Pizza Hut announced Wednesday morning that it has appointed a chief equity officer for the first time in the brand’s 62-year history. Chequan Lewis, who formerly ran the brand’s Express chain of restaurants in airports, stadiums and other venues, will utilize his new executive role to create new diversity and inclusion structures and programs.
In a statement emailed to Adweek Tuesday, Lewis said he was “excited to lead this critical work during this moment in our brand’s and nation’s history.”
“Pizza Hut occupies a unique space in our cultural landscape, and I believe we can help make our world a more vibrant place by chasing equity with intentionality, authenticity, and humility,” Lewis said. “I look forward to the progress we can make and lives we change as we work hand-in-hand with our franchisees, team members and community partners towards this vision.”
Before managing Pizza Hut’s Express brand, Lewis joined the company as an attorney in 2016. A graduate of Harvard Law in addition to Howard University, Lewis’s career has included stints at law firms as well as jobs in diversity and recruiting. His addition to Pizza Hut’s executive leadership team adds diversity to a largely white C-suite at the pizza powerhouse. It also brings some good news to a week in which it was also announced that 300 of its stores will close after a major franchisee—NPC International—filed for bankruptcy last month.
Yum Brands, the parent company of Pizza Hut— which also operates KFC, Pizza Hut, Taco Bell and The Habit Burger Grill—has made several changes to executive suites overall this year. After David Gibbs moved up to CEO of Yum Brands in January, he appointed KFC president Kevin Hochman as the interim president of Pizza Hut, along with George Felix and David Graves as CMO and chief brand officer.
James Fripp has overseen diversity and inclusion at Yum Brands since 2011, but the company changed his role and title last week. Fripp now reports directly to the CEO, with the title of chief equity and inclusion officer. As with so many companies, Yum Brands experienced a diversity reckoning of sorts this June with the resurgence of the Black Lives Matter movement. That month, the company launched a $100 million initiative to address internal and external inequality in three areas: equity and inclusion, education and entrepreneurship. Part of that initiative’s June promise: ensuring Black, Latinx and diverse representation in both leadership and account teams.
“An experienced, highly skilled, and universally admired leader at Pizza Hut and in the local community, I can think of no better person than Chequan to serve as our first chief equity officer,” Pizza Hut chief people officer Cristi Lockett said in a statement. “His leadership and guidance will strengthen our people-first culture and allow us to embrace new strategies that advance diversity, equity and inclusion among the entire Pizza Hut system.”