Forum Magazine spoke with Sarah Nelson Smith, legal director for Yum! Brands, about the restaurant business, culture and the importance of following up on pitch-promises.
In 2014, Sarah Nelson Smith, Yum! Brands legal director for the UK & Iberia, won In-House Lawyer of the Year at the UK’s premier industry awards, defeating rivals from PayPal, Lloyds Banking Group and elsewhere. A year on, Nelson Smith reflects on the panel review and the current challenges for her team.
Yum!, the parent company of Pizza Hut, Taco Bell and KFC, sees the majority of its legal work come from Pizza Hut, which splits into a wholly franchised, dine-in business and a part-franchised delivery business, and KFC. Nelson Smith heads up a team of four — which, she says, is the largest it’s ever been, though she has access to hundreds of lawyers worldwide.
Culture is a recurring theme for Nelson Smith and it’s clear that Yum! employees are proud of it. “The whole ethos here is about recognition and genuine conversations,” she says. “When something goes well, applaud it; when it doesn’t, learn from it… it’s about the value you add, not hierarchy.”
That’s not to say it’s any less demanding, she adds. “I’m always wary if interviewees think they’re going to be working less by moving in-house, as it’s not necessarily the case. But it is more flexible. As a restaurant company, family is at our core, so it would be odd if the company didn’t wholeheartedly support the family. Here you have license to be yourself because people trust that you’re going to get your job done.”