Pizza fast-food history: Why mid-America?

Post
Flyover Culture
Junior Burger
2012/09/11 15:45:47
Hello all~!
 
I am a new member of the Roadfood forum, though I have been a lurking visitor for some time. The question I have for all you pizza aficionados is: Why is it that the world's largest pizza chains (Pizza Hut, Little Caesars, Dominos) have all started in the Midwest?
 
I am writing an article about this very topic for my new website, which is just getting up and running. I'd be curious to hear your perspectives and thoughts.
CCinNJ
Sirloin
Re:Pizza fast-food history: Why mid-America? 2012/09/11 15:49:14
Welcome to Roadfood!

That's how far the East Coast could kick them...before they tried that here.
Flyover Culture
Junior Burger
Re:Pizza fast-food history: Why mid-America? 2012/09/11 15:54:21
Thanks for the welcome, CC! You sound just like my East-coast husband.
 
CCinNJ
Sirloin
Re:Pizza fast-food history: Why mid-America? 2012/09/11 16:00:55
Good luck with the story....Flyover!!

I know there were some specials run about the topic (including chain history)..maybe on Travel Channel or Food Network. YouTube might have some clips.
post edited by CCinNJ - 2012/09/11 16:02:15
CCinNJ
Sirloin
Re:Pizza fast-food history: Why mid-America? 2012/09/11 20:15:35
I found this clip about a place called Barton's that amazingly enough has been doing this for 50 years...

 
 A 29-inch pizza....that serves 20 people. Marone. What's going on out there?
post edited by CCinNJ - 2012/09/11 20:32:06
Flyover Culture
Junior Burger
Re:Pizza fast-food history: Why mid-America? 2012/09/11 20:34:58
Great video--My aunt's pizzeria in the 1950's (in Garden City, Michigan) had an extra-large pizza, though I can't say it was this large.
CCinNJ
Sirloin
Re:Pizza fast-food history: Why mid-America? 2012/09/11 20:57:04
I think the foundational expansion of the pizza chains happened before the explosion of pizza by-the-slice parlors here. I'm right next to Staten Island and growing up in the 70s there were not many places outside traditional Italian restaurants and local bars serving pizza. I think there were two takeout places. I don't think they even served slices until the mid to late 70s. It exploded after that...and some bars still serve pizza. It grew in a different way.

Pizza meant a la-de-da excursion to NYC...to an established place.
post edited by CCinNJ - 2012/09/11 21:11:18
CCinNJ
Sirloin
Re:Pizza fast-food history: Why mid-America? 2012/09/11 22:26:38
Flyover...after pizza can the story be about hot dogs? Please... please?
ScreamingChicken
Filet Mignon
Re:Pizza fast-food history: Why mid-America? 2012/09/12 11:54:36
gostillerz

To the OP, and this is just a guess, but I think after WW2 (you know, the big one), guys came back, and some opened pizza joints. They were making good money, but others didn't know how to run a pizza joint but wanted to make money. So the original one teaches him for a franchise fee and it snowballs.

 
That's a pretty good description of Pizza Villa's history, although the size of the chain never got beyond a whopping 3 stores.
 
There was also a lack of competition back then, too.  I suspect that outside of the bigger cities pizza was hardly known, thus creating a market to be tapped.
CCinNJ
Sirloin
Re:Pizza fast-food history: Why mid-America? 2012/09/12 12:33:19
Bringing in salespeople and thinking along the lines of moving with advances in technology seems to be a link as well. Here some would cut you off at the wrist if you dare mention that it's a good idea to do things like use a Hobart mixer publish a phone number or deliver. Gasp. You're dead in my eyes!
Flyover Culture
Junior Burger
Re:Pizza fast-food history: Why mid-America? 2012/09/12 13:14:19
Thanks for the input, everyone!
 
I do agree with Saps, however, that we have plenty of great Midwestern-style pizza. My Sulmona-born relatives were among the first to offer it here in metro Detroit, and their Italian pedigree is as authentic as anyone along the Eastern seaboard. I love all styles of pizza--deep dish, thin crust, tomato pies. Good stuff:)
michaelcarraher
Cheeseburger
Re:Pizza fast-food history: Why mid-America? 2012/09/16 10:12:08
Domino's started in Ypsilanti, MI - home of Eastern Michigan University.  Started by a college student for college students.  Early on the target market was dorms, frat houses and off campus residences.  After about 10pm and for the next few hours, students would get hungry and want a study break fueled by pizza.  Somehow, pizza and coke (real thing - lots of sugar) helped late night cram sessions and all nighters.  Even to this day, Microsoft provides free sodas and pizzas to keep code crunchers going.
Domino's second location was East Lansing, MI, home of Michigan State.  For a time, Domino's concentrated on college towns, especially those with big state-supported universities, in the middle of the country.  Big campuses.  Lots of hungry students.  The size of the campus makes the local pizza shop too far to walk (especially late at night, most especially in the winter). 
Pizza Hut started in Wichita.  Little Caesar's in Garden City, MI (Detroit western suburbs).  Godfather's (Herman Cain's company) in Omaha.  Muncie, IN.  Municie has Ball State University (alma mater of David Letterman) but these companies tended to target suburban communites where people drive everyplace.  Midwestern suburbs have a big plus: Delivery is a big plus and people there have never tasted real pizza. 
kland01s
Filet Mignon
Re:Pizza fast-food history: Why mid-America? 2012/09/16 10:27:06
michaelcarraher

  Midwestern suburbs have a big plus: Delivery is a big plus and people there have never tasted real pizza. 

 
Totally false. I grew up in the far outlying parts west of Chicago and never saw a chain pizza until I was in my late 20's (1976 or so) We had plenty of mom & pop places even in my small town where I worked for one in 1963. It was very good thin crust pizza.
Flyover Culture
Junior Burger
Re:Pizza fast-food history: Why mid-America? 2012/09/16 15:23:23
CCinNJ

Flyover...after pizza can the story be about hot dogs? Please... please?


Actually, I am planning to do a story on a long-time Michigan favorite, Coney Island hot dogs within the next month. :)
Flyover Culture
Junior Burger
Re:Pizza fast-food history: Why mid-America? 2012/09/16 15:26:51
Thanks for the great info:) Actually, my Dad was Mike and Marian Ilitch's first manager at the Garden City store and later become Little Caesar's first General Manager VP. The company has certainly changed a lot since he started with them in 1960, and sorry to say, not for the better.
CCinNJ
Sirloin
Re:Pizza fast-food history: Why mid-America? 2012/09/16 15:52:57
Good luck with the story!

Here's a nice article/interview with the authors of the book Coney Detroit...

http://www.foundmichigan....ney-detroit-interview/
Flyover Culture
Junior Burger
Re:Pizza fast-food history: Why mid-America? 2012/09/17 07:29:37
CCinNJ

Good luck with the story!

Here's a nice article/interview with the authors of the book Coney Detroit...




You're reading my mind, CC!
HollyDolly
Double Chili Cheeseburger
Re:Pizza fast-food history: Why mid-America? 2012/09/17 10:19:05
Good and bad pizza can be found everywhere,even on the East Coast.That's like Mexican food. Even here in Texas,and San Antonio,the home of Tex-Mex, you have good places and bad ones. Same for places that serve mexican food in Arizona,New Mexico,and California.
Which reminds me, years ago my cousin Jimmy  opened a pizza parlor in Milwaukee. Don't even recall what he named it, or if he still runs it, or even if he's still alive.Haven't heard from my dad's side of the family in years.
CCinNJ
Sirloin
Re:Pizza fast-food history: Why mid-America? 2012/09/17 11:19:21
Flyover...this art is found in Found Michigan...

http://www.etsy.com/listi...royal-original-8-x-10?

That's really beautiful and very interesting. It would make another great story...when you're done reading this soap opera. Roadfoodnovelas.
post edited by CCinNJ - 2012/09/17 11:34:25
tfrielin
Cheeseburger
Re:Pizza fast-food history: Why mid-America? 2012/10/01 12:45:48
Flyover--I hope you mention the Pasquales pizza and Italian sandwich chain that started in Cincinnati in the '50s and later corporate HQ moved to Birmingham, AL. It is no longer the large----several dozens of restaurants--chain it used to be, but there are still some number of Pasquales still in business in OH, KY, AL, and GA.  Maybe elsewhere too.
 
Their Hoagie (spelled Hoggie for some reason in the '60s/'70s) is the best thing on the menu.
 
 
collinf
Cheeseburger
Re:Pizza fast-food history: Why mid-America? 2012/10/02 17:05:02
There was also Shakey's, which actually started in California in 1954, but had a very Midwestern style of crust to it. 
 
I think pizza in the East typically was started by Italian Americans in their restaurants.  In the Midwest, I think it started more in bars as something to offer patrons that was salty (particularly the toppings), cheap, and an alternative to pretzels and peanuts that went great with beer. 
 
The reason for the difference in styles was the availability of ingredients.  Midwesterners translated "pizza pie" into a more literal form of a crispier, pie-like dough that was rolled out or flattened with a sheeter, because that was what they were familiar with and what they had available in terms of ingredients.  They did not have as much access to the variety of tomatoes, herbs, and flours that others had on the coast, not to mention the family knowledge and tradition.
post edited by collinf - 2012/10/02 17:07:47
Flyover Culture
Junior Burger
Re:Pizza fast-food history: Why mid-America? 2012/10/02 17:50:55
I have to say, the information you all have shared on this thread is actually more helpful than some of the research I've found so far. Thanks again!!
michaelcarraher
Cheeseburger
Re:Pizza fast-food history: Why mid-America? 2012/10/03 08:24:08
kland01s

michaelcarraher

Midwestern suburbs have a big plus: Delivery is a big plus and people there have never tasted real pizza. 


Totally false. I grew up in the far outlying parts west of Chicago and never saw a chain pizza until I was in my late 20's (1976 or so) We had plenty of mom & pop places even in my small town where I worked for one in 1963. It was very good thin crust pizza.

 
Chicago isn't in the Midwest.  It's surrounded by the Midwest on three sides.  Chicago is a cosmopolitan city.  People from the Midwest go there to get out of the Midwest. 
"
"here is a tall bold slugger set vivid against the      little soft cities;"  Carl Sandburg
kland01s
Filet Mignon
Re:Pizza fast-food history: Why mid-America? 2012/10/03 09:18:02
Sorry Michael, still don't buy your theory. I grew up 50 miles west of Chicago in the 1950's and 60' in an area that was totally farm country. No Chicago influences at all.  There was great pizza to be found in every little town (my town had 600 people) and I'm not talking deep dish which I never had until I was in my 20's.
mjambro
Cheeseburger
Re:Pizza fast-food history: Why mid-America? 2012/10/03 11:11:22
collinf

There was also Shakey's, which actually started in California in 1954, but had a very Midwestern style of crust to it. 


 
Shakey's - yet another example of really bad pizza.  Stopped by twice many years ago (drawn in by the movie - silent? -  while seated / waiting) - from what I recall, the crust was really sweet / sugary with a funky texture. Amongst the worst I've ever had - right up there with a slice I once had at the Charlotte airport.