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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Sunday, March 30, 2008

Pizza Hut to offer pasta for delivery

By Bruce Horovitz
USA Today

Pizza Hut wants folks to start thinking of it also as something a tad more squishy: Pasta Hut.

The nation's largest pizza chain Tuesday unveils plans to start delivering pasta on April 6 something no pizza chain does nationally. The move comes as sales in the $37 billion pizza business are slowing with the overall economy.

"If we do it right, pasta could become as big a business as pizza," says Brian Niccol, chief marketing officer. For consumers, "it changes what foods they can get delivered."

Its new Tuscani Pastas will come as Creamy Chicken Alfredo and Meaty Marinara. The price for the pasta is $11.95, the same as a large pizza with one topping, and Pizza Hut says they'll feed a family of six. The pastas are baked in the pizza ovens and come with five breadsticks.

Even as fast-food chains have expanded menus in recent years, few pizza chains have. After success with delivery of its WingStreet chicken wings, Pizza Hut not only is embracing pasta, but would consider modifying its name if pasta is a hit, says Niccol.

He says pasta could be 15 percent of Pizza Hut's business within a year. And that's without hurting pizza sales, according to pasta tests in Kansas City, Mo., and Tampa, Fla.

Industry experts say pasta is tricky. "The hardest thing is keeping delivered pasta hot," says consultant Linda Lipsky. And while cold pizza is edible, even enjoyed by many, and reheatable, cold pasta is less appetizing, she says.

Pizza Hut executives say the delivery pouches that keep pizza hot will keep pasta hot. They also note that since the pasta comes in the aluminum pan in which it's baked, the food is easily removable to reheat.