Java set to name ex-KFC boss as chief executive


Derrick Van Houten, who is set to steer Java in expansion drive. FILE PHOTO | NMG

Restaurant chain Java House Africa is set to tap former KFC boss as its new chief executive amid its expansion quest in Africa.

Derrick Van Houten, a former KFC executive is set to take over from Paul Smith as Java head from March 1.

The executive change comes as Java seeks to open more outlets in Africa to emulate KFC, which has over 1,200 outlets in the continent.

“The new boss is coming to replace Mr Paul Smith who has been with us since February 2018,” said a source familiar with the changes at Java’s corner office.

Java declined to comment on the changes.

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.

Mr Houten served as head of KFC East Africa until last November and previously served as the chief executive of United Africa Company of Nigeria, a publicly-listed company based in Lagos.

Java Group was the biggest restaurant chain in the region with over 80 branches, followed by fast-food brand KFC, Art Caffe restaurant and Subway as at May 2018.