NEW YORK – Pizza Hut plans to start offering pizza by the slice for the first time in two locations this week, part of a test to refashion its image and court diners in their 20s and 30s.
The chain said the two locations – in York, Neb., and Pawtucket, R.I. – open today.
A slice will cost between $2 and $3 and take three to four minutes to heat up. They’ll be made with new recipes more in line with the thinner pies sold in the Northeast.
The tests reflect how established restaurant chains are scrambling to keep pace with a rapidly changing industry. Diners are increasingly flocking to places such as Chipotle, where they feel they can get restaurant-quality food for slightly more than they would pay at fast-food chains such as Burger King.
In fact, Chipotle recently announced plans to move into the pizza business with Pizzeria Locale. Customers walk up to a counter and can watch as their pizza is built; the pie is then placed in an oven that cooks it in about 2 minutes. Other pizza chains feature similar fast-cooking, make-your-own concepts, including Blaze Pizza, based in Pasadena, Calif., and Pizza Studio, based in Los Angeles.
For its part, Pizza Hut has been focusing on developing its smaller format carry-out stores rather than its dine-in restaurants in recent years as its sales have been choppy. In each of the first three quarters of 2013, sales fell slightly at locations open at least year.
“We’re seeing the trends for quick and ready products,” noted Carrie Walsh, Pizza Hut’s chief marketing officer.
Rival Domino’s has also been selling pizza by the slice at some of its newly designed stores, according to a spokesman. Pizza Hut’s parent company, Yum Brands Inc., is also testing a more upmarket concept with its KFC chain called “KFC eleven.” And McDonald’s is testing a “build-your-own burger” concept in Laguna Niguel, Calif.