Pizza Hut, the Yum! Brands-owned delivery business, plans to convert the majority of its 400-strong estate to a new fast-casual model.

MCA’s sister title Food Spark reports there are now 20 fast-casual formats open, with £1m spent last year to reimage the stores.

Managing director Neil Manhas said £1m had been allocated for conversions this year, with plans to venture into London with new locations.

Debuting in Luton, the format features an open-plan kitchen with the delivery side of the business offering seating for the first time.

The move was agreed with the separately-owned Pizza Hut Restaurants franchise business, which in turn is making its own moves into delivery.

Manhas, who launched the pilot fast-casual store in Luton, told Food Spark: “The ambition is that the entire estate moves to that new model once we are entirely convinced that we have locked in the formula – and the formula I think is going to look different depending on the dynamics of specific trade zones, and that’s the bit that we’re just building the muscle on.

“We opened these in different places to see what worked vis-a-vis how many seats should we put in for a store in this particular geography – maybe it’s none, maybe it’s some – as well as how aggressive we want to be on the takeaway in terms of price point.”

He added: “In lots of ways, the fast-casual delivery store that we built, that really is a product of the whole easier, faster, tastier mandate… We created that prototype to try and deliver the ultimate customer experience, both in terms of the model and in terms of the design. From a model standpoint, it’s a pretty unique concept because it’s actually delivering on five different channels or occasions.

“We’re pretty maniacal about our customer feedback stats, and that [Luton] store in particular is way, way ahead of the rest of the estate in terms of our guest experience surveys, both in terms of overall satisfaction and any instances of dissatisfaction, which are minimal.

“That store is doing about 50% higher volume than a traditional delivery store. There’s a lot to chew on over that – how much is the model, how much is just a great location we found – but it’s obviously hugely encouraging.”

  • A version of this article was original published in Food Spark. a digital subscription service designed covering innovation across the food industry. To request a demo contact joinus@foodspark.com or call 01293 610371.