Pizza Hut doesn't want you to complain about lukewarm pizza.
The chain is rolling out a redesigned delivery system that promises to keep pies 15 degrees hotter as they travel from stores to customers' homes.
It's the latest move by the Yum Brands-owned pizza company, which has struggled in a competitive market to regain its lead.
Earlier this year, Pizza Hut was dethroned as the "best pizza chain brand," ending a four-year winning streak, by rival Papa John's. Meantime, Yum Brands has laid out a $130 million investment plan for Pizza Hut, planning to upgrade its equipment, improve restaurant technology and boost Pizza Hut's advertising through 2018.
"We have cracked the code on how to deliver pizzas hotter," said Zipporah Allen, vice president of brand marketing and consumer insights at Pizza Hut. "This is consistent with where we see our growth, with digital and delivery."
The new pizza boxes feature thicker sides that will lock in heat and keep a pie in place through delivery. Each box includes a patented "crisp sheet insert" to keep the pizza elevated and to maintain an "oven-hot" temperature.
The sheets, made of cardboard, feature ridges on the bottom, so when placed underneath a pizza they allow warm air to linger longer in those pockets and permeate the pie. The restaurant chain said it has spent more than two years looking at ways to perfect the design.
Starting this week, Pizza Hut's drivers will also begin using redesigned pouches, with insulation, to carry pies to homes. The pouches feature some of the same materials used in astronauts' space blankets and in ski jackets.
"We are enabling [our drivers] with the tools to deliver a better experience to our customers," Allen said.
Pizza Hut is also in the midst of bolstering its fleet of drivers. It's hired nearly half of the 14,000 drivers that it expects to add by the end of the year.
Pizza Hut hopes that the additional labor and the new technology will better serve its customers and lead to more orders. Ramping up its digital presence could also help Pizza Hut better compete with Domino's.
"This is pizza-eating season. ... The weather is starting to get colder out there," Allen said. "With the oven-hot delivery system we're focused on making sure we can deliver."