Pizza Hut’s Shrink­ing Piece of the Pie

▶ Be­set by new ri­vals, the chain is dress­ing up for to­day’s din­ers ▶ It’s “kind of in the middle. The middle is a tough place to be”

Bloomberg Businessweek (North America) - - Companies/ Industries -

For more than a half- cen­tury, Pizza Hut has been a sym­bol of Amer­ica’s hearty ap­petite for the Ital­ian sta­ple. But th­ese are lean times for the com­pany’s red-roofed eater­ies. It’s not that de­mand for pizza is wan­ing in the U.S. It’s that Pizza Hut’s slice of the pie is shrink­ing.

To re­verse that de­cline, Pizza Hut, owned by Yum! Brands, is adopt­ing a plan that bor­rows from the up­starts nib­bling at its mar­ket share. Two restau­rants in Texas are the test­ing ground for in­no­va­tions in­clud­ing ovens that can de­liver pies faster, and sleeker in­te­ri­ors with bar seat­ing for cus­tomers to hang out while en­joy­ing a beer.

A grow­ing num­ber of fast-ca­sual restau­rant chains seem to have a bet­ter line on what kind of pies Amer­i­cans want and how they want them. Blaze Pizza, for one, has a cus­tom­ize-asyou-watch ex­pe­ri­ence that to­day’s din­ers have grown ac­cus­tomed to at eater­ies such as Chipo­tle Mex­i­can Grill and Five Guys Burg­ers & Fries. And take­out and de­liv­ery cus­tomers in­creas­ingly pre­fer to tap in their or­ders on mo­bile phones and send them to a Web-fo­cused joint such as Domino’s Pizza. “Chang­ing their po­si­tion­ing with con­sumers is go­ing to be re­ally tough,” says Bob Goldin, vice chair­man at re­searcher Tech­nomic. “Pizza Hut is just kind of in the middle.

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