The restaurant chain is currently trialling a number of initiatives in four “Alpha Hut” concept stores to radically transform its business from a product based to an experience based model.
Jaclyn Schnau, marketing director of brand development, says: “We haven’t kept up with the times. We put the blinders on and said ’customers will still come’ and you know what, they didn’t. We had some real soul searching to do and fundamentally we’ve realised that we have to move from a product based to an experience based offer.”
She adds that Pizza Hut has developed a “motif” for how they want people to feel when they experience Pizza Hut that goes beyond the products and means everything the chain does is embedded in making sure customers feel “uninhibited, embraced and light-hearted”.
It is also trialling a concept called Pizza Parade that could replace its lunchtime buffet offer in a bid to move away from “trough feeding”.
It has been modelled on the practice in upmarket Argentinean restaurants that will see waiters bringing trays of fresh pizza to customers’ tables, instead of having to go to a buffet and collecting the food.
“Once we bring the brand back and make it relevant to them and accessible we are hitting the right chord and people are coming back. People love pizza hut they were just waiting for us to keep up with their life. Eventually the goal is to find out the best way to go forward,” adds Schnau.
Schnau admitted that customer service has been neglected by Pizza Hut in recent years and it has developed a customer service programme called “the handshake” to improve engagement with customers and offer a more intuitive service.
The concepts are a “substantial portion” of Pizza Hut’s budget and if successful could be rolled out nationwide in the next year.
Parent company Yum! Brands reported weak performance for Pizza Hut UK in the second quarter of this year. In contrast, Pizza Express has seen earnings steadily increase and plans to open 200 more outlets.