Pizza Hut will soon be joining the flood of restaurants seeking to gain customer loyalty by catering to the swelling trend of people going gluten-free in their diets. The pizza giant has worked out a cooperative deal with Udi’s Gluten Free Foods and the Gluten Intolerance Group (GIG) to offer the first certified gluten-free pizza from a major chain. Pizza Hut executives expect that though the market will be limited to a niche crowd, it will be worth the extra effort to keep the pizzas free from gluten contamination as it will attract not only customers with a medical need but satisfy the preferences of patrons who seek to limit gluten intake for personal reasons. The new choices in pizza will allow those who need or prefer the gluten-restricted diet to enjoy a slice of pizza with family and friends instead of being the wet rag that always puts the kibosh on plans for eating out.
The new pizza options will roll out to customers at select locations around the country on Jan. 26, 2015. For the strictly gluten-free pizza, special kits of crust, cheese, sauce and pepperoni at each restaurant will keep the ingredients separate from the gluten version. Customers will be able to choose a 10-inch, six slice cheese or pepperoni pizza. For those who prefer, but do not medically require complete abstinence from all gluten and simply wish to limit their intake, Pizza Hut will give them the option to create their own pizza from a selection of toppings spread over the gluten-free Udi’s pizza crust.
Restaurant officials are pleased to be the first major pizza company to offer a certified gluten-free pizza. Although Domino’s beat them to the punch in the gluten-free market by over two years, the rival pizza cannot guarantee the complete absence of gluten because it is prepared in the same kitchen as the regular pizza. Earning the certification took some creativity on the part of Pizza Hut restauranteurs in conjunction with GIG to work out the logistics of preparing gluten-free pizzas in proximity to regular pizzas. Each restaurant will store the gluten-free ingredients in a designated storage kit.
Team members must wear gloves when working with the customized pizza, which will bake on parchment paper to ensure that it is not exposed to the cooking surface, which could contain gluten residue. There will also be separate pizza cutters set aside for gluten-free use, much the same way kosher kitchens designate separate utensils for meats and cheeses. Pizza Hut employees are being specially trained to ensure that there is no cross-contamination between the gluten and non-gluten pizzas.
The pizzas will sell for $9.99. GIG’s Channon Quinn and Stephen Hughes, the chief executive officer of Udi’s parent company join with Pizza Hut CEO David Gibbs in celebrating the opportunity to add the gluten-free product to the menu. They are excited to bring their product offerings more closely in line with the needs of the larger community. Attendees at A&E’s post awards bash after the Critics’ Choice Movie Awards on Jan. 15 will get an advance taste of Pizza Hut’s newest menu addition before the national rollout later this month.
By Tamara Christine Van Hooser
Image courtesy of A. Currell – Flickr License