Pizza Hut serves up ‘Facebook-style’ communication for staff with Microsoft’s Yammer social network

Pizza Hut Pizza
Image: Pizza Hut

Roll-out of cloud software is part of a multi-million investment in the high street chain's restaurants

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Pizza Hut has rolled out Microsoft’s Yammer social network to improve communications with thousands of staff across the UK, leading to improved service levels and contributing to higher turnover.

The Rutland Partners-backed high street chain is in the midst of a £60 million “reimaging project” to revamp its restaurants, targeting improved customer service with a new training programme for its employees and rolling out a new communication platform. 

Yammer is aimed at allowing the business to deal more directly with its staff. Only 120 of Pizza Hut's employees are based at its head office, with more than 8,000 team members across its 280 UK restaurants.

“The tool is allowing greater engagement and that is driving better performance,” said Pizza Hut’s head of communication, Gareth Hopley, who led the implementaton of the platform. He added that software has helped drive a “30 to 40 percent sales increase” where restaurants have been invested as part of the revamp project.

Yammer allows shift-working staff to view training materials, access rota information at any time and message both each other and central management staff, all at a time of their choice.  

Employees are also taking part in training videos, and are encouraged to share their own tips with other staff.

“It has given us the ability to do more than one form of training. Like a lot of people we use very ‘e-learning based training models’, but what this has given us is video-based training as well, which can be consumed on a phone or a tablet or laptop, on a bus, train or car. The can also share what they have been learning," Copley said.

”This was not possible before, it was a very top-down one way communication – we would tell you what to learn and how we think the restaurant should run. Now we get real feedback about what works and what doesn’t in the restaurants.”

The company chose the software as a service social network to replace an in-house built system – dubbed HutSpace – which had been difficult to scale as it was more widely used across the business.

Hopley said the Yammer system allowed Pizza Hut to engage with its predominantly young workforce, who often prefer to communicate via platforms such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram rather than email.

He also said many staff prefer to use mobile devices, with 75 percent of Yammer interactions conducted via smartphone or tablets owned by employees themselves.

“We don’t have a workforce that predominantly sits at a desk and is on email 24/7 – these are people who are on their feet, they working in a live restaurant environment, talking to customers. So how do you talk to those people, how do you put in a communication platform that allows you to engage with people in the way that they want to be engaged, but also makes them feel valued and is not in a top-down preachy nature?”

The challenge for Pizza Hut in the past was that corporate communications would reach managers via email only, so the head office would have no way of knowing that information was filtering through to all staff.

“You would be relying on managers to relay information and to relay some of the culture and behaviour programmes and recognition," Hopley says. "And you would have to put your trust that would have happened.

"Some restaurant managers weren’t as adept at doing that sort of stuff, so the communication would end there. You could produce the most wondrous engagement material and recognition culture, but it would reach the end of an email and it would stop dead, with no means and ways of measuring if that was getting anywhere."

Copley says the tool has seen strong uptake among Pizza Hut employees since launch - with more than 2,000 active members, and "several hundred" more joining each week - and the company has been able to track growing levels of engagement. The ultimate goal is to get around 5,000 users regularly using the platform.

“By putting in Yammer, every individual team member has their own individual profile and presence. Engagement is visible to see by the number of people joining the site in the first place and how regularly people are posting and what they are posting about.”

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