When Merrill Pereyra took over as managing director for the Indian Subcontinent at Pizza Hut in September 2019, the brand was focused was on dine-in experiences that targeted older age groups, specifically in the metros.
Having spent over 35 years in the Quick Service Restaurant (QSR) industry, it took little time for Pereyra to realise the untapped potential at hand. The challenge of transforming Pizza Hut into a young, accessible offering excited him. He started by overhauling the leadership and made early investments in technology, which in turn helped them sail through the pandemic, too.
During Covid-19, the company’s focus shifted towards safe and seamless delivery experiences. Once normalcy resumed, in addition to providing memorable dining experiences with open kitchens at certain outlets, they added also local flavours to the menu to sate the mixed Indian palate.
Last year Pizza Hut opened its doors last year in cities like Chittorgarh in Rajasthan, Palakkad in Kerala, Gangtok in Sikkim, Purnia in Bihar, and Rourkela in Odisha. These new outlets now account for around 50% of their business, even as they now boast of a portfolio of 800 restaurants spread across around 200 cities. Their latest offering is an Artificial Intelligence-powered mood detector device that makes dish recommendations based on facial cues and expressions to match customer moods.
Besides expanding the business, Pereyra enjoys a great sense of satisfaction that comes with empowering his team. In an interview with Mint, Pereyra talks about mentorship, the need to develop a morning routine, and more.
I have had many mentors—all been invaluable sources of wisdom and support.
My mentor helped me realise that at the core of any successful business, including Pizza Hut, lies a deep understanding and focus on customer needs and preferences. This has been instrumental in motivating me to formulate the brand strategy of pivoting around technology to enhance the customer experience.
As a mentor one gets to play a vital role in the growth and development of colleagues. It’s about creating an environment where everyone feels supported and empowered. At work, I believe in fostering open and honest communication, and make myself available to listen to my people’s concerns, aspirations, and challenges. By actively listening, I can gain a deeper understanding of their needs and tailor my guidance accordingly. Additionally, we also started speakeasy sessions to encourage free-flowing conversations with employees on their overall wellness. I aim to create an inclusive and collaborative environment where colleagues can thrive and reach their full potential.
I am an early riser and start my day at 4 am. After my early morning prayer and meditation, I ensure I make calls to my family and dear ones overseas. I enjoy a cup of coffee and hit the gym at 6 am to start my day with a burst of energy. Then, I quickly scan the news before diving into my workday.
Incorporating regular exercise and meditation into my routine has enhanced productivity both professionally and personally. Setting clear goals, prioritising tasks, and practicing continuous learning are key principles that make life easier.
It was establishing a dedicated morning routine before starting my workday. I found that starting the day intentionally helped set a positive tone and increased productivity
I would recommend young professionals to practise reading daily – be it newspapers, motivational books or autobiographies of leaders...and take cues.
Firstly, cooking, particularly Italian dishes. I find tremendous satisfaction in experimenting with different ingredients and recipes to create delicious meals. I also write and have authored a book Expand Your Brand: How to Supersize Any Brand, Anywhere in the World (2011, Messenger Group). Moreover, I am a strong supporter of charities for children and believe in giving back to the community to making a positive impact on the lives of those in need.
For me, floral arrangement is a unique and fulfilling hobby. Vibrant colours, intricate designs and the ability to create something beautiful with nature’s elements fascinated me. Over time, I started finding joy in experimenting with different flowers, textures, and arrangements. I enjoy it as it allows me to express my creativity and bring joy to others through stunning displays. It’s a wonderful way to unwind, relax and create something exotic and special.
Pizza for me is comfort food so I tend to have a slice or two every other week.
Monday Motivation is a series featuring founders, business leaders and creative individuals who tell us about the people they look up to and their work ethics.
Shail Desai is a Mumbai-based freelance writer.