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Pizza Hut to relaunch menu with premium, lighter items

The &ldquo;Flavors of Now&rdquo; Menu will debut on Nov. 19

Pizza Hut will relaunch its menu Nov. 19 to include premium ingredients, reduced-calorie pizzas and new customization options, in what parent company Yum! Brands Inc. said was the biggest change in the 56-year-old chain’s history.

"Pizza Hut has been defining what's possible with pizza since 1958, and our newest changes are the most significant we've made in our history as we once again look to take the entire category to another level," Pizza Hut chief executive David Gibbs said in a release. "We are radically reinventing the pizza category with a menu transformation that more than doubles our amount of ingredients and flavors, a world-class digital ordering experience and an entirely new look and feel to our brand, all the way down to our uniforms.

"We couldn't feel better about the direction we're going and the long-term impact these changes will have on our business,” added Gibbs, who was promoted to his current position earlier this month.

The 15,000-unit chain also has redesigned its logo and pizza delivery box, has introduced new uniforms and revamped its website.

Yum said that, in addition to the menu change, Pizza Hut would make its customers’ digital experience “more interactive and visual” allowing for easy online ordering in English and Spanish on computers and mobile devices.

The “Flavors of Now” menu features five new toppings: sliced banana peppers, Peruvian cherry peppers, spinach, salami and meatballs. Besides its classic marinara sauce, customers can choose from premium crushed tomato sauce, garlic Parmesan, Buffalo, barbecue and honey Sriracha.

Pizza Hut's new toppings: sliced banana peppers, Peruvian cherry peppers, spinach, salami and meatballs. Photo: Pizza Hut

Pizza Hut will also introduce a new line of flavors applied to the crusts, including three cheeses — Asiago, Cheddar and Parmesan — two spicy options — Fiery Red Pepper and Honey Sriracha — two Asian options — Ginger Boom Boom and Get Curried Away — and garlic butter blend, salted pretzel and regular Hut Favorite.

Pizzas can also be drizzled with a choice of four sauces: balsamic, honey Sriracha, barbecue and buffalo.

The chain’s 10 new specialty pies are:

• BBQ Bacon Cheeseburger: Barbecue sauce, meatballs, hardwood-smoked bacon, red onions and diced Roma tomatoes, on Cheddar crust with barbecue sauce drizzle

• Old-Fashioned Meatbrawl: Marinara sauce, meatballs, red onions and diced Roma tomatoes

• 7-Alarm Fire: Crushed tomato sauce, pepperoni, jalapeños, Peruvian cherry peppers, sliced banana peppers and green bell peppers, on red pepper crust

• Sweet Sriracha Dynamite: Honey Sriracha sauce, grilled chicken, sliced jalapeños, pineapple and Peruvian cherry peppers, drizzled with honey Sriracha and served on a honey Sriracha sauce crust

•Cock-A-Doodle Bacon: Garlic Parmesan sauce, grilled chicken, hardwood-smoked bacon and diced Roma tomatoes, on a Parmesan crust

•Giddy-Up BBQ Chicken: Barbecue sauce, grilled chicken, bacon and red onions, on a Cheddar crust with barbecue sauce drizzle

• Buffalo State of Mind: Buffalo sauce, grilled chicken, sliced banana peppers and red onions, on Cheddar crust with Buffalo sauce drizzle

• Garden Party: Crushed tomato sauce, green bell peppers, red onions, mushrooms, Roma tomatoes and spinach, with balsamic drizzle

• Pretzel Piggy: Garlic Parmesan sauce, bacon, mushrooms and spinach, on a salted pretzel crust with balsamic drizzle

• Cherry Pepper Bombshell: Crushed tomato sauce, salami, Peruvian cherry peppers and fresh spinach, on Asiago crust with balsamic drizzle

• Hot and Twisted: Crushed tomato sauce, salami, jalapeños and red onions, on a salted pretzel crust

Pizza Hut will also roll out a line of five “Skinny Slice Pizzas,” made with thinner crusts. Each slice has 250 calories or less.

• Skinny Beach: Crushed tomato sauce, grilled chicken, red onions, Peruvian cherry peppers and spinach

• Skinny with a Kick: Crushed tomato sauce, pepperoni, sliced jalapeño peppers, Peruvian cherry peppers, green bell peppers and red onions, on a fiery red pepper crust

• Skinny Italy: Classic marinara, meatballs, diced Roma tomatoes, mushrooms, red onions and fresh spinach, topped with a balsamic drizzle

• Skinny Luau: Crushed tomato sauce, grilled chicken, slow-roasted ham, green bell peppers and pineapple

• Skinny Club: Garlic Parmesan sauce, grilled chicken, slow-roasted ham, diced Roma tomatoes and spinach, on an Asiago crust

An expensive proposition

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Restaurant menu consultant Nancy Kruse, president of The Kruse Company in Atlanta, said it looked like Pizza Hut was trying to get ahead of the curve in the evolving pizza market.

“Pizza Hut is competing not only against well-positioned chain competitors like Papa John's and Domino's, but also against a very strong base of independent operators. The menu enhancements are clearly meant to be a pre-emptive strike against both. Pizza Hut is rebuilding pizza from the crust up and hitting all the key menu R&D hot buttons like flavor, premiumization and better-for-you. The range of creativity is especially impressive: I don't recall seeing ingredients like curry and Peruvian peppers used in pizza before,” she said in an email.

Leeann Leahy, president of advertising firm The Via Agency, based in Portland, Maine, said the menu revamp had the potential to tap into Millennials’ desire for discovery.

“Millennials post things online because that’s their social currency, and if there’s not something new, there’s nothing to talk about and they have no social currency,” Leahy said.

Pizza Hut’s new offerings allow the 14-to-34-year-old age group to share the “brain-expanding experiences” that they crave.

“If they do this right, they’re playing clearly into that insight,” she said.

That proposition is expensive, she added, because Pizza Hut’s Flavors of Now will have to evolve constantly to succeed.

“If it’s a stunt, then it will ultimately backfire,” she said.

Contact Bret Thorn at [email protected].
Follow him on Twitter: @foodwriterdiary

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