I started out in 1988 working for a brewery where I also completed a part-time MBA over five years at Wolverhampton. I was responsible for the leasing of tenanted pubs, so from the outset I was involved in the food and drink industry! In the early 90s I
worked for Domino’s Pizza as development manager looking after new franchisees then moved to Pizza Hut as head of franchising. After a spell running an overseas consultancy and becoming a master licenced franchisee for a juice bar for about eight years, I then joined Papa John’s.
From almost 20 years in the industry there have been some career highlights! I remember supplying pizza to Richard Branson’s two-day staff party at his home. We turned up with the oven and the staff and Van Morrison was the entertainment! Another highlight was being involved with Papa John’s to set the Guinness World record for the most people tossing pizza dough simultaneously. Papa John himself, John Schnatter, was there and the backdrop was Tower Bridge in London. It was all over the media and TV, a hugely memorable day!
For others thinking of a career in the pizza industry I can recommend that there is plenty of opportunity for career progression. It is a vibrant dynamic sector with a great product. Unlike working in a call centre for example, you tend to have happy customers! Yes, it’s hard work and it’s a fast paced environment but there is lots of employment and opportunity at every level.
I’ve known a number of people that started out as drivers and progressed to become store managers and ultimately successful franchisees. Papa John’s own vice president for Western Europe, Gareth Davies, a 25 year veteran of the pizza business has worked at every level from pizza chef through to leading Papa John’s in the UK. John Schnatter, founder of Papa John’s also has a story which is an inspiration to anyone considering joining the industry. At high school, he worked as a dishwasher at Rocky’s sub pub in Jefferson, Indiana, later selling his prized car to fund used restaurant equipment to make and sell his own pizza from a converted broom closet in his father’s tavern. Later Papa John’s was born! With the right effort, attitude and enthusiasm career progression is a feature of this industry.
One reason for this, is that the pizza industry is buoyant and continues to grow in popularity. Despite the recent recession we didn’t see sale suffer like in other markets. People still have to eat! I’ve seen three cycles of recession over the years and pizza has always remains strong.
Similarly, unlike other food sectors, it is not directly influenced by the season or weather. In the summer when the sun shines, people order pizza and even in winter, Christmas is one of our busiest times! It is a treat and a way to feed the family at the same time.
The model also lends itself to franchising. This provides a great opportunity for someone without necessarily a lot of experience to run and build their own business. Passion and the capacity for hard work will repay a franchisee’s efforts! The franchise model ensures that all training and help is provided and many young franchisees have gone on to successfully run multiple Papa John’s franchised stores.
Working in the pizza industry is great fun! It offers great variety, no two days are ever the same. Would I do it all again? Yes absolutely!