You spoke, Pizza Hut listened: company replies to your posts on WalletPop

lou carlozoMaybe it was the sauce?

Sometimes at WalletPop, we have a hard time predicting which of our pieces will touch a nerve, and in what way. So when we posted Wednesday about Pizza Hut changing over to "The Hut"-- and the new in-house digital TV network arriving at Hut stores this summer -- we hardly expected to field scores of comments from disgruntled Pizza Hut patrons nationwide, a hefty majority complaining about pie quality and sanitary conditions at stores.

Here's a sampling of some comments readers posted; we've used screen nicknames to identify the writers:

From Brian: "If Pizza Hut wants to appeal to the younger generation, they need to work on their product. No amount of re-branding is going to help. Bland greasy nasty overpriced (cheap) frozen grocery quality 'pizza' that smacks of the Velveeta era just isn't gonna cut it with the younger crowd who (particularly in urban areas) are accustomed to much higher quality Italian joints."

From Linda: "We are in our early 50s and one of our Pizza Huts closed because the quality was awful, kids ran rampant and it was getting downright dirty. "
From Cheryl: "We prefer Pizza Hut over all others, but ours is dirty; they never have the ingredients needed for the type pizza we want to order. It's run by a bunch of clowns. Many times, they have lost our order."

From huskygirl2014: "My parents, little brother and i used to go to PH every Friday night when me and my brother were littler, but we never go now. Ours is dirty, and gross."

From Randy: "Stop worrying so much about reinventing the American concept of a pizza, give people a clean restaurant, with good service, and good food, and stop trying to force Generation X,Z, or Q or whatever marketing gimmicks on the public."

From Bev: "Pizza Hut pizza is my favorite, but their stores around here are so dirty and run down, that I wonder why I still go there? Forget about the TVs. There is too much noise around. A little peace while eating is what we all need."

As an Italian American who learned to make pizza from my off-the-boat grandmothers, and a former Pizza Hut waiter for four years, I could've thrown my two cents in, too. And I would caution readers with this bit of restaurant biz wisdom: If 10 people are happy, they tell 10 people. If 10 people are unhappy, they tell 100 or more.

But rather than preach from atop my pizza box, I reached out to Christopher Fuller, Pizza Hut's spokesman. Here's what he had to say after reading your comments on WalletPop:

"Regarding our restaurants, we are proud to have some of the best team members and restaurants in the world," Fuller said. "We have very thorough restaurant cleanliness policies and practices, which meet and often exceed local health department guidelines. I'm very disappointed to hear that a few customers have had experiences that did not live up to our high standards. I would ask that they let our customer satisfaction team know, so that they can address any issues."

Fuller added that Pizza Hut would love to hear from customers,both delighted and disappointed, by way of their comment line, reachable via 1-800-948-8488.

As for whether Pizza Hut will turn into The Hut for good, and at all stores, Fuller gave WalletPop some much-needed clarification. Even marketing industry experts aren't sure of Pizza Hut's endgame here, so to that end, Fuller offered a famous analogy straight from the world of soft drinks.

"We think that 'The Hut' is to Pizza Hut as Coke is to Coca-Cola.," Fuller said. "We have begun using the term in conjunction with Pizza Hut in our advertising, pizza boxes and some restaurants."

As for why the rebranding, "Customers have been calling us 'The Hut' for years and it works nicely to describe our full line of core products: pizza, pasta and wings," Fuller said. "But we'll always be Pizza Hut."
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