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Restaurant Discounts Suck (the life out of your restaurant business)

Restaurant Discounts Suck (the life out of your restaurant business)Pizza Hut, a division of Yum Brands is offering its iconic Meat Lover’s Pizza for only $10.00. It’s a pretty big discount for one of their best offerings, with a pound of meat on it, not that that matters. What does matter is they feel the necessity to discount a product that has a branded following.

Does a 30% discount make Pizza Hut look like they are throwing in the towel? The pizza business is very competitive, but with $26.6 Billion Dollars being spent in the U.S. in chain restaurants, this seems like a drastic measure from a desperate company rather than a strategic marketing plan from the number 2 pizza chain in the U.S.

We don’t need no freaking story

Selling food is about storytelling. This is where Pizza Hut could use help, and could add 30% back into the business. You don’t discount what sells well. Right now, the thinking seems to be: we’re Pizza Hut, so enough said, right? Wrong. Tell us more. The story on the website takes a really long time to get to the heritage of the business. It feels corporate and stale. Not surprising, Pizza Hut is very corporate. But the story is about who you are, the way people see you and why they buy from you.

Four paragraphs in and we get to the Carney Brothers starting the business with $600 from mom. But then the site launches back into a corporate story about blah, blah, blah awesome pizza, blah, blah. Of course, that makes sense, since Frank was in commercials with Papa John’s saying he had found a better pizza. So yeah, the story needs a little spinning. But it doesn’t need to be walked away from.

It’s about the brand, and the pizza

What makes Pizza Hut a better pizza? Why order that rather than some other brand. At the moment, MOD Pizza is the fastest growing pizza chain in the U.S. Why is that? What is it about MOD that makes people want to go there? That pizza business is modeled after a Chipotle or QDoba where you walk in, order your toppings cafeteria-style, go and sit down and in minutes your pizza is ready.

Is MOD a better pizza? I don’t think so. But it is a new way to eat something you already love. And that is the key to understanding consumers. They want what they already know they love in a new form. In the case of Pizza Hut, the product is well established. However, many of the ‘new’ offerings are more gimmick driven than something that would draw a person looking for something interesting to try.

This might help Pizza Hut become a pizza hit

New Appetizers & Sides

Make bringing home or getting delivery more interesting with some cool appetizers. The wings are fine, but add a couple of new items that people can share.

Spinach & Artichoke Dip – served with garlic knots or breadsticks

Jumbo Lump Crab Dip – again, something to dip your breadsticks into

Mac ‘N’ Cheese – introduce a sub category with three flavors

New Flavors for Pizza

New Pizza Styles – without the little hot dogs or cheese in the crust

City-Style Pizza – offer a new sub menu with pizza styles from around the US. Chicago, NY, Detroit, Midwest, California, etc. It’s a simple crust change, but it gives people a reason to try you again.

The Original Pizza Hut Pizza. Dig back into the company history and find the original recipe and make that. It’s a heritage pizza with heritage ingredients. Make a big deal out of it being the Fabulous 50’s pizza recipe that started it all. Then, reintroduce the brand story.

Pepperoni Promotion

The most popular pizza topping is pepperoni. Here’s my question: Why is there only one pepperoni style at Pizza Hut? You could build a sub category with up to three versions of your pepperoni pizza, each with its own appeal.

Restaurant Discounts Suck (the life out of your restaurant business)

Discounts teach consumers to buy when it’s cheap. It’s the easy way out of actual marketing. Finding a unique selling proposition is hard work. It takes skill, risk and investment. But the payoff is huge. And great marketing will build a wall around your business and protect it from upstarts like MOD Pizza.

What I prefer is selling my pizza at full price to loyal customers. To do that, Pizza Hut needs to reintroduce their products and brand to customers who have gone on to other products and companies.

Mark & Kelly LauxMark and Kelly are a design-engineer team and managing partners of HotOperator. They have been working in the restaurant business since 1989. Either can be contacted through the HotOperator website, or by calling 800-316-3198.

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