The Pizza Hut Story by Robert Spector, foreword by Dan Carney
Reviewed by Sarah Bagby, 2009 Kansas Notable Books Committee
From its original location at Bluff and Kellogg through its rise as the World’s Largest Pizza Chain, Pizza Hut isn’t just a home-town story—it’s a neighborhood story that began right here in the College Hill area. Dan and Frank Carney, with a little help from their fraternity brothers, opened their first Pizza Hut restaurant in May 1958. Now, 50 years later, Robert Spector has written The Pizza Hut Story, which describes how a local hangout survived rapid growth, adapted to changing customer and owner demands, and grew to dominate the global marketplace.
In the early days, Pizza Hut employees were motivated by brotherhood, beer and a small hourly wage. Franchise agreements were made with a handshake; regions defined and distributed over beers; borders redrawn with just a phone call. The Carneys and their pals succeeded almost in spite of themselves. When the growing pains began and they needed money, the Carneys took back control of underperforming stores and regions, packaged themselves for Wall Street and began a new era Pizza Hut.
In January 1969, the Carneys offered more than 400,000 shares of Pizza Hut stock to the public, and there were suddenly a lot of millionaires in town—at least on paper. The business’s “new owners” brought $5 million in capital and a demand for financial accountability. National marketing and strategic planning required that franchisees and owners loosen their grip on their businesses—a major change in culture and approach. Now national marketing plans would prove to be both a point of contention and also the glue that held the company together.
In November 1977, Pizza Hut, Inc. became part of PepsiCo, Inc. Frank Carney, acting as CEO of Pizza Hut, provided continuity for the company but this new role also presented challenges for the fiercely independent Carney. Cultural clashes and leadership initiatives challenged the identity of the hometown culture of Pizza Hut.
In June 1980, Frank Carney resigned, bringing the Carney era to an end. Franchisees were skeptical about their corporate “partners,” but more competition, more need for delivery, and new markets demanded a “bigger than hometown” approach to their business.
The Pizza Hut Story is a must for anyone interested in business, anyone who has worked at Pizza Hut, or anyone who has lived in Wichita over the last 50 years. Robert Spector tells of the highs and lows, near misses and home runs that made this familiar company such a success. Illustrated with photos of the players, the facilities and the product and marketing plan, The Pizza Hut Story is an extra-large supreme, served up in a box ready to deliver.
If you would like to order this book, please consider ordering from one of the Kansas Center for the Book affiliates: Book Kansas!, Claflin Books, Town Crier, Watermark Books.