How did Pizza Hut lose its proverbial sauce?

As a child of New York City, I've always been an elitist when it comes to pizza. Despite never being a fan of the quality of their cuisine, going to Pizza Hut was an event in my childhood. Similar to McDonald's, Chuck E. Cheese, and Blockbuster, simply uttering the words Pizza Hut was enough to drive any 90s kid into a frenzy- whether they were budding slice snobs or not. The promise of a trip to Pizza Hut could reliably summon subservience from even the rowdiest kid.

Once I graduated into the double-digit age bracket, my love for Pizza Hut waned considerably. Well, more accurately, my adoration for all pizza chains diminished as a whole, but none as swiftly as Pizza Hut. I thought I was alone in my disposition for the longest time, but it seems like most of America agrees.

In 2018 Domino's pizza finally usurped Pizza Hut to become the number one pizza chain in the country. Considering that Pizza Hut's old slogan was, "no one out pizzas the Hut," the loss has to be embarrassing. What makes Domino's achievement so monumental is how unprecedented it was at the time. Prior to that point, Pizza Hut was the undisputed king of the slice in terms of sales. Flashforward to July 2020, Pizza Hut's largest franchisee NPC International filed for bankruptcy. What caused the Hut to crumble so badly?

Remember when I said that a trip to Pizza Hut was sacred? As it turns out, that's what doomed the brand. Too many Americans associate Pizza Hut with dine-in service, whereas Domino's and delivery have been synonymous for decades. Millions of Americans have decided that ordering online is infinitely more convenient than actually visiting a restaurant. Choosing to reserve the dine-in experience for classy joints like Applebees and Olive Garden, most Americans don't view a trip to Pizza Hut as favorably as they used to. Although the pandemic did help boost Pizza Hut's delivery numbers, it also pushed industry leader Domino's further ahead.

At this point, the future of Pizza Hut looks shaky. While I don't think a full-fledged comeback is in the cards, Pizza Hut will always live on through its association with its parent company Yum Brands. And as long as stoners exist, the beloved combination of Pizza Hut and Taco Bell restaurants will keep the brand alive.