Pizza Hut is planning to rapidly expand its footprint across China in the coming three years as part of an ambitious growth strategy announced by Yum China Holdings Inc. (NYSE: YUMC; HKEX: 9987), at the company’s recent 2023 Investor Day in Xi’an, China.
Following its successful revitalization program, which strengthened the brand’s fundamentals and improved the payback period for new stores, Pizza Hut is poised for rapid growth. The brand is aiming to open 400-500 net new stores per year from 2024-2026, more than double its pace of the past three years, while continuing to maintain a healthy store payback of approximately 3 years.
Pizza Hut’s plans are part of the refreshed “RGM 2.0” strategy launched by Yum China, which also operates KFC, Taco Bell and other restaurant brands in the country. At its Investor Day, Yum China set an overall target to reach 20,000 total stores by 2026 and deliver double-digit CAGR for EPS in 2024-2026 while returning $3 billion to investors during the same period through quarterly dividends and share repurchases.
With a presence in China since 1990, Pizza Hut is a top player in China’s casual dining sector, operating 3,072 stores in over 650 cities. The brand dominates in all of its core categories: pizza, steak and pasta, with over 100 million pizzas and 20 million steaks sold over the last 12 months.
Pizza Hut General Manager Jeff Kuai commented, “As an absolute leader in the sector, our slice of the market is bigger than the next nine brands combined. Despite our leading position, there is still tremendous opportunity for us to gain an even larger share of the market.”
The brand’s strategy for footprint growth includes adding store density in existing cities while continuing to expand into new cities. China has vast untapped markets for Pizza Hut. There are more than 1,200 cities in China that have a KFC but do not yet have Pizza Hut, highlighting the opportunity to leverage Yum China’s infrastructure and resources to expand in many of those locations. Pizza Hut increases its penetration with flexible store models. Its satellite store model, which has a smaller dining area, focuses on off-premise occasions and requires lower capex. The store model has a 2-year payback, which is better than its traditional stores. The brand is also testing a fast-casual store model that aims to provide faster and lighter service while improving labor efficiency.
In addition to expanding its footprint, Pizza Hut has focused on improving its core menu offerings. In particular, the brand has been reinforcing its reputation as a “pizza expert” through product upgrades and new flavors. Its Super Supreme Pizzas and Durian Pizzas have been big hits with consumers. In the first half of 2023, pizza sales rose 56% compared to the same period in 2019.
As Pizza Hut continues to expand, it is aiming to capture more consumer segments through a wider range of food and beverage choices and providing more occasions to visit. The brand is preparing to launch a new line of made-to-order burgers. From September 2023, it also introduced premium Lavazza coffee at its restaurants. Pizza Hut has expanded individual meals, including its personal-size pizza, to cater to solo diners and office workers; as well as breakfast offerings to better serve customers while maximizing store utilization. In addition, the brand is broadening its previous focus on families to better cater to younger generations. Its partnership with Genshin Impact, for example, has attracted many young people and gamers.
Meanwhile, Pizza Hut remains focused on providing excellent value for money. Its popular “Scream Wednesdays”, “All You Can Eat”, and “Buy One Get One Free” value campaigns are huge draws for dine-in and delivery traffic. It is also broadening its price ranges to serve a wider range of customers on everyday needs.
Pizza Hut is also investing in building a best-in-class digital customer experience, an area that is critical to its future success, with approximately 92% of orders placed on digital channels. A key priority is improving its user interface and providing real-time order tracking for customers on its app. The brand is also boosting its member visit frequency through privilege programs and targeted offers based on members’ preferences.
Kuai says: “With continuing efforts to build on our core strengths and expand into new categories, improve value for money, drive delivery growth, and enhance our digital capabilities, we are confident that Pizza Hut will generate even stronger sales momentum and enhance our leading position in the market.”
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