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Region Pizza Huts could could be replaced with express restaurants

A Pizza Hut restaurant in Crown Point is shown.

Pizza Hut plans to shutter 500 restaurants nationally over the next two years as it transitions from its traditional dine-in sit-down pizzerias to more of a focus on modern express stores that offer just delivery and carryout, or fast casual service in some cases.

The shift could effect some of the Plano, Texas-based chain's 204 Indiana locations, which includes more than 20 restaurants in Northwest Indiana, though the company has not identified which restaurants would close over the next two years.

Pizza Hut still operates the old school sit-down eateries, known for their distinctive roofs, in many Northwest Indiana communities, including Schererville, Crown Point and Munster.

Executives of the Pizza Hut parent company Yum! Brands, one of the largest fast food restaurant conglomerates in the world, said the pizza chain could reduce the 7,480-odd restaurants it operates in the United States to as few as 7,000 locations over the next two years.

That number is expected to rebound to at least its previous level as the chain replaces the shuttered eateries with new, smaller restaurants that offer fast-casual service. The company currently operates in the food courts of many Target big-box stores, has Pizza Hut Express locations, including at the Travel Centers Of America in Gary, and has carryout and delivery restaurants like the one it opened in Cedar Lake last year.

The pivot to a focus on takeout and delivery is similar to the approach of Pizza Hut rival Domino's, the largest pizza company in the United States by sales volume.

Yum Brands CEO Greg Creed said in a conference call with investors last year that a slowdown in same-store sales growth shows the company must pursue a strategy of closing underperforming dine-in restaurants and replacing them with pizzerias that only offer delivery, carryout and — in some cases — grab-and-go ready-to-eat personal pan pizzas. 

“We plan to lean in to accelerate the transition of Pizza Hut to a more modern delivery- and carryout-focused asset base," he said in the conference call. "This will ultimately position the Pizza Hut brand for many years of faster growth in the United States.”

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Business Reporter

Joseph S. Pete is a Lisagor Award-winning business reporter who covers steel, industry, unions, the ports, retail, banking and more. The Indiana University grad has been with The Times since 2013 and blogs about craft beer, culture and the military.