Even Pizza Hut is getting into drive-thrus.
The Plano, Tex.-based pizza chain on Tuesday said it is adding “The Hut Lane,” a digital order pickup window, in more than 1,500 locations across the country, and has plans to add more.
The windows are for previously ordered carryout pizzas, making it similar to the digital order pickup lanes at chains such as Chipotle Mexican Grill. Customers either order by phone or through the Pizza Hut app or website, pull up to the window, get their order and leave.
If the lane is not available at the local restaurant, the app will automatically offer the chain’s contactless curbside pickup as the option.
The lane is part of a long-term strategy to modernize the brand with digital ordering and customer experiences. Flynn Restaurant Group, which last week completed the acquisition of more than 900 Pizza Hut locations, plans to prioritize the lane as it remodels its units.
“We are giving our customers a variety of options to optimize their pizza-eating experience as we build on our business momentum,” Nicolas Burquier, chief customer and operations officer with Pizza Hut, said in a statement.
Drive-thru lanes had been increasingly popular before the pandemic—traditional drive-thru chains like McDonald’s and Wendy’s had seen growing percentages of their business coming through that lane. The pandemic has increased their importance, and more types of concepts have shifted their strategies to add them—including fast-casual pizza chains and concepts such as Shake Shack. Chipotle now has its “Chipotlane” digital order lane in nearly 200 locations.
Pizza Hut would be the first big pizza chain to add them, however. The chain has been on something of a roll lately as it has sped its shift toward takeout and delivery and away from the dine-in restaurants of the past—same-store sales rose 8% in the last three months of 2020, even as its biggest operator, NPC International, closed units before it ended up selling to Flynn.
The company, which now operates about 6,500 U.S. locations, says it is developing plans for additional Hut Lane in-store branding elements and will roll them out in the “near future.”