It’s happy in Hell
Thursday, 4 September 2014
It’s happy in Hell
The ovens of Hell are breaking sales records and recent survey results show its franchisees, and its directors, are happier than ever.
Four high-profile marketing campaigns have, on the face of it, been the catalyst of Hell’s recent sales success; however, in the background, investment in people, technology, premium product development and a focus on franchisee relationships have created the foundation for the record sales and record franchisee satisfaction.
The company’s latest engagement survey revealed 80% of franchisees, the highest-ever, were either ‘Satisfied’ or ‘Very Satisfied’.
Challenges with bad publicity in 2011 led directors Stu McMullin and Callum Davies to review the business’s direction and make the changes necessary to reinvigorate the brand and the franchise system.
“Hell’s reputation had a couple of difficult years and a lot of work has been done to rectify that and get the business to where it is today,” said director Stu McMullin, who, together with founder Callum Davies, sold the master franchise in 2006 and bought it back in 2009.
“We knew we had to improve the professionalism of the company, but at the same time we had to get back some of our original roots; the culture at Hell is critical to its success. We replaced personnel who didn’t fit, with people we knew understood what made Hell tick. Fifty per cent of our head office staff were hired in or after 2012 and all have worked in Hell stores before, which gives us 100+ years of experience and operational understanding – something many head offices lack.”
Integral to the restructure was the appointment of general manager Ben Cumming, who, while at university, worked as a Hell delivery driver and is now in ‘the hot seat’.
“Ben is doing an exceptional job of realigning and refocusing the operation; the franchisees are the happiest they’ve been with the business in a long time, as are Callum and I,” said Stu.
Central to the company’s success has been its attention to franchisee relationships. The implementation of a franchisee engagement survey, regular updates and visits from the franchise area managers, have ensured that all franchisees are on the same page and able to capitalise on the company’s innovative marketing campaigns.
“The anonymous franchisee engagement survey gives us clear, focused and measurable feedback,” said Ben. “It allows us to benchmark our performance, provides us with work-ons and gives franchisees the opportunity to tell us how it is, warts and all.
“We have also made vast improvements in our day-to-day communication with franchisees, this has both in resulted better sales, through improved engagement with campaigns, and improved franchisee satisfaction, because they are executing the campaign plan well, which is ultimately profitable for them,” he said.
The latest engagement survey supports the new direction, with an 18% increase to 80% ‘satisfied’ or ‘very satisfied’ franchisees (49% and 31% respectively), a 25% increase in satisfaction with operations and a 22% increase in satisfaction with marketing activities.
This year has seen the introduction of the premium Hell Wild Pizza Series, which launched with the wild rabbit pizza. Supported by a global attention-grabbing 6m x 3m billboard made from rabbit skins, the 600kg of wild rabbit was sold out before the campaign end date, leading to the best week of sales in Hell’s 18-year history.
That record was short lived, when, two months later, Australasia’s hottest pizza, the ‘Angry Dragon’, was consumed by 3,526 brave souls in less than two weeks. Coinciding with Hell’s iconic Black Fridayspecial ($13 double pizzas), the records for the best sales in a single day and for one week fell again.
The threat to hold Australia’s kangaroos hostage launched the latest pizza in the Hell Wild Pizza Series, the Boomer. Topped with strips of wild Kangaroo, it has proven irresistible to a significant number of first-time customers.
“We pride ourselves on our creativity and developing new and exciting products that put us right up there with NZ’s most innovative companies,” said Ben. “Our focus is to continue to surprise and delight our customers, and provide a successful platform for the franchisees of our 64 stores.
“The feedback and our sales figures from these recent marketing campaigns has been tremendous – we’ve been able to make people laugh, provoke a bit of discussion and we’re getting ‘complaints’ from customers, who want us to bring back the rabbit pizza. It’s a good position to be in!”
Being involved in local communities has also been a cornerstone of Hell’s philosophy since inception. Last year, the company launched its ‘Satan’s Little Helper’ website to showcase the good work it does around the country. From supporting major charities to donating pizzas to schools and clubs, the organisation regularly throws its weight behind a good cause.
Hell’s sponsorship of the 2014 LIANZA Children’s Book Awards was lauded by experienced librarians as ‘the best promotion for children’s literacy they’ve ever seen’.
The lure of a ‘333 Kids Pizza’ for reading eight books saw children all over the country swarming to libraries, churning through the pages and chewing through pizzas. In selected small towns with no Hell store, the Hell caravan pulled up to reward the hungry bookworms.
While there have been a large number of initiatives rolled out in the past 18 months, Ben says there is still plenty of work to do. “While we’re pleased with our progress, there are still a lot of things that we can improve or develop to make Hell a better place for our customers and franchisees.”
Now back on track, Hell is well positioned to turn the heat higher: “Hell is New Zealand’s premium pizza brand,” said Ben. “Our goal over the next 18 months is to consolidate that with great product, engaging marketing and superior service - all with a good helping of sinister.”