Pizza Hut is an American restaurant chain and international franchise founded in 1958 in Wichita, Kansas by Dan and Frank Carney. It provides pizza and other Italian-American dishes, including pasta, side dishes and desserts. The chain has a total of 18,703 restaurants worldwide as of December 31, 2019, making it the world's largest pizza chain in terms of number of locations. It is a subsidiary of Yum! Brands, Inc., one of the world's largest restaurant companies.
Pizza Hut was founded on June 15, 1958, by two brothers, Dan and Frank Carney, both Wichita State students, as a single location in Wichita, Kansas. Six months later they opened a second outlet and within a year they had six Pizza Hut restaurants. The brothers began franchising in 1959. The iconic Pizza Hut building style was designed in 1963 by Chicago architect George Lindstrom and was implemented in 1969. PepsiCo acquired Pizza Hut in November 1977. Twenty years later, Pizza Hut (alongside Taco Bell and Kentucky Fried Chicken) were spun off by PepsiCo on May 30, 1997, and all three restaurant chains became part of a new company named Tricon Global Restaurants, Inc. The company assumed the name of Yum! Brands on May 22, 2002.
Pizza Hut's first television commercial was produced in 1965 by Bob Walterscheidt for the Harry Crow agency in Wichita, and was entitled "Putt Putt to the Pizza Hut". The ad looks just like an old movie, and set in fast motion. It features a man in a business suit and tie, played by Ron Williams, who was then a production manager for Wichita's ABC affiliate KAKE-TV, as he starts ordering take-out, leaves his house, and gets into his 1965 Mustang JR by driving to Pizza Hut, where he is chased by a variety of townspeople, portrayed by neighborhood kids, Walterscheidt and his daughter, and various employees for Harry Crow and KAKE-TV. He goes inside Pizza Hut by picking up his pizza, and gets back in the 1965 Mustang Jr to return home. They went eating all the pizza except the man who ordered it, which makes the man very upset, as he calls Pizza Hut again. The ad first aired on November 19, 1966, during halftime of the Notre Dame vs. Michigan State "Game of the Century", and dramatically increased sales for the franchise. "Putt Putt to the Pizza Hut" ran on TV for eight years and was nominated for a Clio Award.
Before closing in 2015, the oldest continuously operating Pizza Hut was in Manhattan, Kansas, in a shopping and tavern district known as Aggieville near Kansas State University. The first Pizza Hut restaurant east of the Mississippi River was opened in Athens, Ohio, in 1966 by Lawrence Berberick and Gary Meyers.
In 1975, Pizza Hut began testing concepts with Applegate's Landing. These restaurants had exteriors that looked like Colonial Style houses and had eclectic interiors featuring a truck with a salad bar in the bed. The chain offered much of the same Italian-American fare, such as pizza and pasta dishes with some additions like hamburgers and bread pudding. Applegate's Landing went defunct in the mid-1980s except for one location in McPherson, Kansas that closed in fall, 1995.
Pizza Hut has sponsored the Book It! reading-incentive program since it started in January 1985. Students who read books according to the goal set by the classroom teacher, in any month from October through March, are rewarded with a Pizza Hut certificate good for a free, one-topping Personal Pan Pizza; and the classroom whose students read the most books is rewarded with a pizza party. Book It! was conceived in 1984 during a dinner with Art Gunther, President of Pizza Hut, and Bud Gates, SVP of Marketing at Pizza Hut, as a way to help Gunther's son read more.
Pizza Hut Pakistan (Urdu: پیزاہٹ پاکستان) is the Pakistani franchisee of Pizza Hut. It is owned by MCR (Pvt) Ltd and is headquartered in Karachi, Pakistan. The first outlet was opened in Karachi in 1993. Currently, Pizza Hut has a presence in 23 major cities.
In 1995, 21 years before becoming President of the United States, Donald Trump and his ex-wife Ivana Trump appeared in a commercial. The last scene of the commercial showed Ivana asking for the last slice, to which Donald replied, "Actually, dear, you're only entitled to half", a play on the couple's recent divorce.
In 1995, Ringo Starr appeared in a Pizza Hut commercial which also featured The Monkees. A commercial with Rush Limbaugh dates from the same year, in which he boasts "nobody is more right than me," yet he states for the first time he will do something wrong, which was to participate in Pizza Hut's then "eating pizza crust first" campaign regarding their stuffed-crust pizzas.
The "stuffed-crust" pizza was introduced on March 26, 1995. By the end of the year, it had become one of their most popular lines.
In 1996, as part of Pizza Hut's global advertising strategy using celebrities, Formula One driver Damon Hill and BBC motorsport commentator Murray Walker advertised the stuffed-crust pizza, which parodies Walker's extravagant style.
In 1997, former Soviet Union leader Gorbachev starred in a Pizza Hut commercial with his granddaughter Anastasia Virganskaya to raise money for the Perestroyka Archives. The ad "obviously exploited the shock value of having a former world leader appear... [and] played on the fact that Gorbachev was far more popular outside Russia than inside it". It was filmed on a multi-million budget with a cinematic quality, including mounting cameras on the Kremlin and shutting down Red Square to get the establishing shots of the square, and dialogue entirely in Russian with English subtitles, to show Pizza Hut as a global brand compared to its American rivals.
In 1999, the announcer says, "The best pizzas under one roof" in the Big New Yorker pizza commercial seen on the PlayStation Pizza Hut Demo Disc 1. Also, in 1999, the game Crazy Taxi for Sega Dreamcast featured Pizza Hut as one of the locations to which players were able to drive and drop off customers. However, in the game's 2010 re-release for Xbox Live and PlayStation Network, all of the product placement, including the Pizza Hut locations, were removed.
Pizza Hut paid for their logo to appear on a Russian Proton rocket in 2000, which launched the Russian Zvezda module.
Pizza Hut developed a pizza for use as space food, which was delivered to the International Space Station in 2001. It was vacuum-sealed and about 6 in (15 cm) in diameter to fit in the station's oven. It was launched on a Soyuz and eaten by Yuri Usachov in orbit.
The program has been criticized by some psychologists on the grounds it may lead to overjustification and reduce children's intrinsic interest in reading. Book It! was also criticized by the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood in 2007 who described it as "one of corporate America's most insidious school-based brand promotions." A pamphlet produced by the group argued the program promoted junk food to a captive market, made teachers into promoters for Pizza Hut, and undermined parents by making visits to the chain an integral part of bringing up their children to be literate. However, a study of the program found participation in the program neither increased nor decreased reading motivation. The program's 25th anniversary was in 2010. The Book It! program in Australia ceased in 2002.
An upscale concept was unveiled in 2004, called "Pizza Hut Italian Bistro". At 50 U.S. locations, the Bistro is similar to a traditional Pizza Hut, except that the menu features new, Italian-themed dishes such as penne pasta, chicken pomodoro, and toasted sandwiches. Instead of black, white, and red, Bistro locations feature a burgundy and tan motif. In some cases, Pizza Hut has replaced a red roof location with the new concept. Pizza Hut Express locations are fast food restaurants; They offer a limited menu with many products not seen at a traditional Pizza Hut. These stores are often paired in a colocation with WingStreet in the US and Canada, or other sibling brands such as KFC or Taco Bell and found on college campuses, food courts, theme parks, bowling alleys, and within stores such as Target.
In China, Pizza Hut (simplified Chinese: 必胜客; traditional Chinese: 必勝客; pinyin: Bìshèng Kè) used an altered business model, offering a fine-dining atmosphere with knives and forks and using an expanded menu catering to Chinese tastes. By 2008, Pizza Hut operated restaurants and delivery locations. That year, the company introduced "Pizza Hut Express", opening locations in Shanghai, Shenzhen, and Hangzhou. The 160 restaurants were in 40 Chinese cities in 2005. As of 2015, Pizza Hut had 1,903 restaurants in China.
In the United Kingdom, Pizza Hut was criticized in October 2007 for the high salt content of its meals, some of which were found to contain more than twice the daily recommended amount of salt for an adult. The meats that consumers demand for pizza toppings (ham, sausage, bacon, etc.) are, likewise, salty and fatty meats.
On April 1, 2008, Pizza Hut in America sent emails to customers advertising their pasta items. The email (and similar advertising on the company's website) stated: "Pasta so good, we changed our name to Pasta Hut!" The name change was a publicity stunt held on April Fools' Day, extending through the month of April, with the company's Dallas headquarters changing its exterior logo to Pasta Hut. This name change was also used to promote the new Tuscani Pasta line and new Pizza Hut dine-in menu. The first Pasta Hut advertisement shows the original Pizza Hut restaurant being imploded and recreated with a "Pasta Hut" sign.
On May 9, 2008, Pizza Hut created "The Natural" pizza, which featured natural ingredients and was sold in Seattle, Denver and Dallas. This was discontinued on October 27, 2009, in the Dallas market.
In July 2014, delivery drivers in the United States filed a class-action lawsuit over Pizza Hut "paying delivery drivers net wages below minimum wage due to unreimbursed automobile expenses" in violation of the 1938 Fair Labor Standards Act. An attempt by Pizza Hut to have the case dismissed in November 2015 failed. In December 2016, the case, Linkovich v. Capital Pizza Huts, Inc., et al., was decided by arbitration, in which Pizza Hut paid damages.
The company announced a rebrand that began on November 19, 2014, in an effort to increase sales, which had dropped in the previous two years. The menu was expanded to introduce various items such as crust flavors and 11 new specialty pizzas. Work uniforms for employees were also refreshed. In 2017, Pizza Hut was listed by UK-based company Richtopia at number 24 in the list of 200 Most Influential Brands in the World.
In recent years, the chain has seen a downturn in profits. In 2015, the franchise stated it would be pumping more capital into its London branches. Pizza Hut is installing cocktail bars in its London branches as part of a £60 million bid to win back "the Nando's generation".
In January 2019, Pizza Hut announced it had expanded beer delivery to 300 locations across the U.S., with plans to expand to 1,000 locations by the summer.
In March 2019, Pizza Hut announced the return of the P'Zone after a hiatus of several years.
On August 7, 2019, Pizza Hut announced its intention to close about 500 of its 7,496 dine-in restaurants in the US, by the middle of 2021.
In March 2020, Pizza Hut Hong Kong announced that it had partnered with furniture retailer IKEA on a joint venture. IKEA launched a new side table called SÄVA, which was designed to resemble a pizza saver. The table would be boxed in packaging resembling a pizza box, and the building instructions included a suggestion to order a Swedish meatball pizza from Pizza Hut, which would contain the same meatballs served in IKEA restaurants. A 2021 menu addition, designed to commemorate the 25th anniversary of the introduction of stuffed-crust-pizza, was "nothing but the stuffed crust," a ring of dough filled with cheese.
In mid-March 2020, several Pizza Hut locations in Western New York temporarily closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. On July 22, 2020, a statement was released by a company spokesperson from Pizza Hut saying that all 17 locations in the area have closed. The statement said, "As a result of 17 Pizza Hut dine-in restaurants in Western New York initially closing temporarily due to COVID-19 restrictions, the local franchisee made the decision to permanently close these stores. However, Pizza Hut has new franchisees coming into the New York region, and we are hopeful we will be able to serve our customers in this area again in the future." Other restaurants began to abandon in-room dining while continuing pick-up & take-away service.
On August 18, 2020, it was announced that Pizza Hut will be closing 300 restaurants after the bankruptcy of NPC International, one of its franchise providers. A company representative stated, "We have continued to work with NPC and its lenders to optimize NPC's Pizza Hut restaurant footprint and strengthen the portfolio for the future, and today's joint agreement to close up to 300 NPC Pizza Hut restaurants is an important step toward a healthier business."
In January 2021, Pizza Hut launched a new style of pizza that is rectangular with cheese at the edges. This new pizza comes in "Detroit Double Pepperoni" which includes 80 pepperoni slices, "Double Cheesy," "Meaty Deluxe" and the "Supremo".