"Sourcing ingredients, training staff and following protocols makes it challenging for any operator to roll out a gluten-free menu item. While Domino’s and Papa John’s have menued gluten-free crust since 2012, Pizza Hut only now is getting in the game, besting its rivals by launching completely gluten-free pizza this January, crust and toppings included.
1. Launch logistics
Plano, Texas-based Pizza Hut’s challenge was magnified by the sheer volume of its operation. To manage the process and make sure its suppliers could handle the volume, the chain decided to limit the launch to 2,400 of its 6,300 U.S. locations.
2. Sourcing the crust
Pizza Hut partnered with a major manufacturer of gluten-free products for its crust. The dough is prepared and parbaked at the supplier’s facility to avoid cross-contamination, then delivered frozen.
3. Topping it off
Officially, there are two gluten-free pizzas on offer: cheese and pepperoni. The marinara sauce, cheese and pepperoni are purchased from certified gluten-free manufacturers and placed in a refrigerated “kit” that is isolated from other ingredients at Pizza Hut units. Guests also can customize with noncertified but gluten-free items, such as mushrooms, peppers and onions.
4. Training up
The Gluten Intolerance Group, a nonprofit awareness organization that certifies foodservice products and companies, helped Pizza Hut train staff and institute customized procedures.
5. Clean cooking
To avoid contamination from flour used in Pizza Hut’s regular pies, the gluten-free pizzas are baked on parchment paper and sliced with a designated pizza cutter. Every employee handling the pizzas must wear gloves.
6. Pie with an edge
According to Pizza Hut, these protocols give it bragging rights as the only national pizza chain to offer a certified gluten-free pie. Some analysts see it as a potentially huge opportunity to “take the lead in early adoption to this food allergy and food trend.” Pizza Hut plans to roll out the new pizzas to every U.S. location.