Pizza Hut delivers out-of-the-box events as part of brand reboot

Pizza Hut is flipping its menu, along with its logo, staffers' uniforms, and pizza boxes. But one analyst says the changes could be too much, too soon for longtime customers.

Pizza Hut is also revamping its menu options.

PLANO, TX: After 56 years in the market, Pizza Hut is revamping its menu and look - and to prove how extraordinary the changes are, the brand is livening up three towns named Boring, Bland, and Normal.

To introduce consumers to its new foods and style, the Yum Brands chain is heading to Boring, Maryland; Bland, Missouri; and Normal, Illinois; to prove the "pizzas are anything but boring, bland, or normal," explained Pizza Hut PR director Doug Terfehr, via email.

Last Wednesday, the brand took over Boring's Mason Dixon Bingo Night, which benefits the local volunteer fire department.

"We waived the admission charge, brought more than 1,000 slices of our new pizzas, a marching band, cheerleaders, and one of the most recognizable sportscasters of all time, Dick Vitale, to serve as emcee for the night," said Terfehr.

Over the weekend, Pizza Hut stopped by Bland, Missouri, to host the town’s youth baseball tournament, along with actress and singer Kat Graham singing the national anthem and Hall of Famer and former St. Louis Cardinals shortstop Ozzie Smith throwing out the first pitch. Pizza Hut also had a "massive mobile pizza kitchen serving as the ultimate concession stand," said Terfehr.

He added that Pizza Hut plans to make some "not-so-normal" deliveries of the new pizzas to consumers in Normal, Illinois.

In addition to launching 10 crust flavors, like honey sriracha, and unique toppings and sauces, such as Peruvian cherry peppers, the company is reinventing its uniforms, pizza boxes, and logos.

Terfehr said the brand’s staffers are very important to the initiative, so Pizza Hut hosted a party for the entire company on Tuesday night to get everyone used to the new look and feel.

Pizza Hut is partnering with "several stars from the digital world as part of this effort" to share fun content on its social channels, said Terfehr, who did not disclose the identities of the influencers.

He said the brand’s social channels will soon take on a new look to match the other changes.

Rather than focusing on any upcoming challenges, Terfehr said the revamp is "about the opportunity" for the brand.

"We believe consumers of all ages will be thrilled with our new menu," he added.

Darren Tristano, EVP and food industry analyst at consulting firm Technomic, said Pizza Hut’s reinvention is a way for it to go up against competition it’s been facing in areas such as the lunch market, lower-middle-income areas, food quality, and innovation and customization.

Domino’s and Papa John’s have been focusing on quality ingredients, he said, while Little Caesars offers $5 pies and new items, like a pretzel crust.

Also, the pizza industry has had a rise in "customizable" pies, where consumers can create a pizza quickly at a counter to take on-the-go, similar to a Chipotle burrito, which are dominating the lunch sector, said Tristano. The Millennial generation has been a driving force behind the trend, he added.  

By making an effort to contemporize its look and offer new and healthier food options, the brand is "trying to play a game of catch-up with the younger generation," explained Tristano.

"I think [Pizza Hut] is doing too much too soon," he said. "It’s placing too much emphasis on the Millennial and not enough on their existing customers – the Gen Xers, Boomers, and Millennials who have grown up with Pizza Hut."

He warned that radical changes could alienate current patrons.

Tristano said when it comes to communicating the changes to stakeholders, an important element will be to highlight that Pizza Hut wants to become more relevant and grow its market share with contemporary changes so that its consumer base doesn’t age out.

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