your venture might not have the same chances of success. It’s a balance between risk and reward.
Q. What’s next for you?
We’re looking for opportunities to grow, buy restaurants within the US and even out of the US. I’m really excited for that!