Pizza Hut Reaches Into Its Bag Of Nostalgia And Offers Mini Basketballs

The restaurant industry has had it rough lately thanks to exorbitant inflation, which can diminish restaurant profit margins and keep customers away. To regain lost traction, some quick service chains, like Chipotle, put a temporary moratorium on raising menu prices. By contrast, Pizza Hut, which was already 37 years old and working on perfecting the stuffed crust back in 1995 when Chipotle was still cutting its baby teeth, has a long and checkered history of reaching into its bag of nostalgic tricks when it finds itself in need of putting more oomph in its sales.  

This works, apparently, because Pizza Hut's older customers tend to eat up the opportunity to take Hut-related trips down memory lane (via Nation's Restaurant News). Of course, Pizza Hut also has a younger demographic it must woo in order to stay competitive, but it's had significant success in doing that as well – by coming up with new and creative "occasions" for grabbing a pizza (i.e., beyond weekend meals-slash-family dinners).

Now Pizza Hut's latest promotion seems designed to appeal to both the older nostalgia-hungry crowd and the younger crowd with an occasional weakness for pizza. In connection with the chain's seventh year as the "official pizza of March Madness" (i.e., NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament) – which creates multiple game-day occasions for Gens Y and Z to take home a pie, Pizza Hut has announced the return of a popular promotional item that hasn't been seen since the '90s.

Pizza Hut's Mini Basketballs are set to return with the First Four

On Wednesday, March 8, Pizza Hut announced that in connection with its sponsorship of the 2023 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament, it's bringing back its beloved Mini Basketballs for a limited time. The last time these smaller-than-regulation balls were seen at Pizza Hut was sometime during the 90s. Black and red and emblazoned with "No One OutPizzas The Hut," they'll become available on March 14, to coincide with the Tournament's "First Four" (i.e., the first four games, which will be played by the eight lowest-ranked teams).

The Mini-Basketballs will cost $7 apiece (not including tax) and will be available (while supplies last) through both the Pizza Hut website and the app, with the cooperation of participating restaurants in the U.S. In addition, starting now and also only while supplies last, customers who order Pizza Hut's Big New Yorker pie (a nostalgic encore from decades ago), will receive theirs in a cardboard box that transforms into a basketball hoop and backboard – just the right size for the Mini Basketballs.

Although the Mini Basketballs will not yet be available, March Madness begins on March 12 on CBS with "Selection Sunday" (during which the 68-team starting bracket will be revealed). The occasions for spectator pizza-eating will continue through the Championship Game on April 3. More detailed info, including whether your local Pizza Hut will be participating, can be found via the Pizza Hut locations page of its website.