Vegan Cheese arrives at Pizza Hut nationwide

I’ve been quite vocal online recently in my dismay at Pizza Hut charging an extra £1 for the use of Violife (a dairy free cheese substitute) on their pizzas following a successful trial across 5 branches in the South East of the country. The reason I found this so hard to swallow was the fact that many other chains offered an alternative but didn’t pass on the additional charge to the customer. The likes of PizzaExpress and ASK have been catering for vegans for a while and even had launched menus aimed at attracting more diners to try out the replacements. Local independents like Fell’s Kitchen also don’t levy a supplement, another reason why I was incredulous towards the Hut. Did they reduce the price when people ordered them cheese-free historically as they were making a saving on not adding dairy. Talk about milking your customers! 

The Teen loves a buffet lunches at Pizza Hut on account of his hollow legs, although since my switch to veganism and my desire to support independent restaurants I have been trying to steer him away. I decided to humour him – I don’t run a dictatorship, after all – and offered to take him along so I could try out the ‘amazing’ pizzas people on Facebook kept telling me about. Yes, I bristled at the idea of paying the quid for the cheese but if it was the best pizza I’d tasted perhaps it would be worth it?

It’s worth noting that the vegan cheese option isn’t available for delivery, and is only on offer at sit-in restaurants. I have to say straight off that the fact Pizza Hut don’t seem to offer a vegan starter or dessert option is bad form. For all I bemoan sorbet it is the least they could have on standby in the freezers and unfortunately theirs wasn’t suitable. I looked at the allergy advice folder and there was no mention of anything sweet and even the Garlic Bread wasn’t SFV. The waitress tried to upsell the £14.99 starter, main and drink deal to me (£15.99 for me once I added my vegan cheese) but I couldn’t take advantage of it. In fact, looking over the menu at the prices and to be paying £10.99 for an individual pizza when the buffet was on really annoyed me.

So, as the Teen tucked into his dairy-laden pizza I sat waiting for mine to arrive. I ordered the Veggie (mushrooms, spinach, sweetcorn, onions) but was told there was no spinach left. I opted for rocket instead. Despite photos I’d seen online, mine had a fair amount of Violife added to it. It looked decent enough, although I kept reminding myself that Central Oven & Shaker offered a bigger pizza for £1.50 less. If it weren’t for the unlimited salad bar I don’t think I’d have been happy with the value for money offered, to be honest.

Is Violife the best vegan cheese to be used as a pizza topping? It isn’t as bad as I expected, although I found it stuck to my teeth in a way the dairy version simply wouldn’t. It melted well though and was pleased to say Pizza Hut’s Pan base wasn’t as ‘soupy’ as Zizzi’s, for example, so was easier to eat. With plenty of options on the salad bar that are vegan friendly – including the ‘bacon’ bits – it was a decent lunch for me.If you don’t have many vegan options locally or have kids that like the buffet I understand why many will head to Pizza Hut, but I personally still think the charge isn’t reasonable. Yes, I want to encourage restaurants to offer vegan alternatives and make veganism more accessible but all the levy does is reinforce the notion that it is more expensive. 

I hope it is something they reconsider, especially as I know many aren’t visiting because they share my viewpoint on the additional charge. It seems like Pizza Hut still have some work to do on accommodating vegans as well as some of the other chains on the high street.

Thanks for reading,

Pip x

Want to know where you can get a dairy free pizza in Newcastle? We’ve listed all of the options in this post.

4 Comments

  1. Simon Woodman

    Sorry, I couldn’t fit this in a tweet…

    I support people’s choice over what to eat but I don’t see why the cost of their choice shouldn’t be passed onto them. IMO the choice of eating in a pizza restaurant and choosing vegan cheese is no different from choosing a goats cheese topping rather than black olives (premium topping rather than standard at Pizza Hut). The toppings cost the restaurant a different about to purchase either due to raw ingredient cost and/or volume of purchases.

    I appreciate that some people would choose one ingredient over the other based on a dietary preference that’s still a preference. If it costs the business more to buy the ingredients why shouldn’t they be free to pass that cost onto the customer? If a restaurant chooses to absorb the cost then that’s a simple business decision. If someone benefits from that then they are able to vote with their feet and choose to eat somewhere that charges less/nothing extra for their toppings of choice.

    The finances of a pizza restaurant will be that they could offer premium toppings including vegan cheese at no extra cost but increase the overall cost of every pizza to absorb that cost. In this case their business model is different from Pizza Hut’s but no less valid.

    I’m not defending Pizza Hut’s business model here, but I don’t think it’s unreasonable to pass on the additional cost of ingredients to the customer.

    I realise that your Son’s preference is for Pizza Hut but that’s just another preference that comes at a price – the overall meal cost will be more expensive than some other restaurants, but cheaper than others. Just like the toppings…

    Reply
    1. Emma Phillips (Post author)

      I think there’s a difference between charging for a premium product and taking advantage of someone’s dietary preferences/allergies, which is the reason some choose vegan over ‘regular’ cheeses. When someone orders a pizza from the menu and asks to switch pepperoni for extra peppers, usually there won’t be a charge. People have still been charged for switching the Violife with Goats’ Cheese, for example. So not only are they ‘saving’ on the premium ingredient they aren’t using they are making a profit.

      The only reason dairy is relatively cheap compared to the alternatives is thanks to subsidies. It will be interesting to see what happens once Brexit occurs to the prices.

      In other note, Violife is not that expensive a substitute compared to the Mozzarisella used by PizzaExpress who don’t pass on the charge. When you also compare the size of the pizzas I feel Pizza Hut have their pricing all wrong.

      Reply
      1. Carrie Walton

        I definitely think it’s poor form when a multi-million pound national chain like Pizza Hut charges extra for the dietary alternative, but so many local independent restaurants such as Fells Kitchen and Central Oven that you’ve linked to here can offer it as a no-cost alternative.

        If anything, it should be the opposite way round surely!

        That said, it’s a step in the right direction so we have to applaud them for taking the first step.

        Reply
  2. Emma Powell

    Brilliant post. Wish I had read this before I went to be honest. Totally agree with your thoughts- especially on the £1 charge, even my non-vegan parents found it a bit odd! Don’t think I’ll be visiting again- to be honest, I tried one of their Pizzas from a takeaway branch they have near me, and I ordered it without any cheese at all (before their whole ‘vegan cheese’ news came out) and it was actually better than with the cheese!
    Emma x

    Reply

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