South African Restaurant Promotes Former Server to Interim CEO

South African Restaurant Promotes Former Server to Interim CEO

Kristen Fehrenbach

Peli Peli is putting its money where its mouth is. The South African restaurant, with two locations in Houston, Texas both ranked in the Top 10 on TripAdvisor, believes that company culture, and not the customer, is king and uses “Kaizen,” meaning continuous improvement, as the foundation of its core values. As a result, Peli Peli recently promoted Kristen Fehrenbach, a former Peli Peli server, to interim Chief Executive Officer. She will be responsible for overseeing day-to-day operations for both Peli Peli locations and implement action items provided by ownership. Fehrenbach has been with Peli Peli for just two years, starting as a server and working through stints as an assistant manager and HR administrator.

“We say culture is king because the only way you can truly give incredible customer service and actually treat the customer as king is if your servers truly care about what they are doing,” states Michael Tran, co-owner of Peli Peli and the decision-maker behind Fehrenbach’s promotion. “And the only way servers start caring is if they are empowered, encouraged and cared for.”

Peli Peli has not always made company culture such a high priority. In fact, from its inception in April 2009 through 2013, Peli Peli ran much like many other restaurants – with an atmosphere driven by fear and a primary focus on maximizing profits, even at the expense of its employees.  Tran was not happy with Peli Peli’s culture and decided to completely overhaul its operations after examining company cultures at successful companies such as Zappo’s and reading several business books such as “Good to Great” and “Tribal Leadership.” These books observed that great companies were often the result of strong cultures and a greater purpose beyond just sales and profits. Using Kaizen as the foundation of Peli Peli’s core values, with “K” for kindness, “A” for abundance, “I” for innovation, “Z” for zappy or happiness, “E” for excellence and “N” for nurturing, Peli Peli made the transition towards balancing the focus between company culture, customer service and profit maximization.

While there are risks to putting Fehrenbach into an executive role without the education and training typically associated with a CEO position, Fehrenbach believes that she will successfully make the transition. “I may not have the typical background of a CEO, but I know how to develop the Peli Peli culture and will continue to improve upon the aptitude and skills required of this position.”

South African Restaurant Promotes Former Server to Interim CEOFor more information visit or follow the restaurant on Facebook at,, Twitter at or Instagram at

Peli Peli, with locations at 110 Vintage Park Blvd, Houston, TX, 77070 and The Galleria at 5085 Westheimer Rd, Houston, TX, 77056, features South African cuisine by Executive Chef Paul Friedman. Both restaurants are currently ranked in the Top 5 in Houston on and has received numerous awards including Top 100 Best Reviewed American Fare Restaurants in the U.S. by Opentable.