BRAND HEALTH CHECK: Pizza Hut - Will 'Gourmet' Food Be a Winner for Pizza Hut?

Marketing, May 22, 2003 | Go to article overview

BRAND HEALTH CHECK: Pizza Hut - Will 'Gourmet' Food Be a Winner for Pizza Hut?


The pizza restaurant has surprised many by trialling upmarket menu items. Ben Bold asks whether it has the right strategy to keep diners coming back for another slice.

Pizza Hut may be a pizza purist's nightmare, but its formula of consistent restaurant formats and menu gives the family crowd a prescribed eating experience, no matter which branch they stop off in.

Its marketing strategy has focused heavily on product development to keep its diners happy, but the news that it is to trial some more upmarket additions to its menu, including goat's cheese bruschetta, is a far cry from its usual NPD.

So does Pizza Hut want to reinvent itself? It hardly seems likely. The chain is booming in the UK, where it is operated as a joint venture by Yum! and Whitbread Group.

In April, it announced it is to create 3500 jobs in the UK and plans to add to its 500 branches by opening another 75 over the rest of the year.

Pizza Hut continues to attract customers in their droves. They are predominantly families and teenagers, whereas rival Pizza Express targets young couples and City folk.

So, having cornered its market, is it attempting to pull in a different type of customer? Or is it a tactic to keep existing clientele coming?

The brand is certainly no stranger to product innovation. In October last year, it launched Top 'n' Roll, a scheme allowing customers to construct their own pizzas.

The scheme intended to build on the success of its Stuffed Crust and The Quad variations. But Top 'n' Roll was pulled after a one-month trial in Edinburgh, so the future for goat's cheese's inclusion on the menu is by no means certain.

Pizza Hut has made efforts to be adventurous. However, the introduction of 'gourmet' items to the menu may be a step too far. Or is this latest product innovation going to add another page to the weighty tome of its success?

Marketing asked Samantha Smith, the former head of marketing at McDonald's and former marketing director of Burger King; and Alan Smith, chief executive of branding agency Alcone Marketing, which counts Wimpy as a client.

VITAL SIGNS
Number of outlets in UK

Restaurant          2002     2001      2000    2000-2002
                                              change (%)
Pizza Hut            525      471       424         23.8
Pizza Express       311*      272       222         40.1
Domino's Pizza      281*      237       215         30.7
Ask                  145       77        65          123

Source: Mintel - except for figures for 2002 (from individual companies)
and % change calculations. *Including Ireland

SAMANTHA SMITH

It's now more than five years since PepsiCo spun off its restaurant businesses and Tricon was born, embracing Pizza Hut, Taco Bell and KFC, making up the world's biggest restaurant group.

The company's UK arm is a joint venture between Yum! …

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