Women In Franchising: Pizza Hut’s Premila Vishwanath

Owner of fourteen Pizza Hut restaurants, nine years as a franchisee, three Elite Operator awards (<15 Restaurants category). These accomplishments are impressive, but only part of Premila Vishwanath’s story.

Premila Vishwanath, owner of Tex Food, LLC, began her restaurant career at a Taco Bell restaurant in Big Bear City, California, as a drive-thru CSR. Within two years, she worked her way up to restaurant general manager, and was soon asked to help other Taco Bell restaurants bolster their operations. Her next assignment involved running multiple Taco Bell restaurants in Orange County where her people skills and ability to deliver results were soon recognized by Taco Bell’s executives. They offered her a project manager position at the corporate office. With five years of field experience and a willingness to work hard and learn quickly, she progressed through roles in several departments including Facility Management, Communications and Real Estate.

While working as a real estate manager, she made a big impression on David Gibbs, Yum! Brands Chief Executive Officer (who was VP, Development, at that time). After 15 years of working at Taco Bell and Yum! Brands, Premila expressed her desire to become a franchisee and with David’s encouragement, she interviewed with Pizza Hut executives. Soon after, she started her career as a franchisee with four Pizza Hut restaurants in Dallas, Texas. David Gibbs remarked, “Premila has amazing passion for our business and has been successful at every challenge thrown her way … from learning a new function, to starting her own business as a franchisee and growing it from four to 14 restaurants. She is building her business the right way by setting a high bar for herself and her team and, as a result, is consistently a top performer.”

So what is it like to work for Premila? We asked an Area Coach who has been with her for the last nine years. Tamara Robertson told us,Premila is not only an owner, she walks the talk, leads by example, and motivates our team to no end. She has never treated us like we are only workers; she has shown our entire team we are a family. Premila would say, ‘We will all win as a team!’”

In recognition of International Women’s Day, Premila Vishwanath shares her journey from CSR to Pizza Hut U.S. franchise owner. 

As a female entrepreneur, what challenges have you faced?
I have learned that nothing comes easily nor is anything worthwhile served on a golden platter. Although there have been hardships in my career, I would say that I did well for myself as a woman and a minority to be able to climb the corporate ladder. However, that is not to say I haven’t experienced some hardships along the way as a female entrepreneur, especially around growth opportunities. There is undeniably a gap in the number of female franchisees across the food industry as a whole and I hope to be a driving force in closing the gap.

Why do you think investing in women and girls is important?
While I don’t discriminate between genders, I do my best to help coach and develop the women working in my company. I think it is important to invest in women to show that they can make their own decisions, be successful as entrepreneurs or in high-level positions, and balance work and family. There is a ripple effect when investing in women – where they give back to their families and communities and other women. Those who see and hear about successful women, start believing that it can be done.

How has being a woman influenced how you conduct business? Or has it?
I am direct with targets and expectations, honest when communicating facts or results and analytical and fair when making decisions.

How did your upbringing prepare you for the role you are in today?
I’m a first-generation immigrant, coming from a middle-class Indian family. After my father passed away when I was young, my mother taught me to be a strong and independent woman and to not let any challenges discourage me. This mentality remains with me today – I have a positive, can–do attitude that prepares me for any situation. Even when the going gets tough and seems impossible, I don’t give up. I am very persistent and consistent.

What was your biggest fear about going into business on your own?
To be honest, I wasn’t afraid of taking the plunge from a good and comfortable corporate job to become a franchisee. In the words of my boss at Taco Bell Corporate when I was a project manager, “How hard can it be to change, learn, grow and implement something new or different, for someone who has crossed continents to start a career and a life.” In fact, I was rather bold, optimistic and excited. My family is a huge support system and always encourages me.

What was the biggest positive you saw about going into business on your own?
Originally, the thought of independence, flexibility, and making more money was the reason why I got into business. But if you ask me today my response is personal fulfillment. I have grown to be stronger, more determined, and more driven than I was 10 years ago. I also love that I can impact the lives of others and can motivate and encourage them to be better.

What has been the biggest learning experience in your career?
Hard work and determination will always pay off in the end. I have also learned to give it your best at any position, job or duty. People around you are watching, and good work ethic is always recognized, remembered and will serve as a building block for your future success. To quote Aristotle, “We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.” 

What is your best piece of advice for other women wanting to start their own business or become a franchisee?
Do your research and find a concept/franchise that has a good reputation for how they treat their franchisees. You want to be associated with a brand/concept whose culture is positive and one that encourages diversity. Don’t be afraid to take risks. No one achieves greatness without taking risks. If you dream it, if you want it, go get it.

What’s in the future for you?
I have always envisioned myself as a 40-unit franchisee. I want to stay within Yum! Brands and grow. I want to diversify my portfolio by acquiring and developing other Yum! Brand concepts, either more Pizza Hut restaurants or getting into Taco Bell and/or KFC.

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