The explosion of online delivery has been one of the largest changes in the restaurant industry in generations. And as the original kings of delivery, pizza chains especially have had to adjust. Last month, Domino’s admitted it was seeing increased competition from these services. And now, Pizza Hut is acquiescing to an even more anachronistic fact: They operate hundreds of dine-in restaurants that they probably don’t need anymore.
In their latest earnings call, Yum! Brands – which owns Pizza Hut (and Taco Bell and KFC) – said they plan to close about 500 dine-in-focused restaurants over the next two years and replace them with more versatile carryout stores. “We are leaning in to accelerate the transition of our Pizza Hut U.S. asset base to truly modern delivery carryout assets,” David W. Gibbs, president, COO and CFO of Yum! Brands, said according to Food Business News. “This will ultimately strengthen the Pizza Hut business in the U.S. and set it up for faster long-term growth.”
Pizza Hut currently has just under 7,500 U.S. locations, with a reported breakdown of about 6,100 traditional restaurants compared to 1,350 carryout-only units. Interestingly, as Nation’s Restaurant News points out, Pizza Hut division CEO Artie Starrs recently suggested that in some markets where Pizza Hut is best known as the place to go with the red roof, apparently some customers still aren’t aware the chain delivers.
As a result, it’s all about finding balance for the brand, and in the end, Pizza Hut said they’ll be looking to open as many new locations as they close. But that doesn’t mean the chain might not see some growing pains along the way. “Our U.S. store count could drop to as low as 7,000 locations over the next 24 months, primarily driven by closures of underperforming dine-in restaurants before rebounding to current levels and above in the future,” Gibbs stated later in the call. Luckily, you probably have plenty of other dine-in options around you.
CORRECTION: A previous version of this article incorrectly identified carryout locations as "express," a label which indicates a separate, specific type of Pizza Hut location. We have amended the above copy per the request of Pizza Hut.