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Richard Leong
in Hong Kong by

Looking for a bigger slice of the action

In the modern chic interior of Pizza Hut at 12 Humphrey’s Avenue in Tsim Sha Tsui, Marketing’s Jennifer Chan caught up with Richard Leong, marketing director of Pizza Hut, Jardine’s Restaurant Group Hong Kong.

Richard Leong is a man on a mission as Pizza Hut Hong Kong looks to adapt local tastes in both the retail and digital realm.

“Hong Kong is very special,” he said. “It’s the only market where we operate two brands with completely separate menus to complement each other.”

At face value, these two brands, Pizza Hut and PHD, are particularly interesting for the fact they operate in the same category, with the same product, often going after a similar customer.

But Leong says it’s a lot more complex.

PHD, the delivery channel, caters to the fast-paced lifestyle of Hong Kong people by accentuating its express service. It is to speak to the competitive takeaway and delivery business threats in Hong Kong.

Its positioning is in stark contrast to Pizza Hut, which also offers a delivery service, but increasingly a casual dine-in experience and a laid-back ambiance, all part of an ongoing refurbishment project underway across the city.

“We keep our interior as well as food offerings European as local people do not tilt entirely towards local products. They fancy a dose of Western food, especially on the retail front.”

Leong added the retail concept had always been and would continue to revolve around creating a social hub for customers, keeping in line with its digital pushes.

As delivery features prominently in the overall business, Pizza Hut has cross-over with Xbox in the US to blend gaming and pizza ordering together with an app Pizza Hut Xbox 360, which has earned the brand a mind-bending US$1 million in sales four months after the launch.

Digital and technology adoptions will undoubtedly be the centrepiece of the business’ investment and development.

A recent release from Pizza Hut showed 40% of all transactions globally occurred digitally in the first week of April, driven by its mobile site, Android App, iPhone App, Windows App, iPad, Xbox 360 and PizzaHut.com.

But in Hong Kong, the direction is slightly deviated because the mobile market is not yet mature enough, Leong said.

“Online ordering still amounts to a high percentage in overall transactions here, growing at a high double digital in recent years. Mobile growth, however, is relatively flat, mainly due to the absence on Android devices.”

In six months time, the brand’s Hong Kong official site will undergo a major revamp in an effort to boost online business. The current site, which Leong honestly admitted had “large room for improvement”, will be revamped and infused with a wide range of data-capturing solutions, including GPS and last-order tracking.

“Every online customer has their own ordering patterns. Data tracking the online platform allows us to build customer relationships so as to maintain a higher potential lifetime value of a customer.”

When asked for a brief idea of what the website would look like, he half-jokingly compared it with Disneyland, with different themed zones and a much clearer navigation system.

As much as the company tries to balance the line between traditional advertising and new media, it’s almost impossible to slow its focus on social media.

But Leong, who has held roles with 4As agencies, including DDB, Ogilvy and JWT, says brands rarely notice the real power behind social media.

“Facebook is more than just building a huge fan base and garnering a number of likes. It’s customer service, where it requires a system in place. It’s a platform where you should seek quality fans and conversations.”

“Impersonal tone and manner on your Facebook page may end up being a poster on the wall.”

The key, he added, was delivering conversations in the same way customers speak.

When we leave the restaurant Leong hints that another Yum! Brand franchise, KFC, will soon undergo a big redesign, but more on that later, he says.