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Buffalo area Pizza Hut restaurants could soon be serving up the national pizza brand under new ownership.

A majority of the area's Pizza Hut restaurants are being sold by Tricon Global Restaurants Inc., the parent company of Pizza Hut, Taco Bell and KFC restaurants, to a new franchisee.

"We are in discussions with a potential buyer," said Jay Allison, a spokesman for Pizza Hut headquarters in Dallas.

The deal for 20 to 25 restaurants in Western New York and the southern tier is expected to close in late September, Allison said.

The Pizza Hut spokesman would not reveal the buyer, but said the party is an experienced restaurant franchise operator.

The transition from corporate to franchise-owned restaurants in Buffalo is part of Pizza Hut's national strategy. About 70 percent of Pizza Huts nationwide were corporate owned two years ago. Pizza Hut's goal is to put about 60 percent of its restaurants into franchise hands.

Franchise operators have less overhead and can typically run the restaurants more successfully, Allison said.

"Franchisees can operate the business at a much better margin than we can," he said.

Buffalo is one of the more competitive pizza markets in the country, with about 360 pizzerias operating locally.

Other markets recently sold off to franchisees include Albany; San Francisco, and Dallas. Taco Bell franchise owners have purchased Pizza Huts in several markets.

The local Pizza Huts were owned by the Southern Tier Pizza Hut franchise until being sold to PepsiCo Inc. in 1993. Pepsi spun off its restaurant operations as Tricon last year.

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