Oct 1, 2009

What the Heck is Wrong with Pizza Hut

I remember when I was younger. My mom cooked at home all the time - and she made some really incredible stuff. But there was one food that she never was satisfied with. She never liked her own pizza. None of us had any problems with her pizza. Pizza night was a huge success as far as we were concerned. Our friends loved pizza night. And reheated pizza was awesome too. But my mom NEVER liked her own pizza. She wanted to find a way to duplicate Pizza Hut's Pan Pizza. Since my dad was never going to let her invest in a variety of pans and experiment with crust types, it meant that she was always going to be frustrated. And it meant that there would be days when we ordered Pizza Hut - or even better, went to eat there.

In our house, there was Pizza Hut and that was it. I don't remember ordering pizza from any other places - except an initial attempt as new companies would launch. This would be followed by our assessment that it was horrible and "not as good as Pizza Hut." [Please bear in mind that we are Florida natives and had never even come close to experiencing New York or Chicago pizza.] The thing was, Pizza Hut WAS good. I remember going to eat at Pizza Hut - they would bring those pies out fresh. And it was so much different than if they were delivered. They were amazing. Remember the BBQ pizza? Good night, that thing was phenomenal. Then they added the Lover's Line - with the Cheese Lover's with any two toppings. It had sooo much cheese on it. I never was as taken with the pan crust as my family. I preferred hand-tossed and thin crust.

When I went to college, Pizza Hut was still a huge element of my diet (what a poor choice of words). Remember the Bigfoot pizza? I would order that all the time. My friends and I would get Bigfoots when we were hanging out - they were such a good deal. And that was when I discovered the Pizza Hut Lunch Buffet. Man oh man. I cannot even begin to remember the number of times we destroyed the Buffet. What was better than dropping five bucks and being able to eat as much as you wanted of the amazing pizzas? Once I moved to Tampa, our ministry kept several Pizza Huts in business. We used to hit the Buffets at least once a week. We had a guy in our group who worked at Pizza Hut and would get us discounts on pizzas for our Bible studies. They were always innovating. The cheese stuffed crust. The triple decker pizza. The cheese bread sticks. The Edge pizza. I personally discovered several new flavors - the bacon cheeseburger for example. I never would order Papa John's or Dominos or Little Caesar's. It was Pizza Hut or nothing.

Then something happened. I still don't know what it was. Maybe it was when Pepsico spun off the restaurants. Maybe it was when Pizza Hut decided to become a glorified fast food joint. Whatever it was, the fact is that Pizza Hut just is horrible now. I keep wanting to give it another chance - hoping that they will get their act together. But it just gets worse and worse. They bring out new items. Eventually we try them. Then we regret it.

One of the biggest problems is that the pizza is greasy. The newer items really suffer from this grease problems. The new Panormous individual pizza is like a giant sponge. Then there is the pepperoni rolls. Now, we all know that pepperoni drips more oil than a AMC Gremlin. The only way to avoid this is actually to put the pepperoni on top of the cheese and get it crispy, which locks the oily goodness inside. (It is weird how the only pizza chain who has figured this out is Donato's. Papa John's actually buries it UNDER the cheese.) Well, imagine locking this oil stick INSIDE of a mini calzone. No, not a calzone. That would imply ricotta and, you know, taste. It is like a roll with mozzarella and pepperoni in it - and then rubbed in lard. So it is greasy on the outside and oily on the inside. But, at least it is balanced, I guess. The sauce also has undergone a transformation. I call it the "antacid negator." I can have take a Prilosec, chew a couple Extra Strength Rolaids as an appetizer, and drink Milk of Magnesia in a tall frosted mug. A few hours later, bang!, a volcano erupts in my stomach. Yay!

Then you have the Pizza Mia! This is one of the worst ideas I have ever seen at a restaurant. It is just like a regular Pizza Hut pizza, except they used different crust, sauce, and cheese. Other than that, it is identical. Carbon copy. While the recent degradation in quality at the Hut may actually make it seem like a complete change is a good idea, when you replace the questionable items with downright disgusting, well that is not a good deal. Sure, it is cheap. But most frozen pizzas cost the same or less and are better. And don't even get me started on their wings.

I'm not sure why Pizza Hut decided to become a fast food establishment. But it did. Now you can find the Hut slumming in Target food courts everywhere. All the pizzas are frozen and get tossed into the conveyer belt attached to a space heater. Seven minutes later, WHAM, mediocre pizza sitting in a puddle of grease. Now these pizzas have a half life of about six minutes. This means that after six minutes it is only halfway food. Instead of melted cheese, liquid sauce, and grease saturated bread sponge, it now looks like a toy pizza. There is no way to customize the pizza at all. The same approach is found at the combination Hut/Taco Bell/A&W/Long John Silver's out there. Mmmmm. Multiple iterations of mediocrity. Taste the dullness. Even the old sit down Pizza Huts are being retrofitted. Instead of being helped by a waitress, there is a counter and a serve-your-own drink stand. And lots of prefab pizzas.

So what happened? No clue. I have no idea if this has paid off financially for the company or not. I just know that every time I eat there it feels like I rubbed oil on my face and set a fire in my stomach. THAT's a winning endorsement, people - especially for a guy who thinks pizza may just have been what the Old Testament calls manna. Whatever. I have plenty of other pizza places to enjoy - like Barnaby's and Decent Pizza and, what's it called, oh yeah, Tombstone.

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