Papa John’s new UK business development manager Justin Gilbert says he has relished his first few months in the role as the pizza chain bids to expand its presence in the UK market.
Mr Gilbert was brought on board at the end of last year and is responsible for Papa John’s retail portfolio including store construction, acquisition and franchise recruitment, overseeing a team based at the company’s UK Quality Control Centre in Milton Keynes.
Speaking to FEJ, he said he’s enjoyed the start to life he has made at the firm. “It has been really good. My background has primarily been in operations so stepping into the business development role gives me the opportunity to both continue to learn in a different area of the industry but also the chance to have a fresh look at how development is done.
“For me, it has been about soaking up all the knowledge around acquisitions and construction and all the legal components, as well as all the whole franchise recruitment part.”
Mr Gilbert’s team is concentrating on further improving ROI for stores and taking advantage of untapped market opportunities to meet the needs of customers nationwide as it continues to develop the brand.
It currently has 400 sites in the UK, but it is confident that it will be able to exceed that long-term. “We are certainly in the realm of wanting to continue to grow and be able to provide Papa John’s pizza to more consumers across the UK market. We definitely believe there is more opportunity out there, and I think franchisees and everybody is excited about what lies ahead.”
Mr Gilbert has extensive experience of the pizza delivery sector, spending 10 years with Domino’s in the US and holding senior roles supporting master franchisees in Europe. He then went to work for Pizza Hut in an operations post.
How does Papa John’s compare to those two seasoned names of the pizza world? “There are certainly similarities, but I guess from a Papa John’s standpoint the focus of the business is franchise so part of the key to the success of it is making sure the franchisees are successful,” he says.
“A lot of what we are doing, and what I am doing in my role, is making sure that when franchisees are investing in new stores and growing the brand, they are getting return on investment. And ultimately, it is also about putting stores in the right place to serve the needs of consumers across the UK.”