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April 03, 2008

Would you Miss Pizza Hut?

Continuing my “Would you Miss” series ...

Pizzahut

Does Pizza Hut provide such a unique product and customer experience that we would be saddened if it didn’t exist? Does Pizza Hut treat its employees so astonishingly well that those workers would not be able to find another employer to treat them as well? Does Pizza Hut forge such unfailing emotional connections with its customers that they would fail to find another pizza joint that could forge just as strong an emotional bond?

What say you?

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Well, I do have fond memories of the buffet as a kid... plus there is that song "pizza hut, pizza hut, kentucky fried chicken and the pizza hut"

The song just doesn't work the same when you replace it with Papa Johns.

nope. nuke 'em.

Not really but I did go there occasionally with friends because the pizza was cheap and it was mostly dead in there per the norm. I just heard today that a family friend got botchalism from their food. So now you can freely show them to the door. ;)

Pizza Hut does keep finding new ways to "re-invent" pizza. (I hate self-praising terms like that and use it here, lightly). Somehow they keep figuring out new ways to configure crust and topping (their key ingredients) to offer something different.

Besides... have you seen now they offer pasta delivery? ("Pasta so good they're now Pasta Hut!")

One thing about this series of yours... What most of these chains do well, is mass-distribute new products.

Pizza Hut didn't invent the pizza. Starbucks didn't invent the latte. But before the chains existed you could only get a Chicago-style pizza in Chicago... and you could only get a chai tea in Indian restaurants...

While the Pizza Hut of the world may no longer serve a specific, unique purpose... but it's one of the older (if not oldest) pizza chains... and like so many of the other businesses in your series... started in the 1950s with borrowed money and second-hand equipment.

I recently wrote a post on the MarketingProfs DailyFix blog asking... Why Does Big Mean Bad? And Can It Be Avoided?

The weird thing, if you decided to grow Brand Autopsy to deliver your services to a wide audience... there could be a point in time when (despite your best intentions) someone may be writing a interweb entry about Brand Autopsy and when are they going to stop their addition of retail brand-advice locations across the globe.

Ive had some really bad experiences at Pizza Hut like that one time it took them like an hour to make a personal pizza. Then again one of my most precious memories of a birthday party as a kid was there so... I dont know, I'd be a little sad sure. Not for long though!

Let's see... Ummm, nope. Wouldn't miss Pizza Hut. Not at all.

The Book-It program (read a bunch of books for free personal pan pizzas) was a staple of my childhood.

Wouldn't miss the restaurant. Would probably miss the nostalgia.

Oh yes! The book-it program was probably Pizza Hut's only highlight - although my brother always got more free personal pizzas.

Now-a-days there are so many local pizza joints that are run by neighbors and friends. I'd much rather go to them and support the local community, then a chain that forgot about the importance of kids reading books.

I vote nay.

I haven't been to a PH in many, many years. It's not even in my realm of possibilities.

So bye, bye Pizza Hut. Bye bye.

As a New Yorker, the answer is a solid no. But I can't speak for their grip on suburban families. Is Pizza Hut appealing to those who frequent strip malls?

The sooner they're gone, the better.

In some respects, I already miss Pizza Hut. It's not what it used to be. I remember growing up in the late 70s and 80s and going to Pizza Hut and having to wait a half hour for a seat. There was an energy and ambiance that is no longer present in today's Pizza Hut restaurants. Remember the red/white checkered table cloths? Gone. Remember the mints on the check tray? Gone. I think they've tried to become more carry out rather than sit-down family dining. As for the pizza itself, I couldn't stand the cheese quality the last time I was there. All in all, I do miss the Pizza Hut that I remember, but I don't think I'd miss today's version.

Not in the slightest.

The pizza is mediocre and as mentioned previously, there are so many local chains that do pizza significantly better than PH I'm certainly not going to PH when the local chain down the street offers so much more in terms of quality and restaurant ambiance.

And don't get me started on their horrid delivery service. If I want cold pizza, PH is the place to call.

Meh. Yes and no. Yes because the town near us (20 mi. outside a major urban center) only has a Pizza Hut and I'd have to travel farther for pizza. No because anybody can make better pizza if they take the time - even with store-bought crusts.

Pizza Hut puts me in an interesting situation. I love their pizza. There is something about it...maybe the crust.

BUT, I haven't been there in years. The last 3 times I've been inside the actual restaurant, the service was slow, the staff didn't seem to care and the experience was...well, just blah.

We usually just skip all order take out if we want some of their pizza. Maybe that's why I've started to see a lot of Pizza Hut take out locations popping up, instead of the traditional restaurants.

And don't get me started on Pizza Hut Bistro! That would be like trying to create an upscale McDonalds. It just doesn't make sense, especially when reading the comments above, most associations with Pizza Hut are of service and nostalgia from their glory days. There is nothing upscale about that.

In my youth I associated Pizza Hut with the satisfaction and pride from redeeming my Book It certificate for a personal pan pizza. As I age, I've come to associate it with stomach upset. So no, I would not miss Pizza Hut.

The only time Pizza Hut is excusable is when it is attached to a Taco Bell and is open "3am or later" because lemme tell you, after that hour and a few beers is the only time that disgusting mass of faux-dairy sounds appetizing.

Funny story a la Starbucks & McDonalds, and I know you love Starbucks... maybe they should put 'warning: contents hot' on their personal pan pizzas (kidding). During one such aforementioned inebriated escapade, my best friend was seduced by Pizza the Hut. She got second degree burns from the sauce.

No. The pizza quality has gone down hill so much I no longer will stop there. I would rather spend $10 or less on Papa Murphy's and pop it in my oven. They are cheaper and better tasting! To revive the brand they will have to work on their product quality. I wonder if they use pre-made corporate pizza crust. When I worked a PH in the late 80's all of our crust were made by hand each day and it was a different/better product.

I'd miss them, yes. While I much prefer to get my pizza from a mom and pop place (easy to do on the East Coast), I also have a home in the Twin Cities and nobody there can make a decent pie to save their life.

My wife and I actually ordered Pizza Hut last night. I much prefer their pizza to Papa John's or Domino's. Papa John's I would not miss at all. A pepper and a tub of butter don't make up for crappy pizza.

I definitely went a LONG time without visiting a Pizza Hut. It lasted as long as the 90s. But now that I've been trying them again, I have to admit that it's not a bad product and it's a decent price.

I wouldn't but I don't have kids. I think it's a great value for families. I use to love to go when I was a kid.

Nope. There are a dozen really good pizza places nearby, some chains and some local. All have better pizza, and most have better service.

But we make our own homemade about twice a week, so the idea of buying pizza has always been a little foreign to me (although when it's the oldest kid's occasional night for dinner, I know we're getting pizza ordered in . . . just not from Pizza Hut, unless they happen to be the cheapest, his only criteria for food.)

Yes! PH is currently my favorite pizza. In fact they've locked me in even more since I moved as my new PH is a "Wing Street" Pizza Hut. They aren't about to put BW3 out of business, but you can get some great wings delivered to you - better quality and more variety of sauces than what the average pizza place offers.

I should also qualify this. I do tend to agree with the comment that a good local place is better than the chains. This has been my experience. Unfortunately it has been years since I've had a decent local pizza joint in range.

Nope, they have mediocre pizza. I think this why their menu changes so much with all kinds of specialty pizzas. They don't do pizza that well so they have to dress it up.

It's easy for me to sit in a city like New York and say that I wouldn't miss Pizza Hut but I think the need for a "pizza place" is higher in the strip malls that make up the new main street of several towns across America. So would I miss them? No. But I would feel differently if they were the only pizza shop in town, which they often are.

I miss THE OLD Pizza Hut. The dark interior, the triangle windows, and crappy juke box. It was a great place to go after little league baseball games or 7th grade school dances.

But now, they've gone the way of every other pizza place and concentrate on the delivery biz. No one goes there anymore for a family pizza night because the dine in experience is boring.

Now, all they can do is run advertising before the super bowl and hope people prefer they like their pies until they go on a Papa John's kick.

I agree with Peter about the old Pizza Hut. I also miss the old Pizza Hut that, in a small town in Kentucky, was pretty much the best dine-in pizza joint in town. That's definitely not how it is now.

I wouldn't miss Pizza Hut at all. I can't remember the last time I bothered buying anything from them, and when I did, I'm sure it was at the Taco Bell/KFC/Pizza Hut grease combo that deflates the brand more than anything.

No. I wouldn't care. Ci Ci's kicks them in the teeth with the buffet. Papa John's has one of the better delivery values. Drop by a Little Ceasar's and you can get a large pizza for $5, already waiting for you. And if you want great pizza most larger towns have some local joint that beats the rest. Like most, I cannot remember the last time I went to a Pizza Hut.

Nope. Today I judge brands by how much they let me participate in the brand, not by the cleverness of their mass media ad campaigns and push product marketing. I'd miss American Airlines for their loyalty program. I'd miss the experience of strolling into the interactive environment of a Starbucks. Pizza Hut doesn't really seem to understand the new definition of customer intimacy at all.

jeeze... are they still in business?

pizza hut is good and i would miss the accessability but there are alot of good pizza places out there and one would not make a difference. the question is what if PIZZA was gone....NOOOOOOO

No - and that is what justifies their strategy to advertise and run promotions like a maniac

That's a fantastic point John. I hire freelancers for the work I do (writers, designers) and when they first start, they seem pretty interchangeable. After all, there are an unlimited number of people doing this kind of work.

Over time, however, the best ones become so much more than just people doing a task by the hour. When these great ones move on to other things, it's painful to live without them. Something to aspire to for all of us I think.

Michael Katz
www.ItSureBeatsWorking.com

Pizza Hut serves a purpose in bringing pizza of a certain level of quality wherever ever it goes.

Is it the best pizza I've ever had? Definitely not!

However, it is the best pizza in the town where I currently live. I have been to other parts of the country where the local standard of pizza was similarly low.

If you are fortunate to be in a location where better pizza is the norm, congratulations and enjoy! For the rest of us, there is Pizza Hut.

(On my local PH - the owner/franchisee is a religious teetotaler, and will not serve alcohol. To me, pizza without wine or a beer is unthinkable, so I am a confirmed take-out only person.)

no, i wouldn't miss them even a tiny bit. however, they have some good equity to build on, like the silhouette of their stores. problem is that their pizza isn't very good (and i'm not pizza snob) and that the stores tend to be super sketchy and dirty. basically, if you want to get robbed, pizza hut and white castle parking lots are good places to do it.

Sadly, not since C|D gang gave us Rosenne Barr and Marvelous Marvin Hagler. Sad, that.

Inspired me to write a follow-on post about personal epitaph exercise. Thanks for the nudge.

Hmm, my kids still get Book-it certificates for Pizza Hut every month, so YES, I would miss them. Our Hometown Pizzeria has better pizza and is definitely closer to home, but they have yet to reward my kids for bettering themselves through education, so guess where we go? Gotta use those certificates, you know.

Try to only support local family owned pizzarias with NYC flair. Sorry, Pizza Hut. Would not miss ya.

Missing the point here. No one care about the taste of pizza hut or your memories of your first date (ouch!).

Get the big picture here... do you feel that pizza hut gives something to your life which cannot be replaced?!

As Carson Coots said... nope. nuke 'em.

They have given me absolutely nothing. Unless there was a news story about their demise, I wouldn't notice that they were gone.

Speaking of nostalgia, in 1986 I witnessed the amazing achievement of John Moore consuming 15 pieces of pizza from the Pizza Hut buffet.

That cat weighed 140 lbs. soaking wet and would shove down 15 pieces of pizza in one sitting. Just unbelievable.

John,

I came through Seth's blog and I'll be staying. Great writing!

On-topic:

Pizza Huts are consistent. Consistently dirty, terrifyingly slow, and completely uninterested in the customer. I've actually had conversations with people in far flung places about their favorite pizza joints (people love to talk about pizza!), and the opposite always comes up: the one place you only go if you're stuck and somebody in the car wants pizza and you can't find anyplace else. That's their current brand position. Who'd miss that if it were gone?

Regards,

Kelly

What a great question! Never considered it before, but after reading this post, it is a good question to propose to myself and what I do....would anyone miss it if I was gone?

nope! lazy service, bad food...there is nothing to miss.

I think Yum Brands in general is mediocre, at least in the city of it's headquarters. The only restaurant that even tries is Taco Bell. TB has remodeled all their stores and at least tries to get your food to you quickly.
KFC is always dirty and they don't always have chicken available(it will be 15 minutes for anything other than stale chicken fingers.)

I haven't been to Pizza Hut in years and I do like their pizza. You just never know if it's going to take an hour to get your pizza or a few minutes.

I would probably miss the brand as an American icon but not the pizza. I believe that most people are fortunate enough to have a decent local pizzeria or Italian restaurant which makes better pizza than the large pizza chain stores, but the chain stores do serve a purpose for convenience. Nevertheless, I think it's been at least five years since I've had any pizza from Pizza Hut.

I think what has really hurt Pizza Hut over the years is that they strayed away from made them unique from the other mass pizza chains, which was that they were the place for a family to dine in and have a reasonably priced pizza. Little Cesars was the place to get carry-out pizza while Domino's was the place to order delivery. But with the decline in decent service, plus the rise of the carry-out/delivery only Pizza Hut Express in strip malls, they took away what made themselves unique. While I would feel bad about a once-famous American business disappearing, it wouldn't keep me from finding another pizza joint to go to.

We used to have on nearby but it closed and is now a chinese place. I don't miss it at all. From that location I can walk to three places in less than a minute that make better pizza.

Interesting series you have going here. Please don’t take this criticism the wrong way but I don’t understand the value of asking this question (or series of questions). Basically, the question is "does company X hold any special value to you" as an individual. Unfortunately, this doesn’t take into consideration the huge impact on the economy, business sector, employment (especially since I doubt any of your readers currently work for Walgreens or Pizza-Hut). Maybe an interesting study would be to ask the same question of Proctor & Gamble and Wal-Mart. Although I don't know your audience, I would assume most of the replies to these test cases would be less than positive (meaning they wouldn't care -- pure speculation of course. I could be wrong!) because they don’t have any emotional connection with the businesses themselves. Does this make it any less significant if they were to cease to exist? Should all businesses try to establish an emotional connection with their customers? I don't think so. I don’t want to imagine what it would be like to care for who manufactures my toilet paper or tooth brush. So what really IS the point of this question? Wal-Mart has seen a general increase in share price for the past 6 months while Starbucks has dropped significantly. If it were to continue to drop, would all of the positive feelings about Starbucks be able to save it? I’m not sure. Starbucks has a MUCH more positive public image than Wal-Mart but if Wal-Mart were to go out of business, how would the US cope with ~2M now unemployed workers? Not to mention the huge economic impact that would have on the world. I’m clearly not an economist by any means and I do understand why someone in your position would muse about such things but I guess I just feel like we’re not the right people to ask these questions to (even though I guess it could be argued that we ARE the people to be asked). I’m sorry this post is so long, I had time to kill and wanted some brain exercise (even though typing here made it a bit hard to think clearly).

oh goodness, that was...much longer than I thought. Sorry!

Stephen ... the point of this question, as I see it, is to serve as motivation for us all to make the businesses we work at better.

There are so many copycat brands and copycat businesses out there that are simply going through the motions. These copycat brands bring nothing new to the business world. They are doing nothing different to improve the lives of customers and employees.

Too many brands are just taking up meaningless space in our lives. As marketers, we should strive to take up meaningful space in people's lives. That's why this question matters.

Come to think of it Stephen, if SBUX were to be gone tomorrow you'd be somewhat saddened. Saddened because your super-cool idea HaveMyShift.com would cease to exist.

John - I guess this question is about to be answered. Seems like they are placing a "big bet" to move towards "Pasta Hut". http://www.pizzahut.com/tuscanipasta/?WT.mc_id=032608Tuscani_Wild_Card

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