Why Pizza Hut Has Had A Difficult Time Keeping Up With Competitors

Pizza Hut is the pizza of our childhoods, filled with nostalgia and personal pans we enjoyed after school with our families. But is Pizza Hut the pizza of our present, of our future? Many experts would indicate a "no" as Pizza Hut struggles to keep up with competitors. The reasons for these struggles are myriad, and whether the Yum brands giant can overcome them or not remains to be seen.

One factor that cannot be underestimated is the impact the pandemic has had on the dine-in restaurant business. Pizza Hut closed over 1,200 locations worldwide and a staggering 422 American restaurants between July and September of that year alone (via Eat This, Not That!). The move was said to be a shift from dine-in to the more adaptable delivery. The pandemic closures are clearly a huge reason why many restaurants are struggling, but in general, pizza delivery was up for 2020. Domino's posted 2020 year-over-year sales growth of 17.6%, Papa John's was up 15.9%, and even hot-and-ready Little Caesars shared a gain of 3.5% (via Restaurant Business). Pizza Hut, however, posted a loss of 2.2%.

The answer may not be in the pizza, but instead of all the extras associated with our modern restaurant experiences.

Is Pizza Hut going the way of Sears?

Is Pizza Hut headed the way of Sears and Blockbuster? Failing to adapt to the times is definitely a risk. Industry writers have pointed out that Pizza Hut has failed to jump on some of the common marketing and accessibility techniques that many of us take for granted now (via Eat This, Not That!). The brand has neither a catchy tagline nor an earworm of a jingle, and was slow to adopt things like third-party delivery service and app use. This luddite-like position on technology has been frequently blamed on the group's franchise-model, but it's still a far cry from its days as the first pizza brand to deliver to outer space.

Perhaps the brand will find its niche in nostalgia instead. One positive sign of this is found in the Book It! program — the same "books for pizza" rewards we enjoyed as children. Book It! is the beloved kid's reading program that rewards children with one Personal Pan Pizza per month as a reward for summer reading (via Book It!). After all, nostalgia is one of the "in" marketing trends right now, as recently demonstrated by Domino's bringing back the Noid (via Marketing Dive).

So while Pizza Hut will need to adapt to avoid the fate of Sears and other longtime brand favorites, it looks like all the basics are there and waiting for the right direction. Excuse us while we go order a pie.