How strong local teams and centralized collaboration drive success
10 questions with Pieter-Jan Vandepitte, Chief Operating Officer at Delivery Hero.
PJ, what’s your mission as Chief Operating Officer at Delivery Hero?
The local teams on the ground and the central teams in our Berlin HQ drive growth and further the business strategy on a daily basis. I see my role as a COO as making sure that this collaboration flows smoothly and that the results are greater than the sum of its parts. On top of that, I have the P&L (profit & loss) ownership of the business and oversee global sales. My mission is to make sure that in all the complexity of our business, our collaboration pushes us forward. That we hold each other accountable, drive best practices and solutions, and build the best teams.
How long have you been at Delivery Hero? How have you seen the industry change during this time?
I’ve been working at Delivery Hero for over four years now, I joined in 2015. In the beginning we were mainly a marketplace business, meaning that we listed restaurants on our platforms and the restaurants would do the delivery. Over the last few years, we increasingly moved into own-delivery, which means we take care of delivery ourselves. Today around 45% of our business is own-delivery.
Basically, the market we’re playing in has become larger and the industry we’re operating in has become much more complex. We’re building our own kitchen infrastructures, developing new concepts, and we’re moving into other verticals such as groceries – all with the aim of enhancing our customer value proposition. This is how we drive affordability, deliver faster, provide access to new occasions, and continuously boost customer choice and ordering experience.
My mission is to make sure that in all the complexity of our business, our collaboration pushes us forward.
With around 30 brands worldwide, Delivery Hero is a truly global company. How do you balance a global vs. local approach in your work?
We are very close to our local teams. Every central function in Berlin is increasingly close to their local counterparts, so we are very aware of what’s happening in the markets. We also work with the local teams to identify areas of improvement, ensure we build strong teams, highlight opportunities for growth, and support with the right central services.
The challenge is that the more countries we operate in and the more global we become, the higher the complexity of the business. But the advantage is that the more our business develops, the more learnings we share and the more opportunities we create.
But we also succeed, as things become more complex, to simplify. It’s not easy to run a local business with a global footprint. But with the help from strong central and local teams and the right collaborative mindset, we can maximize our impact and drive growth.
How do you approach this central/local collaboration?
We have our operating principles in which we clearly state that the local teams have the responsibility for operations on the ground, and the central teams are there to support these teams with the right services and solutions so that they can excel.
Best practices might be further developed in Berlin, but a lot of them originate in the local markets. If you spend time with and listen to the local leaders and challenge the numbers then you see new opportunities and come to great solutions together.
Where it makes sense, we look at implementing best practices, tools and services (products and technologies) across all markets. This creates transparency, and allows us to scale better and faster.
In how far does local culture influence decision-making in a business context?
A pure ‘one size fits all’ approach would prevent us from seizing all local opportunities. We believe flexibility attracts the best people, because people want to drive projects, take ownership and react.
Having strong local teams that fully understand and capture the local requirements of the markets we operate in really gives Delivery Hero an edge. At the same time, solutions can often be applied across countries and markets. Being aware of differences makes you stronger, but in the end there are not as many differences as you might think.
There is a lot we can exchange, and that makes us richer. We’re a company that embraces local cultures, just as we are inclusive to different cultures and religions here in our Berlin HQ. The Delivery Hero DNA, which is translated into our values, means we have a lot in common regardless of nationality, religion, culture, etc…
As you work closely with the local teams, you travel a lot. Is that a benefit or a challenge for you personally?
Fortunately I have a wife who’s very understanding! When I accepted the job I knew that travelling would be part of it. The cool thing is that once you establish close relationships, it’s easier to do things over distance. But I do believe it’s a requirement for my job to travel a lot, it is fundamental to be close to the business.
Sometimes it can be a bit tiring, but I also see it as one of the better aspects of my job because I get to know different cultures, meet many great people, try different cuisines. Visiting our teams, customers, and restaurant partners around the world and seeing the opportunities for growth… I always come back with a lot of energy. It’s a very enriching experience.
It’s not easy to run a local business with a global footprint. But with the help from strong central and local teams and the right collaborative mindset, we can maximize our impact and drive growth.
While your work is focused on the local markets, you’re based in the Delivery Hero HQ in Berlin. Why is Berlin a good place to come back to?
It comes down to talent. I’ve lived in a lot of different places in my life but Berlin is the first place where I really feel at home, it’s a fantastic place to live. So if you want to attract the best talent from around the world, then Berlin is an amazing hub. I also believe that over the years we’ve established great teams here in Berlin, and it’s great to build on that further.
What are some of the big milestones you and your teams have reached in the past year?
I’m not the kind of person that is always looking back, I prefer to look forward. But one thing that I’m really proud of is that around the globe you can really see how much the business is growing, how our teams are constantly improving, and the global exchange becomes stronger.
From a business perspective, Delivery Hero is humble enough to question itself, and reinvent itself where needed. We adapt very well, for example moving increasingly from marketplace to own-delivery required a mindset-change, but we embraced the challenge and moved forward.
What motivates you?
I’m someone that runs on energy and passion. What motivates me is working with ambitious people, and seeing all the opportunities where we can still improve, where we can really make an impact.
From a business perspective, Delivery Hero is humble enough to question itself, and reinvent itself where needed.
I joined Delivery Hero for three reasons. Firstly, we’re active in a very exciting space – starting from a marketplace business we are now expanding the boundaries of the market we are operating in. Secondly, all the people I get to work with at Delivery Hero, here in Berlin and beyond, give me a lot of energy. And thirdly the impact you can have in the business but also the impact our business can have beyond the company. These are the things that keep my heart beating and make me come to work with a smile (almost!) every day.
What are you most excited about for the future of operations or the business in general?
I’m always amazed by the fact that it still feels like we’re at the starting point, there is still so much we can do. I am very proud that we’ve become a business where we can increasingly add value for our customers, but also society at large. The more we grow as a company, the more we can expand our social impact, whether that’s by giving back through our volunteering efforts, reducing our ecological footprint or promoting diversity.
At the same time, it’s great to see the opportunities we still have for improvement. If you look at all the things we can do better, as well as all the new projects we are launching in new spaces – kitchens, dark stores, groceries, etc – I think that’s super exciting. Very few companies are in such a position.