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Beyond Meat pizza will help Pizza Hut become America's favorite again, interim president says

Brian Sozzi
·Editor-at-Large
·3 min read

Pizza Hut (YUM) hopes the well-known consumer buzz around Beyond Meat’s (BYND) plant-based foods gets it back to being top of mind with hungry diners while also plumping up its sales.

“Obviously we expect to get more foot traffic, more orders online from this pizza,” Pizza Hut interim president Kevin Hochman told Yahoo Finance Live. “The second big thing is just check [average customer bill]. This is innovation that customers are willing to pay a little bit more for and that’s what we are seeing with check with these pizzas. And third, just about modernizing the Pizza Hut brand. We are on a turnaround right now to become America’s favorite pizza again. That includes modernizing our digital estate, making it frictionless to order pizza, and then bringing back iconic pizzas that you can only get from Pizza Hut.”

On Tuesday, Pizza Hut debuted the Beyond Pizza for a limited-time nationwide and in select spots in London. It marked the first time a plant-based meat topped pizza was available nationwide. The two new pizzas are being dubbed the Beyond Italian Sausage (self explanatory) and the Great Beyond (veggie pizzas also topped with Beyond sausage crumbles).

“The first day was great. We had an unbelievable response all across the country,” Hochman added.

Hochman has a somewhat cult status inside of Pizza Hut owner Yum! Brands — and it’s not a shock he has moved to ink a tie-up with the surging Beyond Meat.

NEW YORK, NEW YORK - NOVEMBER 10: An exterior view of a Pizza Hut restaurant in the Canarsie neighborhood of Brooklyn on November 10, 2020 in New York City. On Tuesday, Pizza Hut in partnership with Beyond Meat became the first pizza franchise to offer a plant-based meat pizza across the United States. (Photo by Michael M. Santiago/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NEW YORK - NOVEMBER 10: An exterior view of a Pizza Hut restaurant in the Canarsie neighborhood of Brooklyn on November 10, 2020 in New York City. On Tuesday, Pizza Hut in partnership with Beyond Meat became the first pizza franchise to offer a plant-based meat pizza across the United States. (Photo by Michael M. Santiago/Getty Images)

In February, Hochman was tapped by new Yum! Brands CEO David Gibbs to revive a brand that has lagged rivals Domino’s Pizza (DPZ) and Papa John’s (PZZA) n recent years in terms of sales and digital. Hochman is credited with turning around Yum! Brands-owned KFC by making its iconic founder Colonel Sanders front and center in quirky TV commercials and driving menu innovation such as Nashville hot chicken.

Hochman has work to do to jumpstart a brand long known for bold ideas (stuffed crust pizza, for example). But there are early signs he is starting to get the brand around the corner in part helped by pizza being so popular during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Pizza Hut U.S. saw same-store sales rise 6% in the third quarter, quicker than the 1% average increased notched year-to-date. The brand’s same-store sales fell 1% in 2019. Rivals Domino’s Pizza saw a 17.5% U.S. same-store sales gain in the third quarter, while Papa John’s clocked in at 18.2% domestic growth.

Brian Sozzi is an editor-at-large and anchor at Yahoo Finance. Follow Sozzi on Twitter @BrianSozzi and on LinkedIn.

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