Pizza Hut's fast-casual play

How the leading pizza chain is taking on rivals at lunchtime.
pizza hut exterior

While some established chains are broaching fast casual with entirely new concepts, Pizza Hut is trying a different tack. It’s debuted a fast-casual prototype under the Pizza Hut name, and is expanding the model to more than 30 locations in 2016.

“Will it work everywhere? We don’t know,” says Doug Terfehr, the chain’s senior director of public relations. “But it works in some areas where lunch is big for the business.”

Pizza Hut’s prototype, which it floated in Lantana, Texas, last year and since has rolled out at two other locations, seeks to offer guests a speedy lunchtime option. The biggest difference is the way customers order—at a counter where they customize and pay for their personal pizza, and then slide down the line to watch it being made.

Pizzas are ready in five minutes. “Before opening one of these, we wanted to make sure we had the right equipment to be able to meet the consumer need, which is speed,” Terfehr says. So kitchens are outfitted with quick-cooking ovens that can increase the heat and speed for personal pizzas and lower them for large and pan pizzas, without sacrificing the chain’s bread and butter: delivery and carryout.

Pizza Hut is forgoing more upscale ingredients to compete on price. Here, a pizza and drink combo rings out at $5, versus $8 or $9 for  fast casuals’ artisan pies. “We know who our customer is, and they expect some value with us along with a great pizza,” Terfehr says. “We didn’t want to have a new idea of a new concept, and then stray too far away from what customers want or expect from us.” 

pizza hut interior

Concept: Pizza Hut
Locations: Texas and Wyoming
Footprint: 2,400 to 2,800 square feet
Seating: 50 to 70, with options for small groups and individuals having a quick bite
Key features: Quick-cook ovens, signage to direct flow

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