Pizza Hut is looking to get out of its pizza rut.
The chain has recently faced quarter after quarter of sagging sales, even as its chief rival, Domino's Pizza, saw healthy sales growth. In October, executives with Pizza Hut's parent company, Yum Brands, pledged that the brand would soon unveil a major effort to boost sales.
The comeback plan was unveiled this week.
Pizza Hut announced that it would overhaul everything from its logo to its employee uniforms. The centerpiece of the strategy is a revamped menu, one that includes 10 new crust flavors, five new toppings and six new sauces. Instead of doubling down on classic Italian flavors, Pizza Hut is trying to bring global flair to its pies. New crust options include Honey Sriracha, Salted Pretzel, Ginger Boom Boom and Get Curried Away.
"We know that American tastes and preferences are evolving, and this new menu is designed to completely wow them," said Wiley Bates III, Pizza Hut's global executive chef, in a statement.
Still, some of the new items don't reflect a particularly new flavor profile for the Pizza Hut diner. New pizza sauces such as Buffalo and barbecue offer a different spin on flavors that have long been available on the chain's wings menu.
Pizza Hut's strategy is similar in some ways to the one that McDonald's recently announced for turning around its own flagging business. McDonald's pledged to make its menu more customizable, while Pizza Hut's slate of new crust flavors, sauces and ingredients also seem aimed at giving customers more choice.
While Pizza Hut remains the world's largest pizza company, with 15,000 restaurants across the globe, analysts say it has lost ground to its competitors and been outmaneuvered on digital ordering technology. Online orders now account for 45 percent of sales at rival Domino's, which experts largely attribute to the ease of its online ordering system. Pizza Hut is making a bid to win more digital customers with a revamped online ordering tools, which it promises are "more interactive and visual." Pizza Hut's online ordering capabilities will now be available in both English and Spanish.
At a time when many restaurant-goers are seeking healthier options, Pizza Hut is also adding Skinny Slice Pizza to its menu. With a thinner crust and a mix of relatively healthy toppings, these items each have less than 250 calories per slice.
Pizza Hut's move comes at a time when the broader fast-food industry in facing intense pressure from fast-casual outposts such as Chipotle and Noodles & Co. So far, the pizza chains have been somewhat insulated from the rise of fast-casual dining because none of the giants of that category specialize in making pizza. But that could change soon: Chipotle recently opened a second location for Pizzeria Locale, a fast-casual pizza restaurant. Blaze Pizza, Live Basil and The Pizza Studio are also relative newcomers that aim to bring a Chipotle-style dining experience and menu to the pizza category.