-- Cue the nostalgia toward middle school group projects.
Except your eight-grade math project probably didn’t end with a surprise pizza party courtesy of Pizza Hut, like this Clearview Middle School class’ did today.
The students, as a part of a statistics project about collecting, analyzing and plotting data, came up with ideas for new food products, and one team of three brainstormed a Bacon Mac n’ Cheese Stuffed Pretzel Crust Pizza that did well in surveys they conducted. As a part of the project, teams had to reach out to actual food companies to suggest the idea and ask for their feedback. Allyson Sooy, Sean Flannery and Nick Gabriele chose to write Pizza Hut about their zany pie.
“The class sent out 22 different letters. Each team sent out their own letter to a variety of companies,” class teacher Anne Paoletti told ABC News. “We’ve heard back from more than half with sometimes just a form letter or some coupons. Friendly’s sent an ice cream party to another class of students I have.”
But when Pizza Hut’s head of new product development Barbie King got the letter, she decided to take the suggestion a few steps further.
“We received the letter and thought it was a great idea. They sent us a product drawing of the recipe, and it was very well thought-out,” she told ABC News. “It really spoke to us, so we wanted to take their idea and run with it.”
King and her team then brought the product to life in their test kitchen, working through several versions before settling on the perfect one.
Next up was coordinating the Paoletti to surprise the students with their pizza.
“It was kind of funny because they had a test today, so I got them seated for their test,” she said. After making the students work for a few minutes, she told them to stop for a special surprise. Paoletti called Sooy, Flannery and Gabriele to the front of the classroom to read Pizza Hut’s letter reply.
“The letter was really awesome because it thanked the students for their ideas and effort. It said they loved the ideas, and at the very end it said the next phase would be to do a taste test and it invited them to come down to the multipurpose room in our school so they could enter the next phase,” she recounted. “The students were in disbelief. Who would ever think something like that would happen?”
King and her team were waiting in the multipurpose room for the students, where they served both cheese and pepperoni versions of the Bacon Mac n’ Cheese Stuffed Pretzel Crust Pizza the students had invented.
“The students were thrilled that their idea was heard,” Paoletti said. “Pizza Hut made the surprise so spectacular, and then in the conversations between the students and Pizza Hut, even life lessons and business lessons were worked into those conversations. It was a really amazing experience and I’m really grateful.”
It was a lesson to never forget for those students, but real life is returning soon enough: the rest of their test is waiting for them.