Photo: Matt Winkelmeyer (iStock)

A restaurant analyst walks into a Pizza Hut. No, there’s no clever punch line, I’m just relaying the story: A restaurant analyst walks into a Pizza Hut in California and noticed the pizzeria was selling small shakers of red pepper flakes and Parmesan cheese near the register. These were priced at 99 cents, but such condiments are usually free. What gives?

The analyst, Mark Kalinowski, shared photos of these shakers with Nation’s Restaurant News, which confirmed with Pizza Hut that the for-sale toppings are indeed a real thing at several southern California locations. The shakers contain .88 ounces of grated cheese and .61 ounces of red pepper flakes, Pizza Hut told NRN. The shakers would presumably be an add-on to delivery or to-go orders. Kalinowski wrote in a report summarized by NRN that he believes wage increases in California have resulted in Pizza Hut operators attempting to recoup a little profit any way they can.

“While we do not blame operators for seeking out creativity in this regard, nickel-and-diming guests might not be the best way to go,” he wrote.

At this time, it’s unclear whether the smaller packets of cheese and pepper flakes would still be available for free at those Pizza Hut locations. Some Domino’s pizza locations also charge for one- or two-gram servings of red pepper flakes and Parmesan cheese.

So, should charging-for-flakes-and-cheese become the norm, will people pay for them? I guess I’d say yes to those free additions if I placed a delivery/takeout pizza order, but I don’t think I’d pay extra for them unless the pizza was being delivered to an office or brewery or some other place that didn’t have cheese and red pepper flakes on hand. At home, I always have both of those in my fridge/pantry, with the bonus that the Parmesan cheese is actual cheese and not 60-70 percent sawdust.

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