TIME Food

What Pizza Hut’s Radical New Menu Actually Tastes Like

Pizza Hut Menu Launch Press Event in NYC
Pizza Hut unveils its new menu in New York on on November 10, 2014. Rob Kim—Getty Images/Pizza Hut

Depends how you feel about honey sriracha crust and balsamic drizzles

The half-dozen servers were dressed in all black, down to the sleek leather gloves they wore as they doled out slices of Pretzel Piggy, Old Fashioned Meatbrawl and Cherry Pepper Bombshell. On the side: balsamic, buffalo, BBQ and honey sriracha sauces, or in Pizza Hut’s new parlance, “drizzles.” All of it was surrounded by a new logo, new delivery boxes, new casual-looking uniforms, and a new motto: “The Flavor of Now.”

This is the new, at times unrecognizable, Pizza Hut. Or, at least, it was the one shown to members of the media Monday afternoon to mark what David Gibbs, the company’s newly installed CEO, calls “one of the biggest moves we’ve ever made in our history.”

On Nov. 19, Pizza Hut will essentially relaunch its entire brand, changing the food it serves, the way its ordered and even the company logo. There are 11 new signature pizzas, six new sauces, 10 new crust flavors and four drizzles — enough options to allow for 2 billion unique pizza combinations. For the company known for trencherman staples like Stuffed Crust, Meat Lover’s and Supreme, the new menu is the fast-food equivalent of a Hail Mary pass.

“It’s a fear of irrelevance,” says Darren Tristano, a food industry analyst at Technomic. “But the potential to negatively influence their current customer base is certainly there.”

It’s a risk Pizza Hut is willing to take, though they’re hedging bets by keeping those old favorites on the menu. Sales at the nation’s largest pizza chain have been dropping for two years, as Domino’s, Little Caesars and Papa John’s—the No. 2, 3 and 4 chains, respectively—have cut into Pizza Hut’s business. Regional build-your-own pizza chains like Blaze and Pieology and customization-heavy fast-casual brands like Chipotle are also luring diners from the pan pizza depot.

“America’s tastes are changing,” Gibbs says. “People are interested in bold new flavors. It’s a pretty natural move to be the one to take the pizza category where nobody’s taken it before with all these new flavors and ingredients.”

Domino’s offered a template in 2009, when the company admitted that its sauce and crust weren’t that great and invited customers to taste the new version. They bolstered their campaign with an updated social media presence and smoother online ordering to cater to millennials. Sales have soared since, which is as much a reason for Pizza Hut drizzling hot sauce on garlic crusts as anything.

So what does the “flavor of now” taste like? Thankfully, better than it sounds (The Cock-a-Doodle Bacon. Why?).

We started with Pizza Hut’s new asiago breadsticks alongside four dipping sauces: balsamic, BBQ, buffalo and honey sriracha. They’re miles from your basic marinara or cheese sauce, but not necessarily for the better. Whether dipping in the sweet but mild balsamic, tangy, molasses-heavy BBQ, unmemorable buffalo or lightly spicy honey sriracha, my asiago sticks longed for a red sauce.

The newfangled pizzas tended to come together better. The Cock-a-Doodle Bacon pie is spread with a creamy garlic parmesan sauce topped with grilled chicken and bacon. The riff on Alfredo is rich enough that you don’t miss the marinara.

The Old Fashioned Meatbrawl is a reasonably restrained update on the classic topping: the meatballs are small enough not to dominate each bite, and a garlic crust adds an extra salty pop.

Cherry Pepper Bombshell is also better than it sounds. The cherry peppers and balsamic drizzle add a sweet punch that goes well with meaty salami. But the shower of fresh spinach on top didn’t add much. It felt similarly unnecessary on the Pretzel Piggy, which is one of the most convoluted combinations on the new signature menu. A salted pretzel crust with the creamy garlic parmesan sauce from the Cock-a-Doodle is topped with bacon, mushrooms and spinach and then finished with a balsamic drizzle. It worked, kind of, though you’d need to be in a particular kind of mood to take one down solo.

The custom crusts are Pizza Hut’s attempt to make choosing your dough as common as picking your toppings. Of the two new ones I tried, the Ginger Boom Boom crust—with regular cheese and marinara—was subtle, a bit garlicky, with only a mildly taste of ginger. The honey sriracha crust (with a pepperoni topping), meanwhile, was sticky and a bit too overpowering.

So is this really what millennials crave? Maybe. Pizza Hut will likely cast off a kicked-up drizzle, flavor-dusted crust or meatbrawl pie if it turns out it isn’t selling. Besides, it’s not as if Pizza Hut is a sauce and dough purist.

“We’ve always been the one taking the category to new places,” says Gibbs, Pizza Hut’s CEO. “Yes, the younger customers are more interested than the older demographics in experimenting with flavor. But I think across all demographics, there’s something on the menu for everybody.”

Read next: Watch McDonald’s Prove the McRib Is Made of Actual Food

TIME Fast Food

Pizza Hut’s New Menu Has All Kinds of Crazy Stuff

Pizza Hut Sweet Sriracha Dynamite
Pizza Hut's "Sweet Sriracha Dynamite" Pizza Hut

Salted pretzel and curry!

Pizza Hut is taking a ride on the wild side to halt its recent sales decline.

A new menu launching Nov. 19 includes 10 new crusts, new topping and sauce options, and a selection of more low-calorie pies, the Associated Press reports. The new sauces include premium crushed tomato and honey sriracha. The new crust flavors include salted pretzel, toasted cheddar, curry, and fiery red pepper. The curry flavor is one of two that will be offered for a limited time and switched out regularly.

Pizza Hut’s new offerings are an attempt to turnaround consistent declines in sales, CNBC reports. Pizza Hut has experienced a 2%-decline in same-store sales over the past year, while its competitors Papa John’s and Domino’s have grown.

[AP]

TIME Laws

Arkansas Keeps ‘Patchwork Prohibition’ on Alcohol

Alcohol Liquor Store
In half of Arkansas's counties, liquor sales are prohibited. A constitutional amendment being voted on today would change that. Ted S. Warren—AP

Half of the state's counties are dry, and they're staying that way for now

Arkansas voted Tuesday against allowing alcohol sales statewide, preserving the status quo of “patchwork prohibition” that exists in half of the state’s counties.

With 96% of precincts reporting, 57% of voters said no to the Arkansas Alcohol Beverage Amendment, which would’ve changed the constitution to allow for the manufacture, sale and distribution of liquor, beer and wine across the state. Arkansas has one of the highest concentrations of dry counties left in the U.S. Thirty-seven are currently dry while 38 are wet.

The issue largely pitted churches, existing liquor stores in wet counties and rural, conservative residents against more liberal, populous counties and out-of-state retailers looking to get a foothold in previously dry regions. The ballot initiative appeared to have significant support as recently as last month. But support for the amendment eroded as its main opponents, led by Citizens for Local Rights, vastly outspent the initiative’s backers.

“We started late and didn’t have the resources to get our message out,” says David Couch, a lawyer and chair of Let Arkansas Decide, which led the campaign to legalize alcohol statewide.

Couch’s organization raised about $200,000 and was supported mainly by out-of-state convenience stores. Citizens for Local Rights raised $1.8 million from roughly 900 contributors, many of which were existing Arkansas liquor megastores, often near the border of a dry county.

Polling had shown growing opposition to the amendment in the weeks leading up to the vote. Citizens for Local Rights’ primary message was simple: Don’t let the liberal-leaning urban counties dictate to the smaller, conservative ones. Add in some help from local pastors and churches warning of legalizing a vice in heavily Christian areas, and it appears that message resonated with voters.

But Couch of Let Arkansas Decide says he’s not giving up. His next move is to try to get state legislators to reduce the threshold required to get the issue, known as the “local option,” on the ballot county by county. Signatures of 38% of registered voters within a county must be collected to trigger a vote.

“If that doesn’t work, we will refile the measure and start earlier,” Couch says. “And hopefully be better funded.”

TIME Election 2014

Arkansas Could Finally End Prohibition After More Than 80 Years

Alcohol Liquor Store
In half of Arkansas's counties, liquor sales are prohibited. A constitutional amendment being voted on today would change that. Ted S. Warren—AP

Voters will decide Nov. 4 whether to turn the state's dry counties wet

Drop a pin on a map of Arkansas and your chances of finding a stiff drink there are about 50-50. But that could soon change if enough residents vote for a constitutional amendment on Tuesday’s ballot that would open the entire state to beer, wine and liquor sales for the first time since the 1930s.

Arkansas is one of dozens of states that allow local municipalities to make their own decisions about selling booze, but only about 10 states actually have dry counties, most of which are in the South. The result is what’s known as “patchwork prohibition,” where the state is divided into wet, dry and even moist (beer and wine only) counties.

The divisions can be confusing, with wet cities occasionally in dry counties and highly-profitable liquor stores almost always parked just across the border from booze-less regions. In Texas, for example, 49 of the state’s 254 counties are wet, 11 are dry and the rest are a combination of wet and dry. Alabama has 25 dry counties, but many cities within them are wet. And in Kentucky’s 120 counties, 39 are dry, 32 are wet and 49 are some combination of the two. No state comes closer to an equal division than Arkansas, where 37 counties are dry and 38 counties are wet.

Opening these dry counties to alcohol sales has become an increasingly popular economic development tool. Several counties in Kentucky have used their “local option” to expand liquor sales in the last couple years, while voters in Alabama’s largest remaining dry city are considering a similar ballot initiative Tuesday as well (the 2012 push failed by close to 400 votes).

Unlike most other votes on the wet/dry issue, the Arkansas Alcoholic Beverage Initiative—which would allow the “manufacture, sale, distribution and transportation of intoxicating liquors” throughout the state beginning on July 1, 2015—is subject to a statewide vote. That’s because attorney David Couch, the chair of pro-wet group Let Arkansas Decide, found that the number of signatures required for getting the measure on the state ballot was not much more than what it would’ve taken in just the three counties he had initially targeted.

Couch’s main rationale is economic. He cites a University of Arkansas study showing that if Faulkner, Craighead and Saline counties were wet—three of the state’s biggest counties, and ones where Walmart has expressed interest in selling booze —they would each generate an additional $12 million to $15 million in annual economic activity. And he estimates the total statewide benefit of going wet at an additional $100 million a year. But Couch has other motives, too.

“These dry counties make my state look kind of backward, and I don’t like that,” he says. “This is a much more modern approach to alcohol regulation.”

The amendment seemed to have signs of support in September. But the opposition appears to have grown in recent weeks. Part of that may be a huge cash infusion from Citizens for Local Rights, a group opposed to the amendment. The organization has raised $1.8 million compared to $200,000 for Couch’s Let Arkansas Decide.

Citizens for Local Rights is backed largely by liquor retailers in wet counties that want to keep out new competition. The Conway County Liquor Association, for example, has given the group $540,000. All six counties surrounding Conway are dry. The amendment has also been criticized by religious leaders wary of making alcohol more available.

Brian Richardson, chairman of Citizens for Local Rights, casts the issue as a matter of regional autonomy—no small claim in a vote that will come down partly to rural turnout. “It’s a badly written, overreaching amendment that guts local communities from being able to make decisions on a local level,” he says. “It’s letting people in the more populous counties determine this.”

Couch says his only poll found majority support for passage, but it was conducted last month. Richardson says his group’s final survey points to partial prohibition remaining in place, with 58% of respondents opposed to the amendment.

“I hate to jinx ourselves,” Richardson says. “But I think we’ll have a decisive victory.”

TIME relationships

Woman Spends Entire Week In KFC After Getting Dumped By Her Boyfriend

Col Harland Sanders founder of Kentucky Fried Chicken
Col. Harland Sanders, founder of Kentucky Fried Chicken. John Olson—The LIFE Images Collection/Getty

"I just wanted some chicken wings."

After getting dumped by her boyfriend, a woman in China realized that only one person could help her in her time of need: Colonel Sanders.

Tan Shen, 26, accidentally on-purpose spent a full week at a 24/7 KFC in Chengdu, calling in sick to work, to mourn the loss of her relationship.

“I hadn’t planned on staying there long, I just wanted some chicken wings,” Tan told Yahoo. “But once I got in there and started eating I decided I needed time to think.”

But is KFC really where you’d want to spend your time of mourning? Are the chicken wings really that good?

After all, Tan herself admits that after a week, “I was getting sick of the taste of chicken, so there was no point in staying there anymore.” (That and local media started showing up to take photos).

Here are some places that might have been better week-long hideaways:

McDonald’s
Find a Play Place and start enjoying the little things in life again.

Walmart
If it’s good enough for a 9-month pregnant woman, as depicted in Where The Heart Is, it should be good enough for the lovesick.

Anthropologie
Just so aesthetically pleasing.

A make-your-own, pay-by-the-pound Fro-Yo shop
Because… cliches.

Maybe then Tan would have looked slightly more upbeat:

TIME Food & Drink

This Exists: A Levitating Gin and Tonic

A bartender may be able to make you a decent gin and tonic, but it takes a mad food scientist who dabbles in mixology to make it levitate

Charlie Harry Francis, a culinary inventor who has brought the world such edible items as zero-calorie mists in flavors like apple pie, lobster and smoked bacon, glowing jellyfish-flavored ice cream, Viagra-flavored frozen desserts, a Popcorn Hairdryer and something called the Soup Washing Machine has turned his attention to making an anti-gravity cocktail.

Francis and his Lick Me I’m Delicious laboratory teamed up with Bristol University ultrasonics expert Bruce Drinkwater to create the floating cocktail and put the Levitron to good use making strong drinks. The machine suspends droplets of very strong alcohol in levitating field formed by supersonic sound waves. (The truly curious can read more here).

Because the droplets simply float in space, there is no glassware necessary to drink the cocktail. Instead, imbibers simply slurp up the floating droplets. Beware, though, a mere four droplets may be enough to get you drunk. “It has to be strong because it is such small quantities of alcohol,” Francis told the Bristol Post.

“So far we have made a levitating gin and tonic at 70 per cent proof and a levitating Bloody Mary cocktail using vodka at 160 per cent proof which will blow your socks off.”
If the cocktails don’t blow your socks off, the machine’s price tag might. It currently costs $48,000 (£30,000) and takes two hours to set up.
TIME Diet/Nutrition

10 Mistakes That Make Cravings Worse

Cupcake choices, Crushcakes Cupcakery and Cafe, Santa Barbara, California
UIG/Getty Images

Cravings—such a dirty word when you’re trying to lose weight or keep it off. No matter what your “I-want-it-now” food is—pizza, burgers, ice cream, cupcakes—you probably wrestle with what you want to do (eat it now!) with what you “should” do (go eat veggies). Unfortunately, it’s true that many of our daily habits actually make cravings more intense and frequent, making healthy decisions harder. That doesn’t mean you can’t do something about it. Learn the 10 biggest mistakes that make cravings even worse to get yours under control.

You skimp on breakfast

Maybe you’re not hungry in the a.m., but eating some calories now can keep cravings at bay later. In one study in the Nutrition Journal, overweight girls who ate a 350-calorie breakfast with at least 13 grams of protein had reduced cravings for sweet and savory foods compared to breakfast skippers. Researchers aren’t exactly sure why, but protein may help stimulate the release of dopamine, a neurochemical involved in the brain’s reward centers that can help manage cravings. A half-cup of cottage cheese, 2 hard-boiled eggs, or a cup of cooked oatmeal with two tablespoons of peanut butter will do the trick.

Your serving is too big

You’ve got a craving for brownies, you’re going to have some, and you’re okay with that. So you take three. Thing is, you probably only needed half, suggests a 2013 study from Cornell University. Research on 104 students found that people who were given small snack-sized portions of chocolate, apple pie, or potato chips reported feeling as satisfied as those presented with larger servings—and they ate 76.8% fewer calories. So take a small serving, eat it and enjoy, and then wait 15 minutes until the yearning for more subsides.

You don’t eat anything

Craving candy? Try eating a bowl of super-sweet sliced strawberries. What about chips? Crunch on salted, in-shell pistachios. Substituting what you’re jonesing for with a similar-tasting healthy equivalent should be enough to satisfy you, says Marisa Moore, RD, a spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. “Cravings are short-lived and soon you’ll forget about it but will have helped your health with a good snack. It’s a win-win,” she says. However, if chips—and only chips—will do, count out one serving, eat them slowly, and be done.

You don’t know why you’re craving something

You can’t get your hand out of the bag of cheesy crackers. If you don’t understand why, you can’t do anything about it, says Christine Palumbo, RD, a faculty member of Benedictine University in Lisle, IL. She recommends keeping a cravings journal. It doesn’t have to be anything fancy—just jot down a few notes on your phone. When a craving hits, log your emotions: you’re tired, anxious, stressed, bored. Eventually, you’ll pick out common patterns, and you can deal with the causes head on, rather than trying to eat as a solution.

You don’t pair the food you crave with something healthy

Cravings aren’t all or nothing. You can satisfy your yearning while still eating healthy by pairing a larger portion of healthy foods with a small amount of what you think you want. It works because it makes meals more fun and tasty, but still gives your body the nutrition it needs to function at its best, suggests a Vanderbilt University study. The researchers call it a “vice-virtue bundle.” So here’s how to do it: order the salad with grilled salmon with a side of fries or get a piece of grilled chicken and veggies with a small bowl of mac and cheese. Fill up on the good stuff, and eat a quarter to half a portion of the splurge.

You pile on the guilt

It’s your friend’s birthday and there is cake. If you eat a slice, will you feel joyous or wracked with guilt? Delighting in delicious food rather than feeling shame about eating it may be key. People who said they associated chocolate cake with celebration had more control over their eating habits and had less trouble maintaining and losing weight, reported a 2014 study in the journal Appetite. One reason? Feeling guilty may make you try to ignore your thoughts, a strategy that actually backfires, causing you to obsess over the cake even more.

You try willpower

Straight-up willpower doesn’t always work. “It leads people to feeling like failures when they give in,” says Moore. A winning strategy: distraction. One study found that three minutes spent playing the game Tetris reduced the strength of food cravings better than a control condition where people spent the same amount of time waiting around. A 15-minute walk can also help reduce chocolate cravings, reports a 2013 UK study. Since cravings usually don’t stick around long, you just need to stick it out momentarily.

You keep temptation around

The mental battle between you and the box of cookies in the pantry does not have to be fought every day. “Out of sight, out of mind,” says Moore. “If it’s 10 p.m. and you want a cookie, you’re probably not going to go out and get some,” she says. On the other hand, if they’re staring you in the face every time you open the pantry, it’s all too easy to grab one. If your family insists you keep foods like cookies in the house, at least move them to the back of the pantry. Hide them behind the box of fruit-and-nut bars, so you see those first. And avoid buying crave-worthy snack foods in bulk from warehouse stores, adds Palumbo, since the more you have around, the more you’ll eat.

You’re dieting

You’ve got good intentions: in an effort to eat well, you tell yourself that the doughnut is off limits or the burger is sinful or a “bad” food. But your perception matters. Dieters have more intense and harder-to-resist cravings than non-dieters or people who are just trying to maintain their weight, particularly for their off-limits foods, according to a study published in Appetite. “When you deny yourself foods you love all the time, it will build up and explode, making you more likely to binge,” says Palumbo. Allowing yourself a little something every day, whether you’re looking to lose weight or not, can help take the power away from your cravings

You use Instagram or Pinterest

Gooey grilled cheese. A fudge-topped sundae. Pizza. Food porn is fun to look at, but don’t be shocked when suddenly you’re struck with a desire to run to the nearest Mexican restaurant or gelato store. In a small preliminary study from the University of Southern California, researchers found that images of high-calorie foods spark more activity in the reward areas of the brain than photos of low-cal fare.

There are plenty of health bloggers out there who create delicious-looking-but-nutritious food, so if you can’t resist food porn, at least follow people who post pics of healthy eats. Maybe you’ll be inspired to cook something new tonight.

This article originally appeared on Health.com.

More from Health.com:

 

TIME Science

Could Bacon Stop Nosebleeds?

Doctors have been recognized for using cured pork to stop a 4-year-old's uncontrollable nosebleed

The 2014 Ig Nobel Prize trophy is hoisted high during a performance at the Ig Nobel Prize ceremony at Harvard University, in Cambridge, Mass., Sept. 18, 2014. Charles Krupa / AP

Michigan doctors who used cured pork to stop a nosebleed won a 2014 Ig Nobel prize, awarded by the Annals of Improbable Research magazine at Harvard University for especially imaginative scientific achievements.

Dr. Sonal Saraiya and her team at the Detroit Medical Center decided to try the folk remedy as a “last resort” after failed attempts to stop an uncontrollable nosebleed in a 4-year-old who suffers from Glanzmann thrombasthenia, a rare condition in which blood does not properly clot. They stuffed strips of cured pork into the child’s nostrils twice, and the hemorrhaging ceased.

Why did it work? “There are some clotting factors in the pork,” she said, the Associated Press reports, “and the high level of salt will pull in a lot of fluid from the nose.”

The awards also recognized researchers who explored whether owning a cat is bad for your mental health (it might be), Japanese scientists who studied whether banana peels are actually slippery (they’re not), and Norwegian biologists who set out to discover if people dressed like polar bears could scare reindeers (they can).

TIME Fast Food

Pizza Hut Is Now Selling Giant Cookies Cut Like Pizza

Pizza Hut's Cookie Pizza
Pizza Hut's Cookie Pizza Pizza Hut/Yum!

A new dessert item

Pizza Hut’s menu just got a little sweeter. The pizza chain will begin delivering giant chocolate chip cookies sliced up like their famous pies on Monday.

Pizza Hut teased the new menu item on its Facebook page Sunday night.

The cookie, formally named the “Ultimate Hershey’s Chocolate Chip Cookie” will cost $4.99 with a pizza and $5.99 alone, the Chicago Tribune reports, and serves about 8. On Wenesday, 10% of each cookie’s sale will go to the World Food Programme during a nation-wide “bake sale.”

“Millennials tell us it’s what they want,” Carrie Walsh, chief marketing officer at Pizza Hut, told USA Today of the new pizza cookie. “They like to cap off a great pizza with a great dessert.”

TIME Videos

Watch Gluten-Free People Struggle To Explain What Gluten Is

Jimmy Kimmel asks people in L.A.: what is gluten?

Back in January, Girl Scouts of America announced that in addition to Samoas, Tagalongs and Thin Mints, they were going to offer gluten-free cookies to customers. It is part of a nationwide dietary trend to avoid gluten and foods that traditionally contain gluten like wheat bread, cookies, and pasta.

While some people need to avoid gluten for medical reasons (celiac disease, wheat allergies, etc.), others choose to do so for other health or fitness reasons. TIME labeled the gluten-free movement #2 on its top 10 list of food trends back in 2012 and, as the trend continues, restaurants and food manufacturers are eager to cash in by offering alternatives to gluten-based products. Even Dunkin Donuts — the cathedral for those of us who choose to worship the holy trinity of fat, sugar and gluten — is offering gluten-free baked goods.

But what exactly is gluten?

Hoping to answer that question, Jimmy Kimmel sent a camera crew to a park in Los Angeles to ask people who admit to choosing a gluten-free diet to ask: “What is gluten?”

MORE: NextDraft: How The FDA Defines Gluten-Free and Other Fascinating News on the Web

MORE: Can Frozen Food Companies Make TV Dinners Cool Again?

Your browser, Internet Explorer 8 or below, is out of date. It has known security flaws and may not display all features of this and other websites.

Learn how to update your browser