Fast-Casual pizza concepts are popping up at a rapid rate, which potentially could take a bite into the profits of QSRs. Many of the once-popular national quick-service brands are showing concern about losing their edge as consumers gravitate toward new entrants in the better-pizza market. Fast-casual pizza concepts have become defined as those offering signature and build-your-own individual options, cooked to order in high-speed ovens, according to the 2013 Fast-Casual Pizza Cluster report from Chicago-based Technomic. And the big chains are revamping accordingly.
Pizza Hut is a leader in the change, embracing several key trends in today’s industry, including adding more fresh ingredients and introducing new ovens and interactive ordering. Departing from its traditional model of selling only full pies, Pizza Hut also began testing by-the-slice sales in early 2014 at two locations, catering to the on-the-go customers looking for quick, inexpensive options. Sold for $2 to $3 each, slices are cut from an 18-inch thin-crust pizza, then warmed individually in a deck oven. Pizza Hut plans to test variations of the new model throughout the year before deciding its next step, Al Litchenburg, the chain’s chief development officer, has said.
While other chains have yet to hit the scale of Pizza Hut’s transformation, many of the national brands are making strides to stay relevant. Sbarro joined the fast-casual race in October with an entirely new concept, Pizza Cucinova. Domino's Pizza's long-term strategy for growing its brand includes a new design with a display kitchen. And Papa Murphy's rolled out a new store design that emphasizes freshness.