This week, Pizza Hut and its franchisees are celebrating 50 years and commemorating the May 31 opening with their annual conference and a special gala in Washington, D.C.
Pizza Hut began when two brothers borrowed $600 from their mother to purchase second-hand equipment and rented a small building on a busy intersection in Wichita. The building had a sign that would only accommodate eight letters (and a space)—and since the brothers wanted to use "pizza" in the name—that only left room for three letters. A family member suggested the building looked like a hut, and Pizza Hut was born. The little pizzeria served 10- and 14-inch pizzas, mostly by carry out.
The following year, the first franchise location opened in Topeka, and today 144 franchisee organizations operate more than 80 percent of Pizza Hut locations in the United States.
"Something very special happened 50 years ago thanks to the entrepreneurs who believed in that little pizzeria," says Scott Bergren, president and chief concept officer of Pizza Hut, Inc. "The success of Pizza Hut continues to be driven by the dedicated franchisees that have helped grow this brand to a global company."
Today, the original Pizza Hut resides on the campus of Wichita State University as it was dedicated to the Center for Entrepreneurship in 1986.
Over the years, Pizza Hut became known for its crust variety and pizza creations. The Pan Pizza was introduced in 1980 and the Stuffed Crust Pizza in 1995.
The first Pizza Hut television commercial, with the "Putt Putt to Pizza Hut" jingle, aired in 1965. The familiar red roof restaurant made its debut in 1969 as the casual dining restaurants began to rapidly expand. By 1971, the company was the number one pizza restaurant chain in the world in both sales and number of restaurants.