Java House appoints first Kenyan CEO


Restaurant chain Java House has picked Priscilla Gathungu as its first Kenyan chief executive. PHOTO | COURTESY

Restaurant chain Java House has picked Priscilla Gathungu as its first Kenyan chief executive to replace Derrick Van Houten who took over in March last year.

The reasons for Mr Van Houten departure who joined the chain from KFC after barely two years are not clear but the latest changes signal a revolving door at Java’s C-suite.

Ms Gathungu is the third chief executive in under four years. 

An insider, Ms Gathungu has held multiple leadership roles in the group. She has served as the human resources director for six years, commercial director for one and a half years and divisional managing director over the last two years.

“Java House Group is pleased to announce the appointment of Priscilla Gathungu as Group Chief Executive Officer,” Java House Africa posted on its official LinkedIn page.

Java, bought in 2017 by private equity firm Abraaj, plans to grow outlet numbers in Kenya market and expand in East Africa and beyond.

Besides Kenya, it has operations in Uganda and Rwanda and has ambitions to open outlets in Dar es Salaam, Lagos, Accra and Lusaka.

In Kenya, Java competes with global brands including KFC and Subway, as well as smaller foreign-owned local chains such as Artcaffe—which has also been on an expansion trail fuelled by private equity investors.

In 2018, Africa-focused private equity firm Emerging Capital Partners (ECP) acquired a majority stake in Artcaffe Group.

ECP had earlier sold Java House to Abraaj, underlining private equity investor interest in East Africa.

Prior to joining Java in February 2014, Ms Gathungu was head of human resources – Anglophone Countries – for technology firm Mara Ison.

Gathungu holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Organisation Management and Leadership from Concordia University – St Paul, and Masters in Business Administration from the same institution.

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