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NPC to close 300 Pizza Huts

Jonathan Riley
NPC International, which grew to become America's largest Pizza Hut franchisee from its original Pizza Hut location that opened in Pittsburg in 1962, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy last month. -- FILE PHOTO

PITTSBURG, Kan. — NPC International, Inc., which started with O. Gene Bicknell opening his first Pizza Hut in Pittsburg more than half a century ago and still has a corporate facility in town, but which filed for bankruptcy last month, will close 300 Pizza Hut locations, the company announced this week.

NPC currently owns 1,225 Pizza Hut locations out of 7,000 nationwide, according to the Associated Press, along with 385 Wendy’s restaurants. The decision to close hundreds of its stores, which will mostly be dine-in locations that are not well suited for carryout and delivery, was part of an agreement announced Monday with Pizza Hut, owned by Yum Brands, which also owns Taco Bell and KFC.

A timeline for the closures has not been determined. NPC has also not determined which specific Pizza Huts it will be closing.

“The optimization of NPC’s Pizza Hut restaurant footprint is expected to increase the potential value that could be generated from the Pizza Hut business, either through the sale path, or if value is not maximized through such effort, through a standalone plan of reorganization, and possibly through a hybrid of the two options,” NPC said in a press release.

“This deal provides tremendous benefits to NPC and its stakeholders by positioning the NPC Pizza Hut business to drive operational excellence through a streamlined portfolio and allowing for new development to rebuild and modernize Pizza Hut assets in viable trade areas, which will strengthen and benefit the broader Pizza Hut system and its loyal customers.”

Although pizza sales have spiked during the coronavirus pandemic as people increasingly order carryout and delivery, Pizza Hut has not done nearly as well as competitors such as Domino’s.

Pizza Hut also commented on the announcement of the restaurant closures in a statement to Business Insider, saying that "closing these restaurants, which significantly underperform the rest of NPC's Pizza Hut system, will strengthen NPC's portfolio."

"In the event NPC executes a sale of its Pizza Hut business, Pizza Hut's focus would be to ensure that new ownership brings to NPC's Pizza Hut restaurants a strong capital structure, healthy balance sheet, commitment to operational excellence, and a growth mindset," the restaurant chain said.