Fast food has found one more place to try to grab a slice of pretzel mania: pizza crust.
Yep, here comes the pretzel pizza.
Little Caesars, the budget pizza chain, on Monday will announce plans to roll out the Soft Pretzel Crust Pepperoni Pizza. The $6 large pizza initially will be an eight-week, limited-time product that hits stores Sept. 1. But if sales are hot, it could become a permanent menu item, says CEO David Scrivano.
"When we saw the pretzel trend emerging a few years ago, we asked ourselves, 'What can we do?'" says Scrivano. "The product (will sell) itself."
The move comes as pretzels have found their way into everything from Wendy's burger buns to Blizzards at Dairy Queen. Also, Sonic rolled out a hot dog with a pretzel bun and Dunkin' Donuts put pretzel bread into its sandwiches. A trend that began several years ago in casual-dining restaurants has all but taken over the fast-food world.
The pretzel pizza is made with a four-cheese blend of Asiago, Fontina, Parmesan and White Cheddar. It's the outer edge of the pizza that has the thick, pretzel crust (which also is salted and buttered) — the rest of the pizza is made with traditional pizza dough.
"I'd buy one in a heartbeat," says Warren G. Sackler, hospitality professor emeritus at Rochester Institute of Technology. "It sounds better than a pizza bagel."
Little Caesars started working on the concept in 2012, says Scrivano. By 2013, it had a version in test marketing. But that one was a bit heavy on mustard and turned off some consumers. "Mustard is a pretty polarizing flavor," he notes.
So a new version — no mustard — went back into testing in four markets earlier this year. That product, the same as the one to be introduced Sept.1, also had gooey, cheddar cheese sauce instead of tomato sauce.
This may be just the beginning of soft pretzel possibilities at Little Caesars. The company also tested Pretzel Bites — bite-sized pieces of soft pretzel available with various dipping sauces. They are a future possibility, says Scrivano.
The Soft Pretzel Crust Pepperoni Pizza will be included in the chain's so-called Hot-N-Ready program, which offers pizza ready to go — no advance order needed — for carry-out customers between 4 p.m. and 8 p.m. local time.
For folks who prefer beer with their pretzels — and their pretzel pizzas — that won't happen at Little Caesars any time soon. None of the 4,000-plus units in 50 states sell beer.
But, says Scrivano, "they can take it home and have all the beer they want."