By Marina Petro, Senior Associate Brand Manager
Stephen Hazard started out as a team member at Pizza Hut in Australia but has since held roles in Human Resources, Development, Marketing, and Operations across the KFC, Pizza Hut, and Taco Bell brands (when Taco Bell was in OZ!). He currently serves as Pizza Hut Africa’s Chief Operating Officer and is responsible for everything from Field Operations, Restaurant Excellence, and Restaurant Training to Local Restaurant Marketing and Information Technology. Before we began asking questions, Stephen had to make something clear…
SH: First, a disclaimer, these types of interviews can come off as inherently “braggy.” So I’m putting it out there that this whole thing is a humblebrag.
HL: Fair. #humblebrag, people! Don’t say he didn’t warn you! So while we’re on the topic of humility, why don’t you tell us what you’re most proud of?
SH: As a Market team we achieved 9 out of 10 Area Coaches at “Significantly above Target” rating for the year.[Editor’s note: that’s Pizza Hut language for a performance management tool in our restaurants]. To be honest, the absolute key to success was the leadership of the Human Resourse team and the HR Director at the time, Demi…simply incredible leader! The team have done a really wonderful job in Africa. Everyone is new, the competitive brand challenge has been tough and change is hourly!
HL: So you’ve gone from KFC in Australia to living in South Africa and working for Pizza Hut. Tell us how that happened and about your career progression at Yum!.
SH: I am from Sydney, Australia and started as a back of house Team Member there at Pizza Hut quite a few years ago. I had a Restaurant General Manager (RGM) who was a great leader and really took the time to coach me through the business. Over the years I’ve had the opportunity to work across both the equity and franchise sides of our business and in the three brands – KFC, Pizza Hut, and Taco Bell. I spent five years in Human Resources, about the same in Development, few short stints in Marketing and the rest in Operations. Before joining the Pizza Hut Africa team, I was the Business Development Director for KFC Australia working on new concept development.
HL: When did you first start thinking of Pizza Hut as a career rather than a job?
SH: I had aspirations of being an accountant with a major audit and consulting firm when I was younger. When I was promoted to Shift Leader thought, I realized how much I loved the people leadership and the culture at Yum! and Pizza Hut. There is a genuine belief here in the strong connection between company culture and business results. There is a commitment to building capability around culture, to live it and embed it into the training system. I still remember the satisfaction as an RGM from taking an interest in a person’s growth and finding those ‘rough diamonds’ It was incredibly satisfying to see people become their best self!
HL: What’s some advice you wish you could have given yourself when you first started your career?
SH: You’re only as successful as the people you grow, so focus on making other people successful! I’d also say be honest with people AND guide them through the change they need….for them (not you!). People wake up in the morning wanting to do a great job. What’s the worst that can happen?
HL: So what’s some advice you’d give to someone considering a global role?
SH: I am sure I will very much regret saying this but honestly I’d suggest taking the riskiest and most difficult job you possibly can. What is the worst that can happen? A startup market like Africa has a lot of ambiguity, risk around success and cross cultural learning (11 official languages)…it isn’t everyone’s cup of tea. It can be a little hectic here at times and there’s lots of ongoing change but it is nice to be part of the journey.
HL: Let’s learn a little bit more about you. Any hobbies?
SH: Like many Aussies, I really like sport… ANY sport! I like snowboarding, which is kind of a problem given that I now live in Africa and there is no snow! Coffee, spending time with the family, playing with our new puppy (Labrador….great dogs!) and chilling!
HL: Tell us about your family!
SH: I’m married with two kids. One boy who is a state gymnast with a “six pack” that I aspire to having! My daughter is three years old going on 15 and I’m sure she will be a lawyer when she is older.
HL: Any other fun facts we should know?
SH: My last name suits me unfortunately as I am quite clumsy. Those who know me can normally recall a moment(s) of laughter when I have done something silly. Unfortunately this has nothing to do with having a few too many drinks!
Bonus Fun Facts about Stephen:
What’s your favorite Pizza Hut product? Super Supreme Pan Pizza.
What’s the one food (besides pizza) that you can’t resist? Chocolate. My father worked for a major international candy company and my sister is a pastry chef. I’ve had little choice in the matter!
Where is your favorite place to visit? Cape Town is the most amazing city in the world (even better than Sydney which is a big call!).
If you could live anywhere in the world, where would it be? Any growing economy. Sunny weather is a bonus! With a happy family!