Changing Pizza Hut In The UK

Pizza Hut UK Reverses a Decade of Declining Sales by Engineering the Guest Experience

How did the world’s largest restaurant company reverse a nearly decade-long sales slide of one of its most well-known brands? By putting the customer experience at the core of their business strategy.

That’s exactly the mindshift Experience Engineering executed with Yum! Restaurants International and its subsidiary Pizza Hut UK. By engineering a meaningful, customer-centric dining experience, Pizza Hut UK reported substantial increases in sales, customer satisfaction, and employee motivation and satisfaction.

“We knew we needed to offer people a much more engaging dining experience, but we didn’t know how to do that,” explains Sanjiv Razdan, Director of Pizza Hut UK Brand Development. After reading Clued In: How to Keep Customers Coming Back Again and Again, the best-selling book by Experience Engineering founder and Chief Experience Officer Lou Carbone, Razdan began to unlock the mystery. “And once we learned that Carbone and his team had worked with Taco Bell, a sister Yum! company, we definitely were ready to drink the Experience Engineering Kool-Aid!”

The Experience Engineering “Kool-Aid” is a radical transformation in how company leaders think and operate. To earn customer loyalty and affinity, companies need to look at the business from the customer-back, rather than from the company-out. As Carbone explains, “To understand value, you have to understand people. Customer satisfaction isn’t a predictor of customer loyalty. Most defectors are actually satisfied customers. It’s really based on the need for emotional engagement.”

Which is why the “Kool-Aid” centers on looking at everything from a customer- back perspective. For Pizza Hut UK to deliver an engaging dining experience, they adopted an experiential “voice of the customer” mindset and approach that directed all-important decisions to be made based on an understanding of what customers want to feel when eating at its restaurants.

“Experience Engineering made us realize that we should stop obsessing about Pizza Hut and start obsessing about what people want to feel when they’re inside our restaurant. That shift in thinking has unlocked a tremendous amount of creativity within our organization,” says Pizza Hut UK Chief Executive Jens Hofma.

Pizza Hut UK partnered with Experience Engineering to better understand and orchestrate its customer experience.

Experience Engineering led a research effort, which included a series of in-depth interviews with key Pizza Hut customer segments. The interviews provided a thorough and integrated understanding of customers’ beliefs, unconscious emotions, behaviors, and attitudes.

Experience Engineering also conducted a Customer Experience Audit to identify gaps between the actual customer experience Pizza Hut UK guests were having versus the experience they truly desired. Included in this phase was a ClueScan™, a proprietary technique Experience Engineering developed for scanning, evaluating and managing human and operational “experience clues” from a customer’s perspective. ClueScans provide a framework for managing clues by helping companies fully understand the range and variety of experience clues their customers encounter every day.

Based on their findings, Experience Engineering recommended focusing on the three most powerful emotions customers want to feel about themselves while at Pizza Hut UK restaurants: lighthearted, uninhibited and embraced. This trio of emotions became the critical lens for designing, delivering and managing an engaging total customer experience.

Understanding how customers want to feel brings clarity, purpose, and alignment.

“As a result of the process with Experience Engineering, we gained real clarity in our thinking and our vision in terms of where to take Pizza Hut,” says Razdan. “Suddenly we had a great alignment mechanism for ensuring all our actions and innovations were headed in the same direction.”

Using the unconscious emotions desired by customers as a blueprint, management began designing and implementing clues to make customers feel lighthearted, uninhibited and embraced. To consistently evoke those feelings and create a sense of “wow,” the Pizza Hut UK team focused on enhancing the truly distinctive aspects of the business: heartfelt service, crave-able food and memorable décor.

Employees were trained to engage with customers on a more personal, yet professional level. Certain food items were eliminated, while others—such as Pizza Hut’s signature cookie dough desserts—were enhanced with additional varieties. Dynamic lighting was added. And, perhaps most dramatically, the traditional buffet was eliminated in favor of fresh, hot pizza and pasta dishes served with flair by well-trained wait staff to customers at their tables.

Initially, the new concepts were piloted in key test restaurants, called Alpha Huts, which served as the “customer back” laboratory. Within just a few months of instituting these changes, Alpha Huts reported a 40% increase in sales, a 20% rise in customer satisfaction, and a steady climb in employee motivation and job satisfaction. Most importantly, lessons learned at the Alpha Huts are being applied at a subset of other restaurants called “Cubs,” and Pizza Hut UK senior management gained a clear direction of where to take the entire 350-restaurant business.

Razdan predicts the innovations at Pizza Hut UK eventually will impact other restaurant brands in the YUM! Brands international portfolio. “We’ve had an incredibly encouraging start and we’re very excited about how it will all unfold.”

Are Your Customers Ready for a Great Experience?