Pizza Hut gets new set of wings

Stacey Davis, left, Pizza Hut area manager, and Dan Booth, store manager, stand in front of the new Pizza Hut-WingStreet restaurant on North Prince Street that is one of only a handful of the co-branded dine-in eateries.

By Jean Verlich : CNJ news editor

About the only thing recognizable at the recently opened Pizza Hut on North Prince Street is the pizza.

The familiar red roof is gone, and taller windows inside make for a brighter interior, with warm woods and red brick.

In addition to pizza, the eatery also offers chicken wings and gourmet salads as a WingStreet restaurant, giving diners a broader menu.

“It’s a whole new version of Pizza Hut, kind of a jump-start for us,” said store manager Dan Booth.

Booth described it as a “sports bar-style atmosphere,” adding that there are “the wings, of course.”

According to Stacey Davis, area manager for Blankenship Partners, the franchise owner, the Clovis site is one of only four dine-in Pizza Hut-WingStreet restaurants in the country and the only one in New Mexico.

“As a market, Clovis has always been really strong for us,” Davis said.

Plainview, Texas-based Blankenship Partners also owns the Cotton Patch Cafe and Taco Villa in Clovis as well as another Pizza Hut on 21st Street and one in Portales. It owns 22 restaurants in Clovis, Portales and Texas.

“We felt like if we did it here and it worked for us, then it’d give us great confidence for other locations,” Davis said. “It’s a model restaurant.”

Davis said they have been pleased with the traffic since the restaurant opened a few weeks ago, calling it “outstanding.”

WingStreet originally was to be delivery-only, he said, and not a dine-in establishment.

Pizza Hut began including Buffalo wings on its menu more than 10 years ago and launched the WingStreet branded concept in 2004, according to Pizza Hut spokesperson Chris Fuller. He said there are nearly 800 WingStreet locations.

Davis said Blankenship Partners decided to make the investment in Clovis because they liked the WingStreet brand.

“We wanted to do something with a new format to attract people in a dine-in atmosphere,” Davis said, adding, “the old facility wasn’t set up for us to add WingStreet to it.”

The old facility at 1812 North Prince St. has been closed and for sale.
The new restaurant has 35 employees, about twice as many as the old one, and seats 125 patrons, compared with 90, Davis said.

While the floor plan for the new-style restaurant was developed by Pizza Hut, franchisees developed the decor, Davis said.

According to Booth, customer response has been favorable.

“They just like the atmosphere,” he said, adding that customers have said, “it doesn’t even feel like a Clovis restaurant.”

Neither Booth or Davis would commit to saying whether the menu at the other Clovis and Portales Pizza Huts would soon see wings.

“Once we get settled in, we may add the product to the other store here in town, and Portales also may become a WingStreet as well,” Booth said. “But we’re going to see how this goes. So far, so good.”

Pizza Hut has plans to expand the concept as well, Fuller said in an e-mail. “We are looking at a handful of different designs based on a similar concept to the new WingStreet in Clovis.”