NEW YORK — Pizza Hut “might be the brand that surprises everybody,” said Greg Creed, chief executive officer of parent company Yum! Brands, Inc. After nine straight quarters of same-store sales declines, the pizza chain recently has showed signs of a comeback. In the latest quarter, Pizza Hut U.S. posted its best performance in more than three years with same-store sales up 5% over the comparable period.
|Greg Creed, c.e.o. of Yum! Brands|
“When I first got the job, I asked people; I said to them, ‘Tell me about Pizza Hut,’ and they’re like, ‘We’re the most loved brand. We’re the most trusted brand,’” Mr. Creed said during a June 8 presentation at Baird’s 2016 Global Consumer, Technology & Services Conference in New York. “And I said, ‘Can you explain to me why, if we’re loved and trusted, we’re not the most bought brand? Why is Domino’s doing so well?’… And we couldn’t answer that question. Today, we can answer the question.
“I locked them in a room… I took the best talent I could find. I took guys from KFC and guys who worked with me at Taco Bell, and I threw them into Pizza Hut and said, ‘Don’t come out until you can answer the question.’”
Here’s the answer: In order to be better, Pizza Hut needed to be easier.
“And there’s three components to easy,” Mr. Creed said. “There’s value, easy on my pocket. There’s easy to order, pay and track. And then there’s easier access.”
Early this year, Pizza Hut unveiled its version of a value menu, dubbed the $5 Flavor Menu, which the company credits for driving increased system transactions in the recent quarter.
“And I do believe that, look, we have to get our technology in shape in order to be easy to order, pay and track, and I think, as we build the brand and we get that in shape, we’ll actually build more units, and that’ll give us greater physical access,” Mr. Creed said. “So, I’m very bullish on Pizza Hut.”
Louisville, Ky.-based Yum! Brands, which also operates KFC and Taco Bell, is guided by what Mr. Creed called “clear True North.”
“At Taco Bell, it was ‘Live Mas,’ and it drove everything we did,” he said. “We knew the food was Mexican inspired; we weren’t trying to be authentic.
“I think ‘Always Original’ for KFC will help us enormously. But I think this concept of ‘easy beating better’ and that we needed to make it easier to get better — that to me was one of those watershed moments.”
Admittedly, Pizza Hut still has a lot of work ahead in order to take down its top competitor, Mr. Creed said.
“We’re slower than Domino’s, right?” Mr. Creed said. “I know it by how much. I also know, if everything else was equal, that we’d be allowed to be a little slower. But the difference between what we’d be allowed to be and (what) we are today is too big.“So, we’re laser-like focused on working on all the things that will make it easier. At the same time, we’re not going to give up being the better brand.”