Pizza Hut is one of the world’s leading companies in the fast-food segment of the food market, and perhaps the single most successful maker of pizzas and pasta on the entire planet. The brand (and its iconic logo) is instantly recognized by hundreds of millions of customers across 100 countries and thousands of service locations.
However, the restaurant chain did not always have such success, and, in fact, its origins are quite humble. Read on to learn all about the history of America’s most famous pizza brand!
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The History of Pizza Hut Pizza The Hut
Pizza Hut needs no introduction, but I’m going to give it one anyway in case you come from Mars or live next door to SpongeBob.
Pizza Hut, based out of Plano Texas, is a world-renowned, international food franchise that specializes in American-style pizzas, pasta, and a variety of other tasty side dishes.
Founded in 1958 by the brothers Ken and Frank Carney, the restaurant chain now stands next to such food giants as McDonald’s, Subway, and KFC.
Pizza Hut was founded in the year 1958 by two young entrepreneurial brothers, Dan and Frank Carney. The first store, located in the city of Wichita, Kansas, was set up while the brothers were still college students and had the paltry sum of $600 to their names, which they had borrowed from their mother.
Soon after opening that first restaurant, Dan and Frank Carney received help from a friend named John Bender who joined as a capitalist partner and allowed them to expand their fast food vision.
A very successful marketing campaign was developed and launched, and soon after the pizza company was able to expand beyond Witchia into neighboring cities.
By the year 1963, a mere 5 years after the initial store was opened, Pizza Hut was able to hire George Lindstrom, a world-renowned architect, to come up with and implement a unified design language to take the brand to the next level.
Among the many fruits of this concerted design effort was the development of the iconic Pizza Hut red hut roof building. 2 years later, in 1965, Pizza Hut hit the small screen with the launch of the first tv commercials to promote their, by now, more than 150 stores.
By 1969 the pizza restaurant had moved across borders, with various restaurants opening in Canada and even some in Australia.
A True Franchise
By 1971 Pizza Hut had become the largest pizza chain in the entire world, in both sales and number of operations open.
By 1972 the company had gone public, implemented a new management structure, and reached wider international markets in Mexico, Costa Rica, Japan, England, and even New Zealand.
The meteoric growth of the business led the Carney brothers to negotiate with global giant PepsiCo, who would go on to pay more than 1.2 billion dollars for the pizza chain. The deal proved to be highly fruitful and by the mid-80s the franchise had successfully opened more than 5,000 dine-in and delivery outlets around the world.
Throughout the 90s, as competition increased, Pizza Hut would introduce a wide variety of products. Some were extremely successful, such as the stuffed crust pizza, while others were not, such as the ill-fated Priazzo.
In recent decades, Pizza Hut has continued to innovate and adapt to the changing times. As a result, the chain is now nearing its 20,000th restaurant and has diversified its market share by creating newer specialized brands, such as the upscale Pizza Hut Italian Bistro. It has also developed online order systems to improve home delivery in most of the countries where it is present
Call To Fame
As the name aptly suggests, the star product in the Pizza Hut family of offerings is the American-style pizza. The most common variety is the pan pizza, which is baked in a deep pan to “fry” the crust and give it a crispy texture. Pizza Hut also sells classic, “thin” pizzas, a highly popular cheese-stuffed-crust pizza, and even one where the crust is made entirely of cheesy pops.
Besides the various types of pizzas, Pizza Hut also offers a wide variety of side dishes such as seasoned breadsticks, garlic bread, mozzarella sticks, wings, sandwiches, etc. The menu will also vary from one country to the next, and limited edition products are added regularly.
While the vast majority of Pizza Hut franchises sell beverages made by PepsiCo, some countries like Costa Rica and Chile, sell Coca-Cola products.
Pizza Hut also made the headlines by developing a pizza recipe that could be used to feed astronauts in space.
The Pizza Hut Identity
The first Pizza Hut ad campaign was enacted and launched in 1965. This initial campaign was done on a national scope and featured an aproned, mustachioed mascot called Pete. Pete would hold the words “Pizza” and “Hut” with each hand.
A couple of years later, in 1967, the company got rid of Pizza Hut Pete and introduced the now-iconic lettering and red-roofed construction of their restaurants. This design language was highly successful and partly responsible for the growth that the company experienced in the 70s and 80s.
During the late 1990s, Pizza Hut’s design was modernized by adopting a more modern typeface and architectural streamlining. The iconic logo also received a modernization in the form of a green dot over the “I” in “Pizza”, and a yellow underline for the word “Hut”.
In 2010 the logo was renewed once more. This time the “red roof” was enclosed in a wine-colored box, while the restaurant name, usually located below or to the side, was enclosed in a darker wine-red rectangle. This logo is still used in some countries in South America and is also used in Hong Kong, Israel, and Southeast Asia.
Curiously enough, Pizza Hut briefly toyed with the idea of changing their name to a more general sounding “The Hut”, so as to deemphasize their pizza offerings in order to increase sales of their other products. However, the idea was nearly instantly recognized as a failure and quickly scrapped.
In the year 2014, the yellow stripe at the bottom of the word “Hut” and the green dot on the “I” in “Pizza” were removed. The lettering was also dropped to sit lower in relation to the red roof. The resulting logo is very similar to the original.
Nearing the end of 2014, Pizza Hut Corporate announced further modernizing of the restaurant’s identity. A new logo, with a new accompanying letter case, was introduced. This time around, the recently introduced logo was placed in white against a background of red brushstrokes.
However, in 2019 the decision was made to limit the use of this newer logo to restaurants and keep the classic 1967 logo for advertising and marketing purposes.
Curiously enough, over the years, the iconic red roof design that helped catapult Pizza Hut to worldwide renown is no longer used. While some renovated restaurants choose to maintain the “hut” shape that we all have come to know and love, most new restaurants choose to go with ultra-modern exterior paneling and contemporary interior fixtures.
In my humble opinion, this is quite an unfortunate turn of events.
Pizza Marketing 101
Pizza Hut is one of the world’s largest and most influential brands, and it has the marketing pedigree to show for it.
Pizza Hut has aptly participated in substantial product placement campaigns. For example, a large number of high-profile Hollywood blockbusters such as Basic Instinct, Demolition Man, Back To The Future II, Fast And The Furious, Ready Player One, Spiderman: Homecoming, and many others.
Blockbuster movies aren’t the only cultural phenomenon that Pizza Hut has tapped to further its million dollar marketing plan. American Crime Story and Stranger Things are two of several popular tv series that have participated in Pizza Hut marketing campaigns.
The brand has even tapped into the video game market. For example, the NES version of the Arcade hit Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles altered the original graphics assets to include ads for the brand. Pizza Hut even included a coupon for a free pizza in the box. 1999’s Crazy Taxi featured a level that included a Pizza Hut location as an objective.
And while there is no official corporate mascot for Pizza Hut, the brand has made use of various celebrities and other A-listers throughout the years to boost marketing efforts. For example, Donald Trump, Ringo Starr, Rush Limbaugh, Jessica Simpson, and even Mikael Gorbachev have lent their celebrity to the pizza outlet,
The Legacy Of The Red Roof
For over 55 years, the world’s largest pizza chain has served and delivered millions of pizza pies to loyal fans across the world.
What started as a $600 mom and pop business, has grown to 20,000 stores which continue to innovate, grow, and set trends.
The chain is now spread over 90 countries and employs over 300,000 people.