Rare chance to run a slice of Hell

By Colin Taylor

Proven pizza restaurant offers franchisees the opportunity to walk straight into a high-profile brand.

Hell Pizza has built its reputation on innovative products and quality ingredients. Hell works hard to keep its brand edgy and at the forefront of customers' minds.
Hell Pizza has built its reputation on innovative products and quality ingredients. Hell works hard to keep its brand edgy and at the forefront of customers' minds.

Franchise opportunities are now available within existing Hell Pizza restaurant sites along with the potential to develop new sites, says the general manager of Hell, Ben Cumming.

"Running a Hell shop is just like any other business - you have to work hard to get the gains," Cumming says. "Where it differs is the model is proven and new franchisees walk straight into a high-profile brand with excellent products and systems."

Hell director Callum Davies knows only too well the effort and dedication required to make the edgy brand succeed. He founded Hell Pizza on the first floor of Wellington's Kelburn Squash Centre in 1996. It was hard to find, the access was dodgy and the kitchen tiny. However, its cultish success was remarkable - 64 stores nationwide testify to that - and the elements that made Hell hot then remain at the core of the brand today.

"First and foremost, it's about the customers," says Cumming. "There are three simple ingredients to pleasing them - great product, great service and a brand they're excited to be associated with.

We invest a lot into developing new, innovative products, sourcing quality ingredients and technology. There are boring, mainstream, stale old pizza franchises and then there's Hell. We intend to keep the brand edgy and at the forefront of customers' minds.

"If customers love our products and brand, then the franchisee just has to focus on great service, building relationships and running an efficient operation."

Cumming agrees that, for some, it's easier said than done and while only hand-picked candidates are offered a franchise agreement, the franchisor offers significant support to help franchisees maximise their return.

"It is a simple scenario, really - what's good for our franchisees is good for us," he says. "If stores are profitable, we're profitable."

At head office level, the business has evolved markedly over the past couple of years and Hell has placed franchisee communications at the forefront of the development.

"Our 'Hell Hole' intranet portal is central to measuring and comparing performance and carries the majority of our communications," says Cumming. "It allows open two-way communications between head office and the franchisees. We send updates at least weekly and ask for feedback on planned products and campaigns. We also hold regular meetings to update franchisees on what's working, what's not and what we have planned."

Area managers around the country also meet franchisees at least quarterly to provide support and advice on profitability analysis, local store marketing and business development, including employment considerations and stock management.

The recent evolution of the business has been met with approval by franchisees across the country.

Gavin and Karen Larsen, owners of Hell Newlands, Wellington, say they're impressed with all aspects of the Hell operation.

"While there are 'systems and processes' that need to be adhered to in order to protect the reputation of one of New Zealand's most recognised and iconic brands, as owners, we are also firmly holding the reins in our territory and are empowered to get on and grow our local business," says Gavin Larsen.

"That's crucial - we don't feel restricted by rules and regulations and the success of our shop is in our hands, with great support from the guys at head office. All in all, we're having a blast."

Many new Hell franchisees don't come from a hospitality background. In the Christchurch suburb of Shirley, Hell's Richard Murray started with the business in 2005.

"I had very limited experience in the industry but a willingness to learn," he says.

"After a rigorous interview process, I was selected to join a training programme, which gave me all the skills and knowledge required to open my own store."

So if you think you can handle the heat in Hell, go to Hellpizza.com and download a franchise information pack.

- NZ Herald

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