Encyclopedia of the Great Plains

David J. Wishart, Editor


The international restaurant chain Pizza Hut, Inc., was founded in Wichita, Kansas, by brothers Dan and Frank Carney, students at Wichita State University. With $600 borrowed from their mother, the young men opened a small pizzeria at a busy Wichita intersection on June 15, 1958. They mixed dough in a plastic baby bathtub and gave away pizza slices to attract customers. A family member remarked that their little building looked like a hut, and the name Pizza Hut was born. (This structure has been moved and is preserved on the university campus.)

After just over a year, the Carneys owned five Wichita Pizza Huts. In 1959 they incorporated and opened a franchise in Topeka. Their small chain soon expanded across Kansas and into Oklahoma, Texas, and other states. With the opening of their first Pizza Hut in Canada, they entered the international market in 1968.

By 1971 Pizza Hut had added franchises in Australia and Europe, making it the world's number one pizza restaurant chain in both sales and number of outlets. The next year its stock began trading on the New York Stock Exchange. In 1977 stockholders approved a merger with PepsiCo, Inc., for a reported $300 million.

Both founders left the company (Dan Carney in 1974, Frank in 1980), but PepsiCo retained Pizza Hut's corporate offices in Wichita until 1995, when operations were shifted to Dallas, Texas. Two years later, PepsiCo spun off Pizza Hut and its two other restaurant holdings. As a division of Tricon Global Restaurants, Inc., of Louisville, Kentucky, Pizza Hut, Inc., entered the twenty-first century with more than 10,000 restaurants, 3,000 of them in eighty-six foreign countries.

Dave Webb Kansas Heritage Center

O'Hara, Eileen. "Pie in the Sky." Wichitan (November 1981): 24–26.

Webb, Dave. 399 Kansas Characters. Dodge City: Kansas Heritage Center, 1994.

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