Tuesday, June 30, 2009

No green from a fibbing Pizza Hut

Pizza Hut has snagged a fair amount of press for its new building design, which made its official debut Thursday in Jacksonville, Fla. After announcing at almost the same time that it would not be changing its name to The Hut, the Yum! Brands-owned pizza specialist has stressed that the new format is a really a three-in-one restaurant. In addition to selling an array of pies, the store will showcase Toscani Pastas, previously marketed as delivery and takeout options, and WingStreet, a bolt-on Buffalo chicken wings concept that execs intend to advertise as a separate entity.

Oh, and about that rumor of a name change: Contrary to Pizza Hut’s assertions, the new prototype carries an exterior sign reading The Hut, as you can see in this picture from a local paper.

Management stresses that it’s just a test, and that the chain is indeed keeping the full Pizza Hut name. “We do use ‘The Hut’ in some of our marketing efforts,” CMO Brian Niccol said in last week’s statement.

The launch of a new prototype isn’t a “marketing effort,” especially when the new design is reportedly being stamped on 30 units already. I have trouble reconciling Assertion A with Fact B.

If you’re tallying such things, this is Stretched Truth No. 3 for Yum. Earlier this year, it made a big splash with Kentucky Grilled Chicken, which is really oven baked on a special plate that imprints grill marks. At the time of the introduction, coupons for a free sampling were distributed. Yet KFC ran a commercial that said in essence, “Sorry, but we’re not honoring those right now.” It stopped short of saying, Na-na-na-na-na-na.

Okay, perhaps there’s a disconnect between what Pizza Hut said and what it does. Such is corporate life.

But what should concern the public is what Pizza Hut didn’t say about the new prototype. In all the coverage, in all the comments made by executives to local media, there’s not one mention of a green feature. How can a resource-rich company introduce a new building design that omits conservation features? And why would it, given the savings that could be easily realized?

Maybe the chain is too busy asserting that it’ll continue to be known as Pizza Hut. It’s also important to keep The Hut sign clean and as visible as possible.

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