Isn't pizza the fast meal you go for during a football game, a child's birthday party, or a convenient option for an evening meal? Writing about it makes me wish I had a slice.
Decades ago, pizza was more associated with Italy. And obviously, there was a time when pizza wasn't as popular as it is today.
It is first recorded in a Latin text from the southern Italian town of Gaeta in 997 AD, which claims that a tenant of certain property is to give the bishop of Gaeta 'duodecim pizze', twelve pizzas,' every Christmas day, and another twelve every Easter Sunday. (Source.)
Imagine how much pizza is consumed annually. Do you ever wonder how many pounds of pizza you consume on a monthly basis?
Pizza was invented in Naples, Italy in the late 1800s as far as we know. It was fast and convenient. Since then, various types of pizza took on different types and flavors. It is extremely popular around the world. Have one delivered to your door on a phone app, or buy one frozen at your favorite grocery store on your way home from work.
Pizza restaurants in the U.S. earned around $45.59 billion U.S. dollars in sales in 2021. Not surprisingly the previous year's total was higher ($46.24 billion) since we were dealing with the pandemic. In 2021, U.S. chain restaurants contributed about $27.65 billion toward total sales.
We’re currently seeing a whole host of pizza chains (from the household names like Domino’s and Pizza Hut to the rapidly expanding fast-casual players) racing toward the same finish line. The sheer amount of pizza businesses is a signal that some likely won’t finish the race, falling by the wayside as more competitive chains forge ahead. (Source.)
So, who made the first pizza?
Raffaele Esposito has been given credit for creating the first pizza made with tomato sauce, cheese, and then toppings. Allegedly, he was asked to make a pizza for Italian King Umberto I and Queen Margherita when they visited Naples in 1889. Supposedly, Esposito made them three different pizzas.
Esposito made one that displayed the colors of Italy's flag which happened to be the Queen’s favorite. The pizza was named in her honor--Pizza Margherita. Interestingly enough, there is a Queen Margherita Pizzeria in Seattle, Washington.
Although pizza wasn't widely popular in Italy early on, the idea of pizza came to the United States through Italian immigrants. According to Lombardi's New York City, Gennaro Lombardi made the first pizza in the US in 1905. Lombardi's is still making pizza.
Rose and Jim Totino
After World War II, it's not surprising to learn that pizza was fast becoming a favored food. A frozen pizza manufacturing company was founded by Rose (b. Jan. 16, 1915, d. June 21, 1994) and Jim Totino. They had previously opened a pizzeria in Minneapolis, Minnesota in 1951. That operation turned into a full-service restaurant until it closed in 2011.
The Totinos sold the Totino brand to Pillsbury Company.in 1975, which was later acquired by General Mills. When Pillsbury acquired Totino, Rose was Pillsbury's first woman vice president. In 2008, Rose was inducted into the Minnesota Inventors Hall of Fame..
In 1950, a man named Joseph Bucci in Philadelphia filed the first official patent for frozen pizza, titled 'Method for Making Frozen Pizza.' (Source.)
The Carney brothers & the Pizza Hut franchise
As the story goes, Frank and Dan Carney were loaned $600 from their mother in 1958 to open a pizza restaurant in Wichita, Kansas. Allegedly, they were convinced to rent a building by a local real estate agent and were told pizza would do great there.
The Carney brothers learned how to make pizza and run a business. In 1959, the first franchise was opened in Topeka, Kansas. Aggievile, Kansas had the first Pizza Hut that made deliveries. Talk about innovation.
It’s wild to learn that Pizza Hut had 4,000 locations by 1977. Then the brothers sold the business for over $300 million to PepsiCo. Frank stayed on serving as a board member for the company and its president through 1980.
Pizza Hut is now owned by Yum! Brands headquartered in Louisville, Kentucky. Yum! Brands also owns and operates Taco Bell and KFC in the U.S. (not to be confused with Yum China--they are two separate companies).
According to ScrapeHero, a data company, as of September 12, 2022, there were 6,601 Pizza Huts in the U.S. Texas has the most with 874 locations which represent 13% of all U.S. locations.
At Pizza Hut, we don’t just make pizza. We make people happy. Pizza Hut was built on the belief that pizza night should be special, and we carry that belief into everything we do. (Source.)
Frank died at the age of 82 on December 2, 2020. Click here to read their blog titled appropriately, The Hut Life.
Two more brothers make pizza
In 1960, brothers Tom and James Monaghan took over a small pizza chain in Ypsilanti, Michigan. It used to be called DomiNick's.
Initially, they shared hours working because James had a full-time job he wanted to keep. Eight months in and James gave his half of the business to Tom in exchange for a used Volkswagen Beetle used for delivering pizza.
By 1965, Tom had three pizzerias he decided to name Domino's at the suggestion of one of the employees. The brand logo began with three dots representing the three pizzerias. He would add another dot when another location opened. This idea was curtailed because expansion was occurring fast. In 1967, the first franchise opened.
Interestingly, in 1975, the manufacturer of Domino Sugar, Amstar Corporation, sued Domino's alleging unfair competition and trademark infringement. In May 1980, the court found in favor of Domino's Pizza.
In 1978, there were 200 Domino's locations. Twenty years later, Tom decided to retire after 38 years in the business. Bain Capital, Inc. acquired 93% of the business for approximately $1 billion.
Domino's came a long way from the time the Monaghan brothers purchase a DomiNick's pizzeria with $900 of borrowed money. Tom is now 85 (b. Mar. 25, 1937). He and his wife, Marjorie, have four daughters. Tom and Majorie met while delivering pizza and were married in 1962. Tom also owned the Detroit Tigers from 1983 to 1992. His brother passed away on October 28, 2020, at age 81.
Global pizza powerhouse Domino’s Pizza operated a total of 18,848 restaurants worldwide in 2021. This number increased by 1,204 units over the previous year. The number of Domino's Pizza stores worldwide has increased year-over-year since 2006. (Source.)
Thanks for reading!