Former KFC East Africa Group Managing Director Derrick Van Houten is set to be appointed as the new Chief Executive Officer of Java House, one of the region’s biggest restaurant chains.
From July 2015 to 2020, Houten was the main man at Kuku East Africa Holdings, the Kentucky Fried Chicken (KFC) franchisee for Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania and Rwanda.
He is expected to replace Paul Smith at Java effective March 1.
Founded in Nairobi in 1999 by Kevin Ashley and Jon Wagner, Java was acquired in 2017 by Private Equity (PE) firm Abraaj.
While Java already has over 70 outlets in the region, the firm is planning an aggressive expansion that will see the coffee house spread its wings beyond East Africa. It owns other brands including 360 Degrees Pizza and Planet Yoghurt. Houten is expected to oversee a plan to grow the number of outlets across the continent.
Cities eyed for new locations include Accra (Ghana), Lusaka (Zambia) and Lagos (Nigeria). Java already operates in Kenya, Uganda and Rwanda.
Locally, Java has remained competitive despite the entry of PE-backed players such as ArtCaffe Group, which has undertaken a strategic expansion in recent years.
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Like many other players in hospitality, Java was hard hit during the Covid-19 pandemic as foot traffic to its outlets dropped significantly due to various restrictions.
In November last year, staff members were offered the chance to resign in a voluntary exit program as it began the process of laying off workers.
It has also had to compete with international franchises including KFC, Burger King, Subway, Steers and Domino’s.
Houten is well-versed with the restaurant industry, having served in a number of executive roles in firms around the continent.
Before joining KFC, he was the Managing Director at UAC Restaurants in Nigeria.
He has managed numerous restaurants including his own in Cape Town, South Africa.