If you haven’t been inside an area Pizza Hut in a while, you might not recognize them as the restaurants from years ago.
“The consumer wants lighter and brighter. If you make it dark and dingy like the old days, guess what? That’s what you’re getting and we don’t want that,” said Dan Wright, executive vice president of Hallrich Inc.
Said Carol Magazzeni, director of marketing and public relations for Hallrich: “We’ve pulled up the lights and pulled up the music.”
Hallrich is the 44-year-old Stow-based Pizza Hut franchise with 84 restaurants in 19 Northeast Ohio counties and more than 1,900 employees. The private company does not share sales figures.
Hallrich has remained busy renovating and building new locations, averaging three new restaurants a year in the last 10 years, said Wright. Nationally, other Pizza Hut franchises were not as active, he said.
This past year has been no exception and plans for next year’s projects are on par. This year, Wright estimates Hallrich spent $3.9 million on renovations and new construction and next year the amount will be $3.2 million.
There have been 13 outlets renovated, including at the Manchester Road in Akron and Ravenna locations, two relocations of restaurants in Streetsboro and Norton and two new restaurants in Vermilion and Navarre this year. On tap next year: five remodelings, including one on the east side of Massillon and one other within Hallrich’s area, though Wright would not say where that will be.
The company is continuing to add the Wing Street line of three different types of wing menu items and eight sauces, specialty sandwiches, entree salads and appetizers to its locations. Next year, Wing Street will be added in Alliance, Wooster, Plain Township and two locations in Medina.
The line recently was added to the Wadsworth location as well as Streetsboro, Norton and Orrville. Of Hallrich’s 84 locations, 73 have Wing Street.
And, of course, there’s still pizza and other items Pizza Hut is known for, Magazzeni said.
“We are spending thousands, hiring new team members ... not to mention creating jobs for contractors, plumbers and landscapers to help us freshen our look and provide additional services and menu items in updated assets,” Wright said.
Hallrich operates both dine-in restaurants as well as locations with pickup and delivery only.
“We look at each asset and trade areas as its unique self,” he said. “We have done more innovation on our own than any other franchise.”
Many of the new properties don’t have the recognizable red roof known for Pizza Huts. Wright said the new designs don’t have the red roof.
At the Brimfield Township Pizza Hut, large windows line the dining room, which features a separate bar. Fewer than 100 Pizza Huts in the country have the “cityscape” design of Brimfield, Wright said.
At 47 Hallrich locations, the staff serves beer and wine, but in two locations in Brimfield and Ashland, there are separate bar areas.
“We won’t ever be a bar,” but it’s a designated area in the building, Wright said.
Magazzeni said both locations are closer to college campuses.
The company continues to look for growth opportunities, Wright said.
“We go into very little towns no one else wants to go into,” he said. “We want to serve as many communities as we can. That has challenges when you’re in a tiny town.”
The company has 49 dine-in locations and 39 carryout/pickup outlets.
In many urban markets, customers want pizza, but they don’t want to dine in, said Wright.
“We don’t want to be cookie cutter. It’s the same quality food, but we make it fun and different,” he said.
Betty Lin-Fisher can be reached at 330-996-3724 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter at www.twitter.com/blinfisher and see all her stories at www.ohio.com/betty.