Pizza Hut starts selling by the slice. Pan pizza no more?

Pizza Hut will begin selling individual pizza slices in certain markets Tuesday. The announcement comes as Pizza Hut faces increased competition from Domino's, Papa John's, and even Chipotle (yes, Chipotle). 

Pizza Hut/AP
A hand-tossed Pizza Hut pizza. Pizza Hut announced Monday it plans to start offering pizza by the slice for the first time in two test locations this week, as the chain looks to keep pace with trendy competitors offering quick, made-to-order pies.

Pizza Hut has long been synonymous with whole pizzas of all sizes (see: The Personal Pan Pizza). That changes this week.

Starting Tuesday, the chain will begin selling pizza by the slice for the first time in its existence, starting with two new locations in York, Neb. and Pawtucket, R.I. The selling point here is speed: unlike Pizza Hut’s whole pies, which can take up to 10 minutes to cook, the individual slices, which require separate ovens, will take 3 to 4 minutes to heat up. The recipe, too, will be different: The restaurant chain’s whole pies are fairly thick, similar to Chicago-style pizza, but the “by-the-slice” recipe will have a thinner crust, a la New-York-style pizza.

The slices will cost between $2 and $3 each. The chain’s pan pizzas, currently their go-to option for an individual serving, are in the $4 range, depending on location.

The announcement comes as Pizza Hut faces an onslaught of competitive moves by its counterparts in the fast food pizza market. Both Domino’s and Papa John's already offer pizza slices in certain locations, and Domino’s has made a habit of attention-getting marketing innovations, like the online Pizza Tracker and, just last week, teaming up with Ford on an app that lets drivers order pizzas directly through their vehicles.

And a new, formidable competitor has joined the pizza race: Chipotle, which has conquered the world of slightly-above-fast-food-quality Mexican food, announced in December that it would be investing in a fast casual pizza restaurant called Pizzeria Locale. The first few locations are opening up in Colorado this year.

Couple that with the huge array of smaller single-slice pizza eateries in cities across America, and it leaves Pizza Hut, which began as a sit-down restaurant, fighting to keep up. The chain was a drag on parent company Yum! Brands' latest earnings report – the company, which also owns KFC and Taco Bell, failed to meet same store sales expectations in the US. In China, a market that accounts for over half of Yum!’s overall operating profit, Pizza Hut’s sales fell 3 percent.

Yum! Brands has had considerable success re-working Taco Bell in the US over the past few years,  shifting its focus to the young adult market and scoring big sales with new products like the Doritos Locos Taco. KFC is also trying new things, testing a more upscale fast casual concept called “KFC Eleven.”

The two “by the slice” locations will be slightly different from one another, according to Pizza Hut. The Nebraska location will be a full restaurant with counter ordering and a salad bar. The Rhode Island location will just offer a slice bar, according to the Associated Press. 

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