15 Things You Might Not Know About Pizza Hut

Mark Hillary, Flickr // CC BY-2.0
Mark Hillary, Flickr // CC BY-2.0

For nearly six decades, Pizza Hut has been slinging hot, cheesy pies to hungry consumers all over the world. There are more than 15,000 locations in over 90 countries, and Pizza Hut U.S.'s parent company, Yum Brands, is No. 952 ;on the Forbes Global 2000 list with an estimated market cap of $27.4 billion. Whether you're a meat lover or vegetarian, here are 15 things you should know about the popular pizza chain.

1. IT WAS FOUNDED BY TWO BROTHERS WHO WERE STILL IN COLLEGE.

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Dan and Frank Carney borrowed $600 from their mother in 1958 to open a pizza place while attending Wichita State University. The name was inspired by the former bar that they rented to open their first location.

2. PIZZA HUT FRANCHISING WAS ALMOST INSTANT.

image of the exterior of a Pizza Hut restaurant
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A year after the first location opened in Wichita, Kansas, the Carney brothers had already incorporated the business and asked their friend Dick Hassur to open the first franchise location in Topeka, Kansas. Hassur, who had previously gone to school and worked at Boeing with Dan Carney, was looking for a way out of his insurance agent job. He soon became a multi-franchise owner, and worked to find other managers who could open Pizza Huts across the country. Once, when a successful manager of a Wichita location put in his notice, Hassur was sent in to convince the man to stay. That manager happened to be Bill Parcells, who had resigned his Pizza Hut job in order to take his first coaching job at a small Nebraska college. Of course, he later went on to coach numerous NFL teams, including leading the New York Giants to two Super Bowl victories. "I might have been wrong there," Hassur said of trying to convince Parcells his salary would be better as a manager than as a coach, "but I'm sure he'd have been successful with Pizza Hut, too."

3. THERE WAS A MASCOT IN THE EARLY DAYS.

image of vintage Pizza Hut restaurants featuring mascot Pizza Pete
Roadsidepictures, Flickr // CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Before the iconic red roof logo was adopted in 1969, Pizza Hut had a mascot named Pizza Pete who also served as its logo. The mustachioed cartoon man wore a chef’s hat, neckerchief, and an apron while serving up hot meals to hungry customers. Pizza Pete was still used throughout the 1970s on bags, cups, and advertisements, but was eventually phased out.

4. PIZZA HUT PERFUME WAS A THING THAT EXISTED VERY RECENTLY.

A Pizza Hut pizza, cookie cake, and breadsticks.
Shannon O'Hara, Getty Images for Pizza Hut

It was announced late in 2012 that Pizza Hut had plans to release a limited edition perfume that smelled like "fresh dough with a bit of spice." One hundred fans of the Pizza Hut Canada profile on Facebook won bottles of the scent, and another promotion around Valentine's Day gave American pizza lovers a chance to own the fragrance via a Twitter contest. The packaging for the perfume resembles mini pizza boxes, and a few surfaced on eBay for as much as $495.

5. PIZZA HUT EASY-BAKE OVENS WERE ALSO REAL.

image of Jay Leno and a young girl using an Easy Bake Oven
Kevin Winter, Getty Images

Children of the '70s were lucky enough to own small toy ovens shaped like the restaurant in which they could bake tiny little Pizza Hut pizzas under a 60-watt light bulb.

6. THEY STRUCK GOLD WITH THE TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES.

image of people dressed as the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles
Kevin Winter, Getty Images

When a group of crime fighting turtles that love pizza become huge pop culture icons, it's a no-brainer that a pizza company should do business with them. Domino's was featured in the first TMNT film in 1990, but ads for Pizza Hut were included on VHS when the film hit home video. Pizza Hut also reportedly spent around $20 million on marketing campaigns for the Turtles during the 1990 "Coming Out of Their Shells" concert tour and album release. The partnership continued all the way up to the 2014 release of Michael Bay's Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.

7. THEIR VINTAGE COMMERCIALS ARE STAR-STUDDED.

image of actor Elijah Wood drinking tea
STR/Stringer, Getty Images

An 11-year-old Elijah Wood got his start flinging potato salad at his co-star, Ringo Starr and the Monkees marveled at the stuffed-crust pizza, and former Soviet statesman Mikhail Gorbachev had a very odd, political pizza pitch, appearing along with his young granddaughter in a Russian Pizza Hut (though the ad was not set to run in Russia).

8. THE BOOK IT! PROGRAM IS MORE THAN 30 YEARS OLD.

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In 1984, Pizza Hut kicked off the BOOK IT! program, an initiative to encourage children to read by rewarding them with "praise, recognition and pizza." It was such a success that First Lady Barbara Bush threw a reading-themed pizza party at the White House in 1989. The program is now the "longest-running corporate-supported reading program in the country" and has reached over 60 million children.

9. THEY WERE EARLY TO THE PAN PIZZA CRAZE.

image of someone removing a slice from a personal pan pizza
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Pizza Hut introduced pan pizza in 1980, nine years before their competition, Domino's, added the style to their menu. In 1983, they introduced personal pan pizzas, which are still the coveted prize of the BOOK IT! program and the only pizza option at smaller Pizza Hut cafes (like those inside Target stores).

10. THEY WERE ALSO EARLY TO ONLINE ORDERING.

image of a man in a red uniform delivering pizza to a woman in a blue shirt
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In 1994, Pizza Hut and The Santa Cruz Operation created PizzaNet, an ahead-of-its-time program that allowed computer users to place orders via the internet. The Los Angeles Times called the idea "clever but only half-baked" and "the Geek Chic way to nosh." And, the site is still up and running! Seriously, go ahead and try to order.

11. PIZZA HUT'S PIZZA HAS BEEN TO SPACE …

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In 2001, the company became the first to deliver pies into space. Before being sealed and sent to the International Space Station, the pizza recipe had to undergo "rigorous stabilized thermal conditions" to make sure that it would be still be edible when it got there. Pizza Hut also paid a large, unspecified sum (but definitely more than $1 million) to have a 30-foot-wide ad on a rocket in 1999.

12. … BUT NOT THE MOON.

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Pizza Hut's chief executive Mike Rawlings told The New York Times in 1999 that an earlier idea for space marketing was for the logo to be shown on the moon with lasers. But once they started looking into it, astronomers and physicists advised them that the projected image would have to be as large as Texas to be seen from Earth—and the project would also have cost the company hundreds of millions of dollars. Better to stick with Super Bowl ads.

13. THEY ONCE OFFERED PIZZA ENGAGEMENT PACKAGES.

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What's the perfect way to pop the big question? In 2012, Pizza Hut suggested that grooms- (or brides-) to-be order the engagement party package that included a $10 dinner box, a limo, a ruby ring, fireworks, flowers, and a photographer, all for $10,010. In keeping with the theme, only 10 of the packages were offered. But, to be clear—if you bought a Pizza Hut engagement package, you would have spent $10 on food and approximately the cost of a wedding on the proposal.

14. THERE ARE A LOT OF REPURPOSED PIZZA HUT LOCATIONS.

An empty, former Pizza Hut building
Mike Kalasnik, Flickr // CC BY-SA 2.0

Franchise locations of companies are not always successful, and when they close, the buildings are often left untouched by their new owners rather than being demolished and replaced. Because the hut-shaped stores have become synonymous with the company, their former locations are easy to spot. The blog "Used to Be a Pizza Hut" has an interactive map of more than 500 ex-huts submitted by people all over the world. There was also a successful Kickstarter campaign to create a photo book—called Pizza Hunt—documenting the "second lives" of the restaurants.

15. PIZZA HUT ACCOUNTS FOR 3 PERCENT OF U.S. CHEESE PRODUCTION.

Stuffed crust pizza at a Pizza Hut event.
Matt Winkelmeyer, Getty Images for Pizza Hut

With all those locations and cheese-stuffed crusts, Pizza Hut needs a lot of dairy. The company uses over 300 million pounds of cheese annually and is one of the largest cheese buyers in the world. To make that much cheese, 170,000 cows are used to produce an estimated 300 billion gallons of milk. Something to think about the next time you order an Ultimate Cheese Lover's pizza with extra cheese.

10 Pickle Facts to Savor (in Honor of National Pickle Day)

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In honor of one of the year's most important food-focused holidays—yes, we're talking about National Pickle Day—learn more about the snack that's so much more than just a sidekick to your sandwich.

1. PICKLING IS THOUSANDS OF YEARS OLD.

Cucumbers, native to the Tigris Valley in India, were first pickled way back in 2030 B.C., although preserving food in a vinegar or brine solution may stretch back even further with the Mesopotamians.

2. AMERICA GOT ITS NAME FROM A PICKLE MERCHANT.

Italian explorer Amerigo Vespucci was once a ship chandler, supplying merchants and sailors with supplies for their voyages, including preserved meats and vegetables. His nickname, the pickle merchant, likely arose from his former trade, although writer Ralph Waldo Emerson derisively referred to Vespucci as a “pickle-dealer” in his book English Traits.

3. THE WORD "PICKLE" COMES FROM THE NETHERLANDS.

In Dutch, to salt or brine something is called pekel. The word may also come from the German pökel or pökeln.

4. WE EAT A LOT OF PICKLES.

Americans consume about 9 pounds of pickles per person every year. The most popular type remains kosher dill, thanks to the large numbers of Eastern European Jews who emigrated to the United States and New York City in the late 19th century.

5. CLEOPATRA USED THEM TO PRESERVE HER GOOD LOOKS …

Cleopatra was supposedly a pickle devotee. She ate them regularly, believing that they helped keep her gorgeous.

6. … WHILE CAESAR AND NAPOLEON THOUGHT THEY COULD BUILD MUSCLE.

Julius Caesar and other Roman emperors had soldiers eat the crispy preserves because they were thought to provide strength. Napoleon Bonaparte, like Caesar, valued his troops’ health, and offered 12,000 francs to anyone who could safely preserve food for his soldiers.

7. SHAKESPEARE COINED THE PHRASE, "IN A PICKLE."

Shakespeare used it to refer to finding oneself in a difficult position in The Tempest. In the 1611 play, Alonso asks Trinculo, “How camest thou in this pickle?” to which Trinculo responds, “I have been in such a pickle since I saw you last that, I fear me, will never out of my bones: I shall not fear fly-blowing.”

8. PICKLES ARE CURED IN OPEN, OUTDOOR VATS.

Companies that produce pickles on a mass scale ferment their cucumbers in giant outdoor pots in a salt brine. Yes, that means anything can get in there, including bird droppings and bugs, but the sun’s UV and infrared rays help prevent yeast and mold growth.

9. THE U.S. RATIONED PICKLES DURING WWII.

Forty percent of all pickles produced in America were set aside for the Armed Forces and soldiers’ ration kits.

10. THE PHILADELPHIA EAGLES USED PICKLE JUICE TO BEAT THE COWBOYS.

During a hot September 3, 2000, game in Irving, Texas, when temperatures on the field of Texas Stadium reached 109 degrees, Philadelphia players chugged pickle juice and credited the briny solution for their 41-14 win. The Eagles outgained Dallas 425-167, and defensive end Hugh Douglass said, “I may start drinking pickle juice when I’m home chilling.”

A BYU study later confirmed that drinking pickle juice can help relieve a cramp 37 percent faster than drinking water.

9 Vintage Thanksgiving Side Dishes We Shouldn’t Bring Back

We all have that aunt—the one who’s been bringing her Miracle-Whip-bound pimiento-pea salad to Thanksgiving dinner since time immemorial. Although you may swear she got her recipe straight from the devil, it turns out that cheese-and-lime-Jell-O salads and their ilk were all the rage in her day. So it’s not (totally) her fault! To cut her a little slack, here are some examples of vintage Thanksgiving-themed recipes that will make her salad look like a perfectly golden-brown turkey.

1. CRANBERRY CANDLE SALAD

Best Foods Mayonnaise Ad 1960s with Jello Molds

Nothing complements the tart, refreshing flavor of cranberry sauce like some gelatin and salty, eggy mayonnaise. If that weren’t weird enough, this recipe also tells you to shove a real candle in there and then light it. Ostensibly, you’re supposed to eat around the melted wax, but we can’t be sure—maybe it’s considered a condiment.

2. CANDIED SWEET POTATOES WITH ANGOSTURA BITTERS

This recipe for candied sweet potatoes, which involves baking them in a mixture of butter, sugar, and angostura bitters, is probably either really good or really bad. It sort of makes sense, adding bitters to cut down on the sugar factor. Alternatively, you could just not make a candied version of something that already has the word sweet in its name.

3. CREAMED ONIONS

This once-popular Thanksgiving mainstay has been neglected over the last century, for perhaps obvious reasons. In some households, the idea was to pour creamed onions over the turkey, like gravy, to add a little moisture. Or possibly because eating a chunky mouthful of pearl onions and cream sauce by itself is gross.

4. TURKEY AND STUFFING ON JELL-O

Thanksgiving Jello Ad

There’s not much to this one, is there? It’s a pile of turkey and stuffing dumped on top of a cranberry orange Jell-O ring—sounds delicious!

5. WINTER CORN

This mixture of corn, sour cream, and bacon is sometimes found on Midwestern Thanksgiving tables. It’s mostly off-putting because its main ingredient is creamed corn. That said, creamed corn really needs all the help it can get, so adding bacon can only improve it.

6. SWEET AND SOUR TANG POPCORN (A.K.A. ASTRONAUT POPCORN)

Reportedly, this was a popular Thanksgiving dessert in the ’70s. The idea seems to be an offshoot of caramel corn, but … with Tang powder.

7. HOT DR. PEPPER

You gotta give the good folks at Dr. Pepper a few points for at least trying here. They noticed that soda was not often considered a cozy, comforting holiday drink, and they stepped up to the bat undaunted. Bold move.

8. FROZEN JELLIED TURKEY-VEGETABLE SALAD

There’s only one way to improve a dish as alluring as Jellied Turkey-Vegetable Salad, and that’s to stick it in the freezer. From the sound of the recipe—which combines cream of celery soup, salad dressing, diced turkey, vegetables, and gelatin—this is basically the inside of a turkey pot pie if it was served frozen. And also if it was square.

9. JELL-O FRUIT CORNUCOPIA

Sure, cornucopias were for holding food in olden times, but don’t you wish you could eat one? Well, guess what—your years of longing are finally over, because someone has made a Jell-O version of one with fruit trapped in it. You don’t even have to take the fruit out of the cornucopia this time—you can just pop the whole thing in your mouth. Dreams do come true.

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