I just got home from Dallas, TX, where I had the opportunity to attend a press trip to Pizza Hut headquarters. Why the heck would I go to Pizza Hut? Well, you might have heard about their new collab with Udi’s and GIG on a new gluten-free pizza. As you can tell by my THOUSANDS UPON THOUSANDS of shares and “likes” of my news-breaking story about this pizza, people are excited. But, like I expected – people are also very apprehensive (especially after big fails like Domino’s…). This is my story about exploring the new Pizza Hut endeavor.
**DISCLAIMER: I was reimbursed for any of my travel expenses during this press trip. That’s pretty typical for any blogger press trip. I was also given a gift basket full of Udi’s gluten-free products – but you already know that they’re one of my GFBFFs. I received several Pizza Hut gift cards, but those are for my readers. The fact that I received a press trip to Dallas does not reflect in my review of the product. I am not, as a Twitter troll stated, a shill for Pizza Hut now – but thanks for raising my blood pressure.**
FOR MORE INFORMATION: https://order.pizzahut.com/glutenfree
So why, oh why, am I getting excited for a massive quick service restaurant doing a gluten-free pizza?
They are doing it right.
They are working with the biggest gluten-free brand in North America – Udi’s Gluten Free – that offers certified products and rigid standards. They are working with a top consultant in the gluten-free world – Gluten Intolerance Group’s Gluten-Free Food Service Training & Management Certification Program (GFFS). The Pizza Hut genuinely cares and wants this program to succeed. A brand manager said to us, “we want to do it the right way – we love our community and don’t want them to get sick.”
HERE ARE THE FACTS!
- Gluten free is a super huge trend in food service right now. According to a Pizza Hut brand rep, the “when are we going to have gluten free pizza?” is the biggest question she’s heard from customers in years.
- The launch for this pizza will be in 2,400 Pizza Hut stores across the US. These will be in large markets, small markets, and everything in between.
- You can find a list of these stores and the store near you on MONDAY 1/26/15 at https://order.pizzahut.com/glutenfree
- These stores were the ones that bought into the concept and wanted to bring the gluten-free pizza to their restaurant
- This will grow based on demand, so if you want gluten-free at a store near you – TELL THEM! If you have the gluten-free pizza at a store near you – EAT IT.
- Company-wide training happened last week, and online/webinar training also happened last week.
- Many readers were asking “what about new employees after this company-wide training?” They will receive online training, as well as training with a manager before they are allowed to make one of these gluten-free GIG certified pizzas
- Managers will watch the gluten-free program closely. If there are any struggles with the team members or the process, they will immediately let Pizza Hut know, so Pizza Hut can best modify the process for the team.
- Readers also asked about the “teenagers” that work at Pizza Hut (implying that they just don’t care about rules)? How do I know that they will take it seriously? Well, honestly, you don’t. But that applies to any employee the second you step foot outside of your house. However, Pizza Hut has rigid training programs in place. Other restaurants don’t.
- The restaurants that have gluten-free items available do NOT have “flour flying all over the air” like what you think of when you think of a typical pizzeria. Therefore you will not have to worry about the loose flour transmitting to your pizza in the oven, or flour on someone’s apron accidentally touching your pizza (even though that’s also a health code violation on top of being gross).
- New gloves are required at the start of the process. This entire process is laid out on laminated infographic-type cards for employees to get a step-by-step reminder of how to keep us safe. Unfortunately, it’s proprietary material so I can’t photograph it.
- The Udi’s crust (just like the ones we buy in the freezer at the store) is wrapped and stored in a separate container, on a separate shelf in our fridge (above the gluten-containing ones in case of crumbs falling).
- The cheese, marinara sauce and pepperoni are stored in a gluten-free designated kit – as seen below in my picture from the trip. Everything is stored in this purple plastic labeled kit, only – this is the only place they will live. Everything is in specific purple color-coded containers.
- Every gluten-free pizza is freshly baked on designated parchment paper in our ovens on top of the pizza pans. They do not touch the pans. Every pizza is baked on this parchment paper to avoid cross-contamination.
- By order of operations, even if the pizza had additional (non certified, but naturally gluten free) toppings added to it, the containers and the cheese wouldn’t touch these toppings because they are always added first.
- The pizza is cut with a designated cutter in a special box at the end of the line. “Regular” pizzas are cut with a giant awesome-looking cutter, while these special pizzas are cut with a cutter that you’d have in your kitchen for pizza. And yes, I was terrible at cutting my own pizza – just like I am at home.
- The gluten-free pizza comes in its own Udi’s branded box. You can’t miss it.
- So here’s the deal. I’m dairy free and I’m beef free, on top of gluten free. I am the worst person to actually consume this pizza (but I’m here as a member of the press, not as a professional pizza eater, although I fancy myself one occasionally). The cheese is real dairy and the pepperoni is a mix of pork and beef. So, while all the other bloggers had a delicious pizza that looks like a “typical” pizza, I…had crust…and sauce.
- And I broke the rules. I asked for additional toppings – you know, the ones that aren’t certified by GIG although they are naturally gluten free (like this spinach pictured below). The test kitchen got me fresh ingredients that were not touched by anyone else. Can this happen at your local Pizza Hut? Sure. You can always request fresh uncontaminated ingredients from the back. Just like what I do at Chipotle. It’s really cheating their system to mitigate cross contamination.
- However, please note, that you are ultimately in control of your health. There are certain procedures in place in a regular Pizza Hut to keep you as safe as humanely possible. If you request to go outside these perimeters, note that it’s no longer a GIG restaurant certified option. You’re basically assuming the same risk that you would have at any other restaurant that you would ask for special attention while dining out.
- My pizza, although barren compared to the other bloggers’ pizzas, was still delicious. Just like Udi’s at home. The sauce is killer – and apparently compared to other people who know Pizza Hut pizza, it makes the pizza taste more like a “regular” one. I use tomato paste at home, and this was a total sauce upgrade.
CUSTOMER FEEDBACK/COMPLAINTS/FOLLOW UP
- There will be a specific process for gluten-free complaints – don’t worry, your complaints will be heard by the TOP brand people at Pizza Hut – they are taking this VERY seriously.
- Customers can call the consumer hotline (1-800-948-8488) or leave a message on the “contact us” page.
- There will be a specific choice in the “contact us” form for gluten-free (see photo).
Pizza Hut Gluten Free Contact Form
- Like other typical GFCO/GIG certified places, GIG will do regular audits at random to make sure the proper procedures are in place. Pizza Hut also conducts their own audits as well.
- I begged them to partner with Daiya cheese to offer a GF DF option. Cross your fingers they’re like “that dairy-free girl is so smart” and investigate it further. Feel free to ping them about offering a dairy free option as well. However, you can order the pizza without cheese right now.
- I also begged them to offer additional toppings in a “certified” option from GIG, but they are just running with this program right now to see how it all turns out. Fingers crossed it goes well and they offer all of their toppings in a certified package at each restaurant – that would be so great!
So, overall I was very impressed with how they worked with Udi’s and GIG to make this the safest possible option. But I still want to know – what are your thoughts? Would you/will you eat here?
FOR MORE INFORMATION: https://order.pizzahut.com/glutenfree