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Naked Pizza man walks out of Kenyan market

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Ritesh Doshi naked pizza
RITESH DOSHI: The CEO of Naked Pizza.

Kenyan operations of Naked Pizza have been taken over by Pizza Hut, the American restaurant chain. The closure comes three-and-a-half years after franchise holder Ritesh Doshi opened the US chain’s first branch in Nairobi’s Westlands after acquiring Naked Pizza’s licence for East Africa.

Ritesh Doshi, the former banker who quit his job to bring the Naked Pizza franchise in Kenya,said says Pizza Hut will take over Naked Pizza’s Mombasa Road and Westlands branches, as well as the mobile food truck.

Pizza Hut will also take over Naked Pizza’s 40 employees. Mr Doshi, however, declined to reveal details of the takeover or the transaction price. “We (Naked Pizza) have closed shop in Kenya and I can confirm to you that we have no plans to re-enter the market in the near future,” he told Business Daily.

Mr Doshi, 35, returned from New York to start Naked Pizza. “For a long time I had been reading and hearing about the growth and opportunities at home,” he said in a past interview. “I was at a junction in my life where I could take a risk and leave my corporate job to be part of the growth story at home, or continue reading about it for years to come. I chose the former.”

While visiting his parents a few years ago,  he  was unable to get a decent pizza delivered in a reasonable amount of time – it took 90 minutes the first time, and 75 the next, he says.

“This was unacceptable, as anywhere else in the world I had lived or travelled to, I could get a pizza delivered to my home or office in a reasonable amount of time. I decided to start Naked Pizza and the rest, as they say, is history.”

Pizza Hut will rebrand the acquired properties following the takeover and double the number of its outlets to four.

pizza Hut
Pizza Hut to rebrand Naked Pizza outlets and expand market

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The pizza chain — which owns and franchises 13,616 stores in more than 90 markets globally — early this year opened two outlets at Westgate Mall and College House on University Way in Nairobi at a cost of $250,000 (Ksh25.5m) each.

In February the company announced that it would inject an additional Sh350 million to finance the opening of five more branches by end of 2017. The Kenyan stores are franchisee-owned, and are operated by Liberty Eagle — that also owns the Subway franchise in Kenya and Tanzania.

Move to appeal to Muslims

Kenya is Pizza Hut’s fourth market on the continent after South Africa, Zambia and Mauritius. The restaurant chain plans to expand to Uganda, Tanzania, Mozambique, Ghana and Angola.

The restaurant styles itself as a middle-class eatery specialising in pizza but also sells other meals such as pasta, chicken, breadsticks, fries and soft drinks. While announcing its entry into the Kenyan market in December last year, Pizza Hut said that its outlets in Kenya will focus on serving foods that meet Muslim dietary guidelines (Halaal) in an effort to appeal to Muslims.

Pizza Hut is a subsidiary of New York Stock Exchange-listed Yum! Brands Inc, which also owns KFC and Taco Bell brands. Big players in the fast food industry like South African seafood chain Ocean Basket, American fast-food giant KFC, Sandwich chain Subway, ice cream seller Cold Stone Creamery, Japanese firm Toridoll and Domino’s Pizza have opened stores in Kenya over the past five years.

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ZAINABU NURU
ZAINABU NURUhttp://www.businesstoday.co.ke
Zainabu Nuru is a communications student at Laikipia University.
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