The Big 3 Pizza Joints: A Brief Overview

Unless you’re a die hard fan of supporting local businesses, the go-to pizza delivery places for most are typically one of the big three: Domino’s, Pizza Hut, and Papa John’s. Each has their merits, though many typically order from a specific place based on a number of factors. Naturally, personal preference is one, but if you’re like me, whichever place has the best deals is usually the place I’ll order from. But what makes these three places so different? No two pizza places are alike, and each has their own specific aspects intended to get and keep customers. Here’s a breakdown of the big three pizza places and how they differ.

One of the biggest differences between Pizza Hut, which leads the pack as the most popular pizza delivery chain, is its restaurant styles. While Domino’s and Papa John’s operate solely as carry-out or delivery restaurants, Pizza Hut remains one of the traditional “dine in” pizza places. In addition to offering their full menu, many also offer a weekly or daily buffet, as well as a beer menu for those who want more carbs with their carbs. Furthermore, Pizza Hut also offers “micro” restaurants known as Pizza Hut Express. Offering a smaller selection of items, these are typically found in shopping centers, retail stores such as Target, and college campuses.

Pizza Hut is owned by Yum! Brands, which holds the distinction of being the largest restaurant company in the world. One of the restaurants that falls under its umbrella is Wing Street, a buffalo wing restaurant that works in tandem with Pizza Hut; all of Wing Street’s items can be ordered alongside Pizza Hut favorites such as stuffed crust, deep dish, and their new selection of pastas.

In this we see the biggest distinction between Pizza Hut and the other two restaurants, which prefer to offer their menu entirely within delivery and carry-out locations. Coming in at second place is Domino’s Pizza, characterized by its traditional blue and red domino logo. Fun fact: The three dots on the logo represent the first three stores opened. Of the big three, Domino’s was the first (and perhaps the only) to offer a “30 minutes or less” guarantee, which quickly became “$3 off,” and eventually scrapped altogether after a series of accidents lost Domino’s several million dollars in lawsuits.

In 1998 Domino’s was sold to Bain Capital, the asset management and financial services company co-founded by former Republican Presidential candidate Mitt Romney. During his candidacy, Bain Capital and its seemingly less-than-ethical practices were placed under the spotlight, though it appears Domino’s was in no way affected. But Domino’s isn’t the only pizza place that has been thrust into the public eye.

Bringing up the rear is Papa John’s founded by CEO John Schnatter, of which there are only approximately 4,000 stores worldwide. This comes in well below the 10,000+ of both Domino’s and Pizza Hut, though this can be attributed to Papa John’s not being founded until 1984. Despite the catchy slogan “Better Ingredients, Better Pizza, Papa John’s” and the seemingly amiable personality of Schnatter, the company has been the subject of much criticism over the past several years for a variety of different reasons. You might remember the recent stories we posted that highlighted the unfortunate fallout surrounding Schnatter’s remarks concerning Obamacare and how he intends to deal with it following Obama’s re-election. This, however, is just the icing on the cake, as Papa John’s has been embroiled in plenty of controversy over the past several years.

In 2008, a franchise owner in Washington DC distributed shirts mocking Cleveland Cavaliers superstar LeBron James, while earlier this year an employee was fired from a New York City location for writing a racial slur on an Asian American customer. While these are not representative of the company as a whole, they tend to cast it into a bad light, a fact that has only been compounded by Schnatter’s desire to mix business and politics.

Of course, Papa John’s is also known for its pizza, though you’d be hard-pressed to find someone who actually prefers their food over Domino’s and Pizza Hut. A common trend among these three stores is change. Over the past several years, each has introduced a series of new items that, like it or not, become permanent fixtures on the menu. At Domino’s and Pizza Hut, pizza and wings have been joined by a specialty breads, desserts, sandwiches, and pastas; Papa John’s still operates under the traditional “pizza and wings” menu, though they have since expanded to offer desserts and chicken strips. Papa John’s does have one thing going for it: Each pizza comes with a side of garlic dipping sauce and my God, it is absolutely delicious.

In the end, each pizza place has their own positives and negatives, and while many are often swayed by deals and special offers, there remains that special subset of customer who refuses to capitulate and will ALWAYS order from their pizza delivery chain of choice, regardless of price or deal. We salute you, Mr. and Mrs. Set In Your Ways.
Posted on December 11, 2012 at 9:00 AM