Wichita, Pizza Hut, and a Slice of American History

Wichita, Pizza Hut, and a Slice of American History

Top 10 Things To Know


1957 – An article in the Saturday Evening Post caught the attention of a Wichita real estate agent. The article was about the “pizza craze” that was sweeping the nation. It sparked an idea about starting a pizzeria in Wichita.


1958 – Brothers Frank and Dan Carney, graduates of Kapaun Mt. Carmel High School were attending Wichita State University (called Wichita University at that time). The brothers were approached by the real estate agent for an unrented bar at the corner of Kellogg and Bluff. The agent/owner wanted a nice business there and thought turning the bar into a pizzeria could be a promising business for the brothers. The Carney’s agreed and borrowed $600 from their mother to start the business.


The Name - There are a few different stories out there about how the Carney brothers decided on the name Pizza Hut. According to the official website for Wichita State University, it came down to the size of the sign. The sign could only fit nine letters and Pizza took up five. The building resembled a hut so they named the business, Pizza Hut.


Locations - The first franchised Pizza Hut opened in Topeka, Kansas in 1959. In 1960 they opened a Pizza Hut near Kansas State University. The restaurant was located in the popular Aggieville area of Manhattan, Kansas. It was the first Pizza Hut to have delivery service. The first deliveries were made using three-wheeled scooters. The pizzas were delivered to bars in Aggieville and sold there. The Pizza Hut in Aggieville was opened from 1960 – 2015. It was the oldest continuously operating Pizza Hut in franchise history.


The 70’s – By the time the 70’s arrived the Carney brothers had grown Pizza Hut to hundreds of locations. The stores' red roof became a logo and eventually an icon. Pizza Hut went international in 1970. In 1971 they became the world's largest pizza chain in both sales and number of restaurants. In 1972 they crossed the million-dollar mark in the U.S. market and were listed on the New York Stock Exchange. 1977, Pizza Hut reached 4,000 restaurants and the brothers decided to sell the business to PepsiCo for over $300 million. Frank Carney remained the president and board member of Pizza Hut until 1980.


The first Pizza Hut building was moved to the Wichita State University campus in 1986 to serve as a symbol and reminder to WSU students that hard work and initiative can lead to success beyond anything they can imagine.


During the 80’s and 90’s Frank Carney stayed in the pizza business, helping John Schnatter found and run Papa John's. In 1995, the company that bought Pizza Hut announced it was moving its headquarters to Dallas. Upset about the company severing ties with Wichita, Frank Carney told the Augusta Chronicle he had the following reaction, “I called Papa John’s and said, ‘I want Wichita. Let’s do it.” By 2001 Carney owned 133 Papa John's locations.


Today, Pizza Hut is owned by Yum! Brands, Inc., parent company of Taco Bell, Kentucky Fried Chicken, A&W Restaurants, and Long John Silver’s. Pizza Hut is the world's largest pizza company with more than 15,000 restaurants and 300,000 employees in 90 countries. There are still 30+ Pizza Hut locations in and around Wichita.


Though Pizza Hut has moved its physical location, it has continued its history of innovation and being an industry leader. In 1994 Pizza Hut was the first national chain to offer pizza delivery ordering online. In 2007 they were the first national pizza chain to have a Facebook page, in 2009 they launched an iPhone App and in 2013 they made it possible for gamers to order pizza directly from their gaming console.


On January 24, 2017 it was announced that the original Pizza Hut building will be moved and turned into a museum on the new WSU Innovation campus. The museum will be dedicated to the history of Pizza Hut to inspire future entrepreneurs. The museum is expected to open later in 2017.

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