US chain Pizza Hut has launched a cheese burger crusted pizza in the Middle East in a bid to tap the region’s love of wacky products and take a greater slice of the international fast food market.
The new 'Crown Crust Pizza' - dubbed a “masterpiece” in the accompanying video advert - is the latest attempt by the company to exploit the region’s acceptance of more innovative products, and to boost its international profits as US restaurant sales recover.
Earlier this week, the firm also launched pies with hot dog-stuffed crusts in the UK in the hopes of winning over the British public.
Pizza Hut is among a string of restaurants launching crazy promotions in other countries, with the likes of Dominoes, Burger King and McDonalds doing the same, according to media reports.
“The pizza is still new, so we have had some people ordering it but not everyone knows about it yet,” said a member of staff at Pizza Hut in the UAE. “For those who don’t know we offer it to them.”
Asked whether those who had ordered the new pizza came back for more, she said most did, but some complained about the salad garnish in the centre of the pizza.
“Because the salad is fresh it is cold, and so we’ve had some people complain and ask why is it cold? That’s the only thing.”
The Middle East has seen a surge in fast food chains entering the market and expanding in recent years as international brands look to bolster sales amid increased competition in their domestic markets.
High demand from locals and expats makes the region a particularly strong market for a wide range of concepts, especially in Gulf countries such as the UAE, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait.
In Saudi Arabia, the fast food sector is expected reach a value of US$4.5bn in the next three years, driven by orders from young, affluent citizens, according to a recent report by Euromonitor.
Franchise consultants say that on the back of the expected the growth, they have been bombarded with enquiries from fast food companies - especially from mid-sized firms - eyeing opportunities to open tens of stores around the region.
New Zealand fast food chain Burger Fuel said in December it planned to open another 12 stores across the Middle East in the near future, after regional sales grew by 47.29 percent to hit US$2m, boosted by outlets in Dubai and Saudi Arabia.
Tim Hortons, Canada’s largest restaurant chain, also announced plans to roll out 120 stores in the GCC over the next five years, while Smashburger said it had signed agreements for 17 stores in Kuwait, Bahrain and Saudi Arabia.
Unfortunately the growth in the fast food market has been also been partly blamed for bulging waistlines in the region, and the growing health concerns.
The Gulf states have some of the highest rates of obesity and type 2 diabetes in the world - the UAE ranking only behind the Pacific island of Nauru for diabetes incidence, closely followed by Bahrain, Egypt, Kuwait, Oman and Saudi Arabia.
Qatar, which has the highest per capita wealth around the globe, is also the obesity capital of the world, with over half the population overweight, according to a report in the UK earlier this month.