Skip navigation
Pizza Hut Tuscani Pasta Dinners

Pizza Hut Tuscani Pasta Dinners

With research showing that 74 percent of Americans eat pasta at least once a week, Pizza Hut saw a business opportunity to expand its market by introducing family-sized pasta dinners, primarily for take-out and delivery. The resulting Tuscani Pasta Dinners are the winner of this year’s MenuMasters award for “Best Menu Revamp.”

Kelly Buckley, Pizza Hut’s chief food innovation officer, says: “We saw an unmet need with consumers to provide restaurant-quality pasta that’s a great value for the family to enjoy with the convenience of delivery. No one else was doing that, so we were uniquely positioned to fill it.”

After about a year of research and development, Pizza Hut rolled out two Tuscani baked pasta dinners last spring. Both use rotini pasta, chosen for its good “sauce cling,” and are topped with melted cheese. Meaty Marinara Baked Tuscani Pasta features a tomato sauce prepared with beef and pork. Creamy Chicken Alfredo Baked Tuscani Pasta combines the pasta with grilled chicken breast strips and creamy Alfredo sauce.

Weighing in at about three pounds each, the dinners are positioned to appeal to families and feed four to six people. The nationwide price for each is $12.99. The dinners include five bread-sticks.

“Our job in food innovation is always to find that sweet spot between delighting the consumer, having something that is ops-friendly, and also having something that drives the business,” Buckley says.

For the meaty marinara sauce, Buckley says the chain didn’t want it to look like it had taken pizza toppings and put them on top of pasta. The goal was to produce a new, well-rounded sauce reminiscent of a Bolognese sauce made with beef and pork, with a balance of sweetness and tomato flavors and undertones from garlic and white wine.

ITEM: Tuscani Pasta Dinners, including Creamy Chicken Alfredo Baked Tuscani Pasta; Meaty Marinara Baked Tuscani Pasta; Premium Bacon Mac ‘N Cheese Tuscani PastaROLLOUT: April — September 2008COMPANY: Pizza Hut, a division of Yum! Brands Inc.HEADQUARTERS: DallasUNITS: 10,200 — 6,200 domestic; 4,000 internationalDESCRIPTION:Creamy Chicken Alfredo Baked Tuscani Pasta: grilled chicken breast strips and rotini oven-baked in a creamy Alfredo sauce with a layer of melted cheese. Meaty Marinara Baked Tuscani Pasta: savory Italian-seasoned meat sauce and rotini pasta topped with cheese and oven-baked.Premium Bacon Mac ‘N Cheese Tuscani Pasta: rotini pasta smothered in a Cheddar cheese sauce, topped with cheese and bacon and oven-baked. Each weigh about three pounds, served in a container approximately 11.25 inches by 9.25 inches by 1 inch deep, and suggested to feed four to six people. They come with five breadsticks.PRICE: $12.99DEVELOPERS: Kelly Buckley, chief food innovation officer

“If you made this from scratch, you’d be very near to where we ended up with the commercialized product,” Buckley says. “When you read through the ingredient declaration on it, you see that this sounds like you could have made it from scratch.”

The components are delivered to the restaurants for assembly and baking to order on site. Before rolling out the selections, Pizza Hut re-examined the back-of-the-house setup and decided very little change was required other than optimization of vertical space—mainly rearranging shelves in coolers and freezers.

Priced to sell…and selling well

The pastas are selling very well, Buckley says, adding, “We had some bold goals in terms of how much of our business this could be, and we continue to stretch those goals.”

Chris Fuller, a Pizza Hut spokesman, says two million Tuscani Pasta dinners were sold in the first month.

“In the first year, it’s become a $500 million a year business for us,” Fuller says, “and we see it eventually hitting annual sales of $1 billion.”

“The price point was perfect,” says Dave Ostrander, a Michigan-based consultant to the pizza industry. “You know, you’re married with two kids, coming home after working a long day. You can roll in and roll out in a couple of minutes for under $20. You can hardly do that in a drive-thru.”

Designed to be eaten off-premise, the products “deliver and handle well in a carryout operation,” Ostrander says. He also points out that by offering pasta, Pizza Hut gives loyal customers a chance to buy pizza one night and pasta another, and potentially increase their buying frequency.

“So when all those things were said and done, I was really impressed,” he says. “They earned the award.”

Hot on the heels of the success of the first two Tuscani Pasta Dinners, Pizza Hut rolled out Premium Mac ‘N Cheese Tuscani Pasta for $12.99 last September and Tuscani Lasagna for $14.99 in January. Buckley says she and her team developed Mac ‘N & Cheese to be approachable for all ages—the familiarity of this dish appeals to kids while the smokiness of the bacon makes it more indulgent for adults.

Although not ready to divulge what selections are in development, Buckley says additions to the Tuscani label and home meal category are in the works.

Hide comments


  • Allowed HTML tags: <em> <strong> <blockquote> <br> <p>

Plain text

  • No HTML tags allowed.
  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.