Pizza Hut in £1.7m investment in Scotland

PIZZA Hut is embarking on a £1.7 million programme of ­investment in its Scottish ­restaurants as the chain seeks to grab a larger slice of the ­casual dining market.

Having recently taken the wraps off its revamped site at Hamilton’s Palace Grounds retail park in Lanarkshire, the firm has now turned its attention to refurbishing its other “flagship” venues at Silverburn in Glasgow and Aberdeen’s Union Square shopping centre.

Head of operations Mike Spencer told Scotland on Sunday that he was keen to add more restaurants to the 31 sites that Pizza Hut currently operates north of the Border. “We’re represented in most of the main markets in Scotland, but I’d like to see some more,” he said, adding that a site near the Ikea store on the outskirts of Edinburgh was among the possibilities.

Existing branches are undergoing an “American diner-style” makeover that will usher in new menu items such as ribs and waffles, while many sites will also feature separate bar areas.

Pizza Hut arrived in Scotland in 1981 with the opening of a branch in Edinburgh, and two years ago US fast-food ­giant Yum Brands, which also owns the KFC and Taco Bell chains, sold the UK restaurants to turnaround specialist Rutland Partners.

Rutland has committed £20m to the refurbishment programme at the firm, which employs about 950 people in Scotland. Yum still owns the Pizza Hut delivery business.

Spencer said: “Scotland has ­always been a very well-­established, and now mature, part of our business that has done extremely well. As part of this investment we’re looking to bring our estate, menu and service up to the next level.

“There has been considerable competition in the casual dining sector over the last five years or so, so this continued investment will ensure we stay ahead of the game.”

Rivals such as Frankie Benny’s – owned by the listed Restaurant Group – are increasingly expanding into ­all-day dining by adding breakfast menus, but Spencer said Pizza Hut was keen to focus on its core lunchtime and evening markets.

“Other casual diners have grown their market share in the evenings and we see this investment as a key opportunity to be more relevant for couples going out before the cinema or family events at the weekend,” he said.

“This is where the business tends to grow after the re­imaging of the restaurants.”

Spencer declined to comment on profit and sales figures ahead of its year-end results, but said both measures have grown for the past two years and the firm has been outperforming the industry average over the past 12 months.

“That gives us encouragement that we’re doing well at the moment and the new look and feel is significantly outperforming our core estate, with an uplift in sales of up to 35 per cent in those restaurants that have been refurbished.”