Brick-and-mortar isn’t dead and won’t be so: Tapan Vaidya, CEO, PJP Investments Group

April 14, 2023 | By Rupkatha B

Brick-and-mortar isn’t dead and won’t be so: Tapan Vaidya, CEO, PJP Investments Group

PJP Investments Group that owns and operates Papa Johns Pizza restaurants in the UAE, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA) and Jordan plans to open 300+ restaurants in these markets by 2030. The goal is to exceed the 100-restaurant mark in the UAE in 2023, open 100+ restaurants in KSA in the coming years and plans to continue building its presence in Jordan. That’s because according to CEO Tapan Vaidya, “Brick-and-mortar isn’t dead and won’t be so.”

“If you think about it even when you order digitally, the food gets delivered from a brick-and-mortar space. For our industry [F&B] the bigger question is whether customer facing restaurants have a future or not, and the answer is ‘yes’. For instance, dine-in business has bounced back in the region and beyond. For Papa Johns Pizza it has bounced back from zero during the pandemic to over-30% now and we expect it to reach 40-45% by 2025.”

A reason why PJP plans to pursue “relentless growth” across the UAE and Saudi Arabia over the course of the next decade. At the same time the company will continue to leverage technology to create an even more robust omnichannel presence.

“Staying in tune with upgraded technology is the order of the day. We were well invested in technology even before the pandemic and thus it was relatively easier for us to upgrade our technology instead of having to start from scratch,” Vaidya shared.

For instance, Papa Johns Pizza uses an artificial intelligence (AI)-based software to understand the quality of pizzas it makes. There are cameras at the cut table in the kitchen where pizzas are sliced and boxed. The camera clicks multiple images of each pie to be analysed by the AI software that scores every pizza based on time taken to cut and box. The AI software also checks if a large pepperoni pizza is of 13-inches diameter, has 36 slices of pepperoni distributed evenly, how many centimetres of crust has been left. “Based on the highest average score per pizza per day the restaurants get rated while customers are the ultimate winners.”

“Besides quality, time to deliver is a big consideration for us,” Vaidya added. “Technology enabled us to carefully look at our kitchen operations by breaking down the process of making a pizza into multiple steps, tracking time taken at each stage across our chain of restaurants, therein ensuring our deliveries happen in under-40 minutes. Our investments will continue in technology to help restaurant operations get smoother, improve delivery time and understand our customer’s preferences better.”

Talking about tech, Papa Johns Pizza recently launched its first-ever NFT to take foodies on a virtual pizza journey, giving them a glimpse into the history of the brand and its recipes with its very own fully immersive experience centre. “As I said, we are committed to exploring innovative technologies like NFTs and Web 3.0. This not only positions our brand at the forefront of the industry, but also helps us capture the attention and loyalty of the next generation of consumers who are eager for cutting-edge experiences,” Vaidya said.

People have also been a major focus area for PJP. In this context, Vaidya said, “After finishing 2020 with positive cash generation, we sailed through 2021 quite well, and we have been able to retain 100% of our employees in 2022. People are at the centre of our universe and will continue to be. Besides creating an inclusive and engaging culture for them we seriously look at different ways to enable our people with the right tools and upskilling opportunities. Our goal has always been to create a working environment that gets the best out of a happy team.”

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