On Thursday,, Pizza Hut will launch the "Hot Dog Bites" pizza, a cheese pizza with mini hot dogs baked into the crust that's already received tons of media attention and chatter on social media since it was first announced last week. Talk-show host Conan O'Brien even discussed the new product in his monologue last Thursday night, poking fun at the excess of it.
A large one-topping pizza will feature 28 hot dog bites baked into a pretzel crust that can be pulled off and shared. Served with a side of tangy French's mustard, the 14-inch pizza will cost $11.99, just slightly more than the price for a normal large pizza. Calories per slice? A mere 460.
Even more than the buzz, though, Pizza Hut sorely needs a hit to drive sales and customer traffic, following the lukewarm reception to the new higher-end artisanal pizzas that were introduced last year. Pizza Hut, which represents roughly 60% of Yum's 13,000 plus total units, served up a 1% same-restaurant sales decline in this year's first quarter, while same-store sales last year overall fell 3%. Executives say they believe sales at Pizza Hut "could remain soft" in the near future.
With Pizza Hut returning to its strategy of product innovation to drive consumer interest, epitomized by the popular stuffed-crust pizza it first introduced back in 1995, the chain may be able to take some sales back from Domino's Pizza (DPZ) and Papa John's (PZZA) this summer. Both of Pizza Hut's main rivals have continued to churn out robust sales in the last year with a steady stream of discounts and marketing that highlights their new mobile ordering capabilities.