PLANO, Texas – As the fast-casual pizza market heats up, Pizza Hut is hankering for a bigger piece of the pie with a new concept. The chain, a subsidiary of Yum! Brands Inc., is testing by-the-slice service in two locations.
At $2 to $3 a slice, the pizzas are made with new recipes and heated within three or four minutes in new ovens, according to a report from The Associated Press. The company said it plans to test variations of the concept throughout the year before deciding whether to roll it out nationally.
A test location in York, Neb., was designed to resemble a fast-casual concept, with an ordering counter and salad and pasta stations, according to the AP report. A test location in Pawtucket, RI, will feature a slice bar, with thinner slices to reflect local tastes, the company said.
With more fast-casual pizza formats rising in popularity recently, such players as Chipotle Mexican Grill and California Pizza Kitchen are also tossing new concepts in the ring. In December, Larry Flax and Rick Rosenfield, who launched California Pizza Kitchen in 1985, revealed plans to introduce a new fast-casual pizza concept as part of their recently founded investment portfolio, Flax and Rosenfield Capital Partners. Also in December, Chipotle announced a partnership to develop a fast-casual pizza chain called Pizzeria Locale, based on a full-service restaurant of the same name in Boulder, Colo.
In October, food-court pizza-chain Sbarro debuted its first fast-casual concept with Pizza Cucinova in Columbus, Ohio. Heralding a Naples-inspired artisan approach to hand-crafted and wood-fired pies, the restaurant’s menu features such varieties as fennel sausage with fire-roasted broccolini, clam and shrimp, and steak and gorgonzola cheese.
Pizza Hut’s by-the-slice concept is not Yum!’s first effort at reinvention. In August, the company began testing KFC Eleven, an upmarket version of its fast-food chicken chain, with a menu of updated side dishes, salads, rice bowls, flatbread sandwiches and only boneless pieces of Original Recipe chicken.