- Pizza Hut, the worldwide restaurant chain owned by Yum! Brands, is promoting a new menu item with a chance to win holiday merchandise on Twitter, per a press release. Customers who tweet the pizza slice and gift emojis followed by the tags #TisTheCheesen and @PizzaHut can win limited edition ‘Tis the Cheese’n Holiday Starter Packages.
- Via the promotion, the pizza chain is showcasing its Ultimate Cheesy Crust Pizza, a large one-topping pizza with 16 pockets in the crust filled with a mixture of mozzarella, provolone, white cheddar, asiago and fontina cheeses. The item is now available for a limited time for delivery, carryout or dine-in at Pizza Hut locations across the U.S.
- The Cheese’n Holiday Starter Packages include pizza-themed merchandise such as sweaters and beanies, holiday cards, mugs, string lights and a blanket.
Quirky merchandise has been a popular marketing tactic this year as brands look to deepen their relationship with their most loyal fans and encourage them to share photos on social media of how they've incorporated the items into their lives. With more consumers ignoring digital ads, such earned media is one way brands can reach potential new customers.
In March, Pizza Hut released a limited-edition new line of basketball sneakers called Pie Tops that came with a mobile app and built-in Bluetooth technology to ordering at the touch of a button located on the tongue of the right shoe. Last month, the brand offered a limited-edition "Pizza Parka" made from materials used to keep its pizzas hot during delivery.
Pizza Hut has had to play catch-up with other pizza brands like Domino’s that were quicker to embrace e-commerce. As of March, mobile made up 70% of all Pizza Hut orders, and the company is trying a variety of promotions to drive sales, with themed merchandise playing a big role.
Pizza Hut’s promotion comes as competitors like Papa John’s are complaining that the decline in NFL viewership is negatively affecting pizza sales. Pizza Hut, which sponsors the NCAA, hasn’t seen a weak start to the fourth quarter, Greg Creed, CEO of Yum! Brands, said this month in a call with investors. The restaurant industry has lagged this year with sales rising 2.7% in September from a year earlier, compared with a 3% gain for grocery stores and a 4.4% increase for total retail sales, census data show. Inflation of 2.2% makes that growth even slimmer.
Pizza Hut traditionally has been a dine-in chain, and it’s undergoing a massive shift toward delivery services. The chain plans to hire 14,000 more delivery drivers by the end of this year as part of its strategy. About two-thirds of restaurant visits last year were for to-go orders, according to data from NPD Group cited by Nation’s Restaurant News. Pizza Hut’s same-store sales grew 1% in Q3 2017 from a year earlier, which lagged the performance of Yum!’s other brands KFC and Taco Bell.