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Yum Brands buys leadership development program Heartstyles

The KFC, Pizza Hut and Taco Bell owner’s latest acquisition gives it a leadership development program for restaurant managers.
Photograph courtesy of KFC

Yum Brands is taking leadership development training in-house.

The owner of KFC, Pizza Hut and Taco Bell on Tuesday said it has acquired Heartstyles, a leadership development program created by personal and cultural development specialists Stephen and Mara Klemich.

Louisville, Ky.-based Yum plans to implement the leadership training program at its more than 50,000 global restaurants in the coming years. Yum has more than 2,000 franchisees who operate 98% of those locations.

Heartstyles will expand the leadership training program within Yum and will continue to offer consulting services to what has been a growing client base, Yum Brands said.

“I’m committed to elevating the experience for each of our 40 million customers every day and achieving the kind of unit economics only made possible with an exceptional culture and talent,” CEO David Gibbs said in a statement. “Scaling Heartstyles globally can help us consistently and measurably strengthen our people-first culture from the corner office to the restaurant.”

The acquisition is the latest in a series of relatively small deals for the giant Yum Brands, most of them designed to give the company and its franchisees more capabilities.

That includes the $375 million acquisition of Habit Burger, a $200 million investment in Grubhub, an alliance with Spanish pizza company Telepizza and the 2018 purchase of online ordering company QuickOrder.

Yum will “continue to consider acquisitions and strategic partnerships that allow us to unlock value and expand our capabilities,” Gibbs said in February, according to a transcript on financial services site Sentieo.

In this instance, the acquisition gives Yum an important mechanism for helping its franchisees train and develop employees. Labor development is a vital need for operators, who are finding it increasingly challenging to find and keep good employees.

That’s particularly true for restaurant general managers, who are in heavy demand in a constantly expanding restaurant business. “When we and our franchisees have strong and engaged restaurant general managers, they lead inspired teams, the customers feel it, and it positively impacts results,” Gibbs said.

Stephen Klemich is a longtime leadership consultant and Mara Klemich is a neuropsychologist. The husband-and-wife team has worked in the corporate world for more than 30 years. They created a tool called the Heartstyles Indicator that is designed to measure and “amplify” effective thinking and behaviors. And they co-authored a book published in January called “Above the Line: Living and Leading with Heart.”

For Heartstyles, the sale to Yum provides the firm with scale and resources to help expand its offerings.

“Your culture drives your success,” Stephen and Mara Klemich said in a statement. “Your people drive your culture. So knowing what drives your people is imperative.”

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