Pizza Hut 2023

Jan 6, 2023 | Insights, Restaurant Research

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Pizza Hut enjoys substantial scale and strong brand equity as the 2nd largest national player in the $1B+ chain pizza segment by domestic system sales. An ongoing repositioning towards a modern delivery concept includes a pivot from dine-in assets to smaller stores optimized for digital & delivery and considerable progress is represented by the rollout of its “Hut Lanes” drive-thru model which is unique and helps maximize the potential of older “Red Roof” dine-in restaurants in good markets. A “Nobody outpizzas the Hut” menu strategy seeks to reclaim its America’s favorite pizza positioning marked by a return to a heritage of making special pizzas customers can only get at Pizza Hut. The chain’s Original Pan Pizza represents its signature premium option, and the brand is also distinguished by its Stuffed Crust option (significantly thicker than its pan pizza crust) which is filled with a five-cheese blend. Efforts to restore core menu equity around innovation (like Detroit-Style & Edge) go with product quality initiatives over the last several years. New platforms to broaden menu appeal include $6.99 Melts which are similar to Papa John’s Papadias and $9.99 oven-baked pastas. Progress in digital ordering and access include DSP delivery-as-a-service partnerships which increase delivery capacity & market reach. Near all-time high AUV benefits from the aggressive closure of underperforming/dine-in/express stores and an EBITDAR margin outperformance reflects a COGS outperformance which far outweighs its labor underperformance. Notably, the chain’s current unit economics are competitive and continue to improve as dine-in assets are replaced with Delcos. In any case, recent segment sales have been pressured by driver shortages, post-covid pizza demand normalizing at a lower level and the impact of an inflationary squeeze on core low-income customers. Further, strong segment competition is represented by: Domino’s strength in digital & value; Papa John’s resurgence around innovation; and Little Caesars’ added efforts around marketing & digital which complement its low carryout price points. In conclusion, while Pizza Hut’s positioning is improving, the brand must still compete around value in a tough economic environment while it simultaneously completes its asset conversion sufficient to finish its evolution into a relevant competitor in the very challenging pizza segment.

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