Baron Concors discusses digital progress at Pizza Hut U.S. and his new role with YRI
Baron Concors, since late 2008 the chief information and digital officer for Yum! Brands Inc.’s segment-leading Pizza Hut division in the United States, recently was appointed to a new, similarly named post at Yum’s much larger international operations.
Concors left the Fedex Office chain in December 2008 to join Dallas-based Pizza Hut. His new role at Yum Restaurants International (YRI) involves operations in more than 118 countries — excluding China — outside the U.S.
“Over the last several years, Baron Concors has made a profound impact in shaping the brand’s information technology strategy and digital business,” Scott Bergren, chief executive officer of Pizza Hut U.S. and Yum Innovation, said in a statement about Concors, who, though switching divisions, will remain based in Dallas.
Bergren also said of Concors that his team’s work to refine the chain’s point-of-sale and back-office-management systems contributed to “operational improvement” and that “during his oversight of digital, Pizza Hut became the category leader in mobile ordering and sales grew an average of 40 percent annually.”
For fiscal 2011, YRI had aggregate systemwide sales from the KFC, Pizza Hut and Taco Bell chains of $16.89 billion, an increase of 12.83 percent from the previous year, and ended the year with 1,593 company-owned units and 12,985 franchised units across all three brands.
Concors’ dual role as chief information and digital officer at Pizza Hut U.S. required interaction with Kurt Kane, the division’s chief marketing officer, who explained, “He reported to me for his work on digital marketing and pizzahut.com to ensure we had full integration of our brand message in these key areas.”
With Concors’ move to YRI, Kane added, “We are going to look to our agency partners to provide additional thought leadership in the digital marketing area — while also challenging members of our current team to stretch with additional responsibility.”
Concors recently corresponded with Nation's Restaurant News about the digital progress Pizza Hut U.S. made during his tenure, as well as what he'll be doing in his new role with Yum Restaurants International.
What do you consider your two most important accomplishments at Pizza Hut U.S.?
No. 1: mobile ordering. We were first with our award-winning iPhone app in 2009, but we realized that was only the beginning. We followed that up soon after with apps for the iPad, Android and Windows Mobile. This focus on innovation allowed us to be ahead of the consumer’s expectations. Mobile ordering grows every month and has become a significant sales channel for Pizza Hut.
No. 2: the rollout of new hiring and learning tools to more than 6,200 restaurants, [which] changed the way our restaurants operate. Store managers can easily train and hire and screen candidates through web-enabled [software], eliminating the need for legacy paper-based solutions.
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Explain your role at Pizza Hut U.S. related to the 'digital officer' title.
The ‘digital’ component of the U.S. role referred to online and mobile commerce, digital advertising, social media, email marketing, customer relationship management and loyalty.
Will you have similar digital responsibilities in your new post at YRI and, if so, do you anticipate that role changing significantly for the international business?
Like digital technology, the role will be flexible [to accommodate] changes and innovations in the industry, but the desire for shared know-how from international markets is already keeping me busy.
You told us, 'There is also a lot of innovation already in many countries that I can learn from and help scale.' What can you say about those innovative practices?
There are tests and implementations underway with innovative solutions around kiosks, digital signage, mobile QSR ordering and speed of service, just to name a few. I'm also very excited about the innovation in some of our markets with mobile and tablet computing in the restaurants.
What excites you most about the move to YRI?
I'm excited to be learning about new businesses and what makes them successful in different parts of the world. KFC, Pizza Hut and Taco Bell are vibrant global brands, and I’m energized by being able to help lead their digital efforts going forward.
Any advice for your as-of-yet unnamed replacement at Pizza Hut U.S.?
Pizza Hut has a terrific group of franchisees. Build and leverage those relationships to understand how technology can make their lives easier and help grow their piece of the business.