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  • Pizza Hut sales fall 4% in Dec., launching ''casual' dine-in prototype

LOUISVILLE, Ky. -- Sales at U.S. company-owned Pizza Hut restaurants declined 4 percent for the four-week period ending Dec. 28, while numbers for the Dallas-based company's fourth quarter rose 1 percent.

According to a news release, Pizza Hut said the shift of the Thanksgiving holiday to period 13 (its final reporting period for fiscal 2002) negatively impacted sales, which were on an upswing in the fall.

On the heels of its Chicago Dish introduction, the chain posted same-store sales increases of 5 percent in October and 1 percent in November.

* Pizza Hut is rolling out a new dine-in prototype in Columbia, Tenn., on Jan. 28.

According to the Columbia Daily Herald, spokesperson Julie Hildebrand called the site "the first Pizza Hut you'll see of this type anywhere."

The new design will seat 100 diners and feature an expanded menu with a hot buffet but no salad bar.

"It's gonna resemble something along the line of a fast-casual restaurant, versus fast-food," Hildebrand said. "Kind of like an Applebee's or Chili's."

* On the international front, Pizza Hut is eyeing 22 mid-size cities in India as home for 55 projected new units.

According to the Financial Times, that would bring the Pizza Hut unit count there to 100 by 2004.

Among the new markets mentioned are the towns of Jalandhar, Ludhiana, Dehradun, Shimla, Kochi, Meerut, Nashik, Madurai, Pondicherry, Indore and Mysore.

Each new restaurant will cost Rs 1.5-2 crore (U.S. $300,000 to $400,000).

Pankaj Batra, director of marketing for Yum! Restaurants International, franchisor of Pizza Hut in India, said the country is among the "top five growth markets for Pizza Hut. We are experiencing double-digit growth in India and hence are confident about expanding our operations in the country."

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