As Pizza Hut explores the use of The Hut in marketing its brand, an integral part of the effort is an in-store digital video network designed to engage customers.
Called Hut TV, the new video net has already been installed in 20 stores in Jacksonville, Fla., and four in Dallas. The chain plans to roll out the network to more locations into 2010.
The largest player in the fast-food pizza category, Pizza Hut is looking to offset stagnant same-store sales by positioning itself as a solution for home meals with new menu items such as lasagna and WingStreet-branded wings, and enhancing the in-store experience for the customer.
“We’re in the middle of the transformation of the Pizza Hut brand, both in terms of how our store looks and creating a different consumer experience we’re calling The Hut,” said Bob Kraut, vp of marketing for Pizza Hut. “Hut TV is a way to engage and entertain customers and make those who own our stores feel better about Pizza Hut.”
Hut TV’s video content is designed to enhance the in-store experience by entertaining customers, decreasing perceived wait time, increasing frequency of visits and promoting specials. Split into three sections, the largest section features entertainment (trivia or games) or short customized segments from CBS-produced brands such as Wheel of Fortune or Entertainment Tonight. CBS also provides a news ticker at the bottom of the screen. The right-hand portion of the screen is devoted to Pizza Hut’s menu, from information about ingredients to special promotions. Eventually, Pizza Hut may sell ad space to its suppliers, but for now Hut TV is all about engaging the customer.
Such video networks are catching on with quick service restaurants and retailers. Denny’s is rolling out TheBITE network, syndicated video content from IndoorDIRECT that provides networks for a number of restaurant chains including Wendy’s, Arby’s and Hardees. MacDonald’s is also dipping its toe in video networks, expanding its test to 20 locations.
But unlike others in the category which leapt into the digital space by grabbing off-the-shelf solutions, Pizza Hut owns Hut TV and maintains full control and oversight of the network’s content. Hut TV isn’t part of the company’s media or marketing budget but is considered an asset with its own resources and budget. “It’s part of the facility. The good will and promise it provides is an asset that is part of the entire customer experience,” said Kraut.
Hut TV was born out of Mediaedge:cia’s expanding role from a media shop to a communications planning agency, providing expertise formerly the domain of promotional agencies. “We’re moving out of our role of being just a media buying agency and becoming a planning agency by helping Pizza Hut figure out how to touch their various customer touch points,” said Dave Sommer, managing partner for MEC Retail, formed in 2006 when Mediaedge:cia purchased retail and shopper marketing consultancy Retail MediaLink.
In a first for a media shop, MEC Retail created a scalable solution for Pizza Hut that will eventually let Pizza Hut program down to the store level. MEC Retail also developed Hut TV’s strategic mix of content and promotions and negotiated the deals with content partner CBS, technology partner YCD and 7ate9, which manages original and branded content for Hut TV.