The Shout Magazine (New Zealand)

HELL of a swap for new CEO Josh Drake

HELL of a swap for new CEO Josh Drake

HELL pizza’s new CEO, Josh Drake, is swapping craft beer for pizza as the former Panhead GM takes on the challenge of leading one of New Zealand’s most innovative brands.

Josh joined HELL in February after more than seven years with craft brewery Panhead. He says while HELL is an irreverent brand, its commitment to sustainability, ethics, and premium pizza is what drew him to the role.

“HELL has broken ground time and time again – from ethical and free-range ingredients to catering for all dietary requirements and leading the way on sustainability commitments – it’s always stood out to me as a Kiwi success story.

“I’m excited to meet the teams at each of our 77 stores and work alongside founder Callum Davies and our talented support office to grow HELL’s legendary status among existing and new customers,” he says.

Callum Davies says they’re stoked to have Josh on board.

“Josh is a perfect fit for HELL, and we’re excited to see where he takes the brand. His experience at Panhead puts him in a prime position to grow the business and our impact.”

Before Panhead, Josh spent six years as part of Christchurch’s response and recovery effort following the 2011 earthquakes, which shaped his leadership style.

“With the Red Cross, we undertook the largest fundraising campaign in NZ history and deployed resources to help people deal with initial trauma following the event. At Hawkins NZ, we delivered one of the largest residential rebuild programmes the country has seen while experiencing the human toll of those catastrophic events.

“These experiences taught me the importance of leading with empathy and emphasised the importance of family within organisations; this helped maintain Panhead’s culture as it grew, and a similar culture already exists at HELL, which I’ll be looking to nurture.

“Most of our support office has also either worked in, run or owned stores, which is rare in our industry. Real-life experience and care go into creating and testing new products, which has led to our outstanding menu and customer-centric approach.”

The rising cost of living is at the forefront of Drake’s mind, and he believes lessons from the craft beer sector are just as relevant to the quick-service restaurant (QSR) sector.

“Until recently, QSRs have largely been insulated; however, craft beer has had a different experience since Covid. When it comes to convenience foods, consumers have more choices than they did during the pandemic and are carefully considering where to spend their money – and when they do, they want it to be a great experience.

“To be successful in a market like this, your values need to be clear – our premium pizza and gourmet offerings already set HELL apart, but we’ll be working hard to remain the first choice for consumers looking for ethical, sustainable and delicious dining options,” he says.

Established in Wellington in 1996, HELL Pizza has grown to become one of New Zealand’s most infamous and well-known brands, with 78 franchises throughout New Zealand and more than 1,200 staff. 

In 2015 HELL was believed to be the first New Zealand company to offer free-range pizzas, and in 2020 launched carbon-neutral deliveries, offsetting the more than 1 million deliveries it makes each year. HELL supports a range of causes – including the New Zealand Book Awards for Children and Young Adults and IHC’s Project Active.

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