German Doner Kebab, commonly known as GDK, has appointed two industry experts from Domino’s as it forges ahead with building the fast casual brand of the future.
Simon Wallis joins as CEO after 13 years at Domino’s Pizza Group (DPG), where he most recently held the position of Chief Transformation Officer. Robin Caley, following eight years at DPG where he was the CEO of both Germany and Norway and Group Business Development Director, takes on the role of Chief Development Officer.
Simon Wallis succeeds current GDK CEO Imran Sayeed, who has been promoted to the position of Group CEO at Hero Brands’ F&B division, which also includes a stable of emerging brands such as Choppaluna, Island Poke, Dirty Bones, and ‘Sides’, a concept jointly developed with YouTube superstars, the Sidemen.
Athif Sarwar, Hero Brands’ founder and chairman, said: “We are extremely pleased to be bringing in both Simon and Robin at such an exciting phase of the GDK journey. The next 12 months are going to be even bigger as we continue on our path of rapid development throughout the UK and international growth regions.”
Adds Imran Sayeed, Hero Brands’ F&B Division Group CEO: “Both Simon and Robin bring significant senior industry experience, and I believe they will play a huge role as we take our brand to the next level.”
At DPG, Simon led Domino’s to become the dominant pizza brand in the UK. He drove the digitisation of the business with the launch of the brand’s first ever mobile ordering app worldwide, established flagship media partnerships to help the Domino’s brand become synonymous with ‘nights in front of the TV’, and introduced game-changing innovation such as Domino’s Stuffed Crust pizza.
“I am super excited to be joining the team at GDK to lead the business through its next stage of growth, and to build on the great foundations laid by our hard-working team members and franchise partners in fulfilling our ambition to create the undisputed #1 doner kebab brand on the planet”, remarks Simon.
Simon will provide a relentless focus on consistent execution of product quality, increasing the awareness of GDK’s distinctive brand identity, and enhancing collaboration with franchise partners to optimise franchisee profitability.
Robin Caley was part of the same team that shaped Domino’s dominance in the UK, having opened over 350 stores and significantly improving franchise relations for the organisation. With respect to his new role and GDK, Robin notes: “I’ve watched the brand grow in the UK over the last few years and have really admired the proposition the team have developed. I’m delighted to join the team to drive the expansion of the brand in UK and overseas.”
This sentiment is shared by Imran Sayeed: “Through Simon’s extensive F&B background ranging from Yum! Restaurants International, to Papa John’s, to Domino’s, Simon has been able to drive explosive sales growth in the past, and I am confident he will do the same for GDK. As for Robin, I cannot imagine anyone more suitable to push forward our geographic expansion in the coming years.”
Imran Sayeed, who joined GDK in 2016 following a distinguished career and proven track record at Yum! Restaurants International, has himself been recognised by Athif Sarwar with his recent promotion: “Imran led GDK as it evolved into the UK’s fastest-growing restaurant chain. Under his leadership, the brand has celebrated numerous successes and milestones, including the 100-restaurant landmark in the UK in 2022 as well as a global expansion that delivered double-digit year-on-year sales growth.”
“His leadership throughout the pandemic saw us maintain our high-growth trajectory during a challenging time and he leaves a true legacy as we respond to huge consumer demand throughout the globe”, he continues. “Imran will now be joining me at Hero Brands. His knowledge of the industry and energy will be critical to the success of expanding our presence in UK and international markets in building our brands of the future and developing new leaders within the group.”
Hero Brands is focused on building an ecosystem of the brands of the future. As well as German Doner Kebab, recent growth in the group portfolio includes partnering with The Sidemen – a Global YouTube collective – to launch mega food brand SIDES, the influential chicken brand taking over the world, as well as XIX Vodka, a premium drink which went viral.
Hero Brands’ estate further consists of Island Poké, the UK’s leading Poké operator; Dirty Bones, the NYC-inspired food and cocktail concept and a growing portfolio of innovative fashion, health and media brands including King Apparel, a premium streetwear brand.