Growing up, Pizza Hut was my oasis. The youngest of five children, I remember visiting “the Hut” and being able to order my very own individual pan pizza with only pepperoni. I didn’t have to share. I didn’t have to pick off gross toppings, like mushrooms. It was one of the few places I was able to get what I wanted to eat, while still being able to enjoy time with my family.

Thirty years later, Pizza Hut’s sales have steadily declined. In fact, “the Hut” is in a seven year rut. Once an iconic brand and a place to go for a casual sit-down family meal has now been elbowed out by more chains focused on a rotating carousel of pizza pies to get customers in and out quickly.

So what can Pizza Hut do to rebuild its brand? Here are a few thoughts from a self-proclaimed pizza aficionado:

  • Pizza promotions: Book It! was the best thing as a child, pairing my two favorite loves… pizza and reading. Sure, plenty of other chains have promotions (Bite, Bite, Sip, Sip… Do the Combo Mambo!), but Book It! promoted something that a key target audience (parents) respected… encouraging kids to read. While Book It! still exists, Pizza Hut can go a long way by associating more marketing and ads with the program, encouraging parents to ask their schools to participate.
  • Facelift the in-dining experience: The closest Pizza Hut to me recently closed down its regular sit-down restaurant to open a “Pizza Hut Express” across the street. Listen, I’m all about getting what I want quickly now a days. But why go up against competitors already dominating in that space (cough… Hot-n-Ready…cough). Instead, Pizza Hut should make its dining experience feel more like a night out, versus a grab-n-go experience. Offer adult beverages, update the décor (yes, get rid of the outdated red roof buildings), and provide a reason for diners to want to sit-down and enjoy the experience.
  • Associate the brand with nostalgia: Much like my story on how Pizza Hut and BookIt! was a great experience for me as a kid, I bet a number of other folks out there have similar stories.  People generally want to share happy memories of yesteryear. Pizza Hut is a key partner in the upcoming Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movie – if you were born between 1979 and, well… now, you can’t get much more nostalgic than that. The more contests, online conversations and promotions Pizza Hut can do to get key audiences talking and associating itself with this tie-in, the better. Also, Michelangelo is my soul mate.

These are just a few thoughts on resurrecting the brand… Of course, quality of products and service play a major factor for any food brand that wants to keep its slice of the pie. But I haven’t been to a Pizza Hut in sometime, so I can’t speak to those elements. But then again, nothing has made me want to visit.