American restaurant chain, Pizza Hut, has taken over local operations of Naked Pizza, marking the global fast food company’s exit from the Kenyan market.
The abrupt closure comes three-and-a-half years after franchise holder Ritesh Doshi opened the US chain’s first branch in Nairobi’s Westlands after acquiring Naked Pizza’s licence for East Africa.
Mr Doshi said in an interview Tuesday that Pizza Hut will take over Naked Pizza’s Mombasa Road and Westlands branches, as well as a mobile food truck.
Pizza Hut will also take in Naked Pizza’s 40 employees. Mr Doshi however declined to reveal details of the takeover or the transaction price.
“We (Naked Pizza) have closed shop in Kenya and I can confirm to you that we have no plans to re-enter the market in the near future,” he said.
Pizza Hut will rebrand the acquired properties following the takeover, doubling the number of its outlets to four.
The pizza chain — which owns and franchises 13,616 stores in more than 90 markets globally — early this year opened two outlets at Westgate Mall and College House on University Way in Nairobi at a cost of $250,000 (Sh25.5m) each.
In February the company announced that it would inject an additional Sh350 million to finance the opening of five more branches by end of 2017.
The Kenyan stores are franchisee-owned, and are operated by Liberty Eagle — that also owns the Subway franchise in Kenya and Tanzania.
Kenya is Pizza Hut’s fourth market on the continent after South Africa, Zambia and Mauritius. The restaurant chain plans to expand to Uganda, Tanzania, Mozambique, Ghana and Angola.
The restaurant styles itself as a middle-class eatery specialising in pizza but also sells other meals such as pasta, chicken, breadsticks, fries and soft drinks.
While announcing its entry into the Kenyan market in December last year, Pizza Hut said that its outlets in Kenya will focus on serving foods that meet Muslim dietary guidelines (Halaal) in an effort to appeal to Muslims.
Pizza Hut is a subsidiary of New York Stock Exchange-listed Yum! Brands Inc, which also owns KFC and Taco Bell brands.
Big players in the fast food industry like South African seafood chain Ocean Basket, American fast-food giant KFC, Sandwich chain Subway, ice cream seller Cold Stone Creamery, Japanese firm Toridoll and Domino’s Pizza have opened stores in Kenya over the past five years.