Headquartered in Addison, Texas, Pizza Hut is a subsidiary of Yum! Brands, and one of the world’s leading restaurant franchises, with approximately 34,000 restaurants, take-out delivery and fast kiosks in 100+ countries.
Like most franchises, Pizza Hut began as a great idea on shoestring budget. In 1958, two brothers, Dan and Frank Carney, borrowed six hundred dollars from their mother and opened their first restaurant in Witchita, Kansas. Their original offering was based on a family recipe for pizza.
A year later, the first franchise store opened in Topeka, Kansas. The restaurants proved quite popular, but also had stiff competition from another pizza franchise expanding from the west coast. This prompted the Carney brothers to establish a standard, consistent image that was easily recognizable.
A freestanding store design was developed in 1964, and television advertising began in 1965 featuring the “Putt putt to the Pizza Hut” jingle. By 1966, there were 145 franchises operating in the US, and the company built a home office to oversee operations in Witchita. The familiar red roof that still tops the restaurants was introduced in 1969, and by 1971, Pizza Hut was the number one restaurant in the world by both sales volume and operating locations. It went public on the New York Stock Exchange in 1972. That same year, Pizza Hut expanded internationally with a restaurant opening in Costa Rica.
Shareholders approve a merger with PepsiCo in 1977. Twenty years later, PepsiCo, which also owned KFC and Taco Bell, spun off the three restaurant chains, which joined several others under the Yum! Brand.
It takes more than good food and hard work for a restaurant to grow from a single unit to several, and then to become a leading franchise with restaurants all over the world. Although Pizza Hut, as its name implies, began selling one type of product, experimentation and innovation have been key to the company’s success in adapting to different trends and consumer tastes. Over the decades, Pizza Hut created and executed brilliant marketing campaigns that have amused and impressed customers – such as its advertising slogan, “Gather ‘round the good stuff.”
More than “Good Stuff” to Eat
Thirty years ago, Pizza Hut’s red roofs had a jolly guy named “Pizza Hut Pete” on top for advertising. He also appeared on take-out bags, cups, balloons and hand puppets. But Pete had good company over the years too, as Pizza Hut enlisted many well-known celebrities to represent the brand, including Donald and Ivana Trump, Ringo Starr, Rush Limbaugh, and even Mikhail Gorbachev. Jessica Simpson and Queen Latifah were recently featured in ads.
Pizza Hut was a driving force behind a 1984 literacy movement, “Book It” – a reading incentive program with 200,000 elementary school children participating. As a result, it was the first pizza company invited to make a delivery to the White House, for a reception hosted by Barbara Bush to celebrate the Book It program.
In 1992, Pizza Hut won recognition for its efforts to help Hurricane Andrew survivors and relief workers by setting up two mobile trailers that served 120,000 free meals. Pizza Hut was the very first restaurant to make a “delivery in space” to the International Space Station! The company’s logo was also featured on a Russian Proton rocket in 2000.
The company has also been an active sponsor of NASCAR races, backing Wally Dallenback, Jr. in 2000, and Terry Labonte in 2005. The company also purchased the naming rights to the major league soccer club FC Dallas’ stadium, Pizza Hut Park, before it opened in 2005. Collaborating with Verizon in 2007, Pizza Hut offered a free LG mobile phone with the purchase of its “Cheesy Bites Pizza.”
Demonstrating keen foresight into popular trends, Pizza Hut was the first restaurant to offer ordering and delivery service via the Internet in 1994 in Santa Cruz, CA. By 2007, it was available at 6,500+ locations. “Total Mobile Access” was enabled in 2008, allowing customers to text message their orders.
Pizza Hut has demonstrated remarkable strength and agility in maintaining its brand while still adapting to changing consumer demand, such as delivery service in 1986. In 1980, Pizza Hut introduced the “Pan Pizza” and over the years has created many new offerings, including cheese bread, cheese sticks, cinnamon sticks, onion rings, chicken wings, jalapeno poppers, and potato bites. The chicken wings, both the standard and buffalo versions, became so popular, that an entirely new restaurant franchise was created around them – Wing Street, which was launched in 2003 and grew to 1,000+ locations in 2007.
In 2005, Pizza Hut unveiled a totally new concept, and opened 50 locations nationwide of its new “Pizza Hut Italian Bistro” intended as a more upscale dining experience featuring pasta dishes, and a burgundy and tan motif. The pasta concept proved popular, so some of the dishes were introduced throughout the chain – with a very clever marketing gimmick. On April Fool’s Day, the company sent out emails and featured advertising claiming its pasta was so good, that the restaurant was renamed “Pasta Hut.” The promotion lasted all month, generating lots of attention and generating controversy until the new name was finally revealed as a hoax.
For fifty years, Pizza Hut has put into practice three key principles for success: quality products, innovation in response to changing markets, and skillfully executed creative marketing. Many other pizza franchises have followed these three principles in the hope to become a successful franchise operation like Pizza Hut.
In many ways, Pizza Hut franchise began its operations at the "right time" when competition was minimal and the pizza fast food concept was new to the consumer market. However, with the right business model, brand, training and support - franchisees can be just as successful within their own exclusive territory- because consumer's will always want pizza and if your brand is strong - will visit your pizza franchise. To view some excellent pizza franchises that are making an impact in the profitable fast food industry, click on the link provided...