Pizza Hut Out: Ava’s restaurant one of 300 shut down nationwide

Michael Boyink/Herald In one week’s time the sign outside the Ava Pizza Hut location changed from “now hiring” to “closed.”

                                                        by Michael Boyink/mike@douglascountyherald.com

The rumors started before COVID-19 hit.

NPC International, a franchisee that runs 1 in 5 Pizza Hut locations nationwide, was in trouble. It was carrying too much debt. Investors expected a bankruptcy announcement.

COVID-19 proved to be the proverbial straw on the camel’s back. When added to the company debt plus rising food and labor costs, it proved too much.

NPC filed for Chapter 11  bankruptcy in July, which gives the company a chance to restructure itself and stay afloat.

Restructuring, in this case, meant closing 300 of their locations.

Including Ava’s Pizza Hut.

Michael Boyink/Herald
Sign posted on the Ava Pizza Hut door.

According to an NPC spokesperson, “As part of our restructuring process, we made the very difficult decision to close the Ava, MO Pizza Hut location. We did not take this decision lightly, and we are committed to providing support to impacted employees. Ultimately, these actions will best position our remaining restaurant business for success. NPC’s other Pizza Hut restaurants across the country remain open for business, supported by our 23,000 dedicated employees who are ready to serve our customers.”

Industry experts say the pizza market has shifted, and consumers prefer smaller stores that focus on carryout and delivery rather than the classic “red-roof” dine-in store like Ava’s.

The Ava Pizza Hut real estate is owned by Ava native Mary Givans Lambers, who now resides in Leawood, Kansas.

“I was very sad to hear of the closing of Pizza Hut,” she said. “I think all of us that grew up in Ava have fond memories of good times there. I have not heard of their future plans but hope they can find a way to reopen.”

When businesses close, jobs are lost. Schools and other non-profits lose potential partners and donors. Customers lose dining options.

Ava’s Pizza Hut closure affects the city in one additional way.

According to bankruptcy records posted online, the Pizza Hut franchise operator owes the City of Ava $4766.60 in unpaid utilities.