- Pizza Hut has added The Hut Lane, a digital order pickup window, to over 1,500 U.S. locations, according to a press release.
- Customers can access The Hut Lane option through the Pizza Hut app and pizzahut.com, as well as over the phone at available locations. If The Hut Lane isn't available at a restaurant, the app will offer customers contactless curbside pickup.
- The digital pickup windows are part of Pizza Hut's long-term strategy to modernize its system with digital ordering and improve the customer experience. During the pandemic, the company launched contactless curbside pickup and contactless delivery.
Pre-pandemic, Pizza Hut was struggling to grow same-store sales with a bulk of its locations heavily weighted toward dine-in. It was rolling out Express remodels, which emphasize delivery and carryout and offer smaller dining rooms. It was also experimenting with different technologies to make it easier to deliver pizza to customers, including pickup cubbies, delivery robots and in-store kiosks, but none of these have been expanded systemwide.
Once the pandemic hit, Pizza Hut's same-store sales grew significantly, increasing 8% in Q4 2020 — its best quarterly performance in 10 years. Much like other pizza delivery companies, the chain benefited from a growing preference for delivery and off-premise options. Demand grew so much last year that Pizza Hut sought to hire 30,000 employees. According to a company spokesperson, Pizza Hut has fulfilled 50 million contactless delivery and carryout orders since it started offering contactless curbside ordering last April.
Pizza Hut's drive-thru style lane builds on this momentum and can offer a degree of differentiation over top competitors Domino's and Papa John's. Pizza Hut plans to add more of these pickup lanes systemwide. Its largest franchisee, Flynn Restaurant Group, which completed its 925-unit acquisition of NPC International's Pizza Hut assets earlier this year, plans to prioritize adding The Hut Lane to many of its stores in the future.
"We know from our QSR experience how much value a pick-up window can unlock for the business, and we plan to prioritize The Hut Lane in future builds and relocations of existing stores," Ron Bellamy, Flynn Restaurant Group's chief improvement officer, said in the press release.
The addition of a pickup lane follows a growing trend among chains across the country, especially with drive-thru traffic increasing in the double-digits during the pandemic. Many QSR chains, including Del Taco, McDonald's, Arby's, KFC, Burger King, Wendy's and Taco Bell, are looking into designs that enhance the drive-thru and carryout experiences. Fast casuals like Chipotle and Noodles & Company are also revving up the development of mobile pickup lanes, and casual chains like Applebee's and Texas Roadhouse are testing drive-thru lanes as well.