- Pizza Hut has introduced new branding to coincide with the relaunch of its Cheesy Bites pizza crust. As part of this branding, the company has brought back its red roof logo, which was featured between 1967 and 1999, according to The Drum.
- Marianne Radley, Pizza Hut's chief brand officer, told the publication that the logo is part of the company's efforts to return to its roots as the first national pizza chain.
- Pizza Hut conducted research with more than 3,000 consumers to develop this positioning, and also spent two days with its agency, GSD&M, to sift through the company's archives, which included original menus and recipe cards, and learn more about its roots.
Radley said the brand is taking a confident and unapologetic position by going back to its origins, and she may have a point. Not only does qualitative research show that consumers still think of Pizza Hut as the original pizza company, but also Pizza Hut has ownership of a lot of firsts in the space. It was founded in 1958, a full year before Little Caesars, two years before Domino's and 26 years before Papa John's.
Pizza Hut was also the first pizza chain to offer pizza delivery on the internet, the first national brand to appear on Facebook and the first pizza chain to launch and iPhone app.
Despite these innovations, Pizza Hut lost sight of its roots, which may have muddied up its messaging a little bit, Radley told Drum. Indeed, the company has had a few tough years of declining sales as it tries to keep pace with tech-savvy Domino's, which surpassed Pizza Hut as the largest pizza company in 2017, and a bigger to-go/delivery market leveling the convenience playing field throughout the industry.
Radley has pushed down hard on the gas pedal since coming on board in 2018, attempting to bring the branding part of the business back on track. Pizza Hut has taken over as the official pizza sponsor of the NFL, has brought back signature menu items like the P'Zone and has focused on injecting itself into pop culture, for example.
By embracing its roots, Pizza Hut could be taking a page from sister chain KFC, which started to see a turnaround five years ago when it focused on improving comp sales. Its momentum began to grow following its various Colonel ads, improved site selection and design.
There's a slight chance this positioning for Pizza Hut could cause a disconnect, however. While touting its iconic red roof in its branding, Pizza Hut is simultaneously moving away from its dine-in red roof assets.
As Restaurant Business recently reported, about 40% of the chain’s nearly 7,500 locations, are dine-in units, and most have the standard red roof design. As Yum Brands CEO Greg Creed said during the company's Q1 2019 earnings call, dine-in lags by seven points to off-premise sales. COO David Gibbs added that 90% of its business is off-premise. "The assets are still a problem," he said.
In other words, Pizza Hut will have to achieve quite a balance, embracing its roots on the marketing side while also moving away from the same red roof icon on the real estate side.
Radley seems confident about striking this balance, telling The Drum, "… We need have more guts in what we're doing and be more confident. I think we shied away from that over the years."