10 Things You Didn’t Know about Yum China CEO Joey Wat

Joey Wat

Joey Wat is the current CEO of Yum China. Based on the name, interested individuals should have no problems predicting some kind of connection between her corporation and Yum! Brands. However, it should be mentioned that Yum China was spun off in 2016, meaning that it is independent of its counterpart even though it continues to use the same name. Here are 10 things that you may or may not have known about Joey Wat:

1. Born in Fujian Province

Wat was born in Fujian. In short, Fujian is a coastal province of China with a subtropical climate. Terran-wise, it is mountainous in nature, so much so that there is a classical line about it being eight-parts mountain, one-part water, and one-part farmland. Population-wise, Fujian is considered to be one of the most diverse provinces in China because of successive waves of immigration over the course of centuries, with the result that there are now places where the local dialects become unintelligible by just traveling ten kilometers.

2. Went to Hong Kong University

When she was still a child, Wat’s family moved to Hong Kong. As a result, Wat went to Hong Kong University, which can claim the honor of being the first institute of tertiary education founded in the region. Nowadays, Hong Kong University is regarded as being one of the best schools in the whole of Asia. Moreover, it is very internationalized in nature as well, thus making it a convenient choice for people who want to study abroad but are concerned about the language barriers as well as related issues.

3. Went to Northwestern University

Besides Hong Kong University, Wat has attended Northwestern University as well. To be exact, she went to Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management, which was founded for the purpose of training business leaders with what it calls a “good moral character.” This might explain why Kellogg is famous for having pioneered the huge emphasis on teamwork that is prevalent in the current business world.

4. Started Out in Consulting

Wat’s career started out in consulting. Her first position was with A.T. Kearney, which is a U.S. firm that specializes in helping organizations make improvements to their performance in various respects. Following her time with A.T. Kearney, Wat went to work with other consulting firms, which were mixed in with various managerial positions as well.

5. Took a Huge Chance on Savers

For instance, Wat was involved in rescuing Savers Health & Beauty in the 2000s as the Managing Director of Watson U.K. For those who are unfamiliar with that name, Savers Health & Beauty is a U.K. store chain that specializes in health, beauty, and household products, which is bringing in solid numbers in the present but was struggling to survive in those times. Wat took a huge chance in getting involved because the situation was so bad that most of the stores weren’t even making money.

6. Was Motivated By “Doing the Right Thing” to Some Extent

With that said, Wat decided to get involved for a couple of reasons. One, she believed that the challenge would make for an excellent learning experience, meaning that she could expect a fair amount of personal growth even if her career took a hit in the process. Two, there were thousands and thousands of jobs that were going to vanish if Savers continued on its then current course, meaning that she wanted to “do the right thing” by seeing if she could help to save them.

7. Headed Up KFC China

When Wat signed up with Yum China, she started out as the President of KFC China. It is interesting to note that KFC is huge in the Chinese market, as shown by one study claiming that it held 11.6 percent of the market share for fast food restaurants in 2016. In part, this is because KFC entered in the Chinese market in the late 1980s, meaning that it had a huge head-start on a lot of its competitors. However, it should also be noted that KFC China hasn’t hesitated to make changes to better-suit Chinese preferences, which is why a Chinese KFC menu can look very different from an American KFC menu.

7. Has Seen a Rapid Climb

It is important to note that Wat became the President of KFC China in 2014. As such, she has pulled off a very rapid climb through the ranks. Something that is particularly true because she rose from being the President to being the CEO of KFC China before making further transitions to becoming the President and then the CEO of Yum China by March of 2018.

8. Another Turnaround Situation

As stated earlier, Yum China has had a strong position in the Chinese market for some time. However, when Wat signed up, it was facing some serious problems, with examples ranging from falling profits and a tarnished reputation to a very minimal digital presence in a market that was embracing e-commerce with considerable enthusiasm. In other words, Wat had entered another turnaround situation, for which her previous experience with Savers presumably proved to be very useful.

9. Self-Described Foodie

Wat has described herself as a foodie in the past. There are a couple of interesting things that can be said about this. First, while she might be a foodie, she wasn’t drawn to Yum China by the food elements but rather by the retail elements. Second, it is interesting to note that Fujian cuisine is one of the most influential regional cuisines in China, which is famous for its preference to retain the original flavor of its main ingredients while striving to bring out an umami flavor. Moreover, Fujian cuisine has been very influential on overseas Chinese cuisine in Southeast Asia because a considerable portion of the Chinese diaspora there can trace their roots to Fujian province and thus their family cooking to Fujian cuisine.

10. Can Sum Up Her Business Approach in Eight Words

Chinese is a language that is peppered with pithy sayings. As a result, it is perhaps unsurprising to learn that Wat can sum up her business approach in eight words, which would be, “Good food, good fun, internal beauty, external beauty.”


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