If you think of pizza when you see a red roof, you’re not alone. All over the world, a red roof is associated with Pizza Hut. With more than 18,700 locations, it is the world’s largest pizza chain. Since its founding over 60 years ago, with a brief exception, the chain has kept that bright red roof somewhere in its logo.
Started by Students
In 1958, brothers Dan and Frank Carney were students at Wichita State University in Kansas when they decided to open a pizza business. There were no pizza restaurants in the area, and they knew it would be a hit with people in Wichita.
Pizza was about to claim its place as one of America’s favorite foods. Although pizza was always available in Italian neighborhoods and specialty delis, it was not a well-known food until the late 1940s. Soldiers returning home from Italy after World War II first introduced mainstream Americans to the Italian delight known as the pizza pie. By 1950, pizza was one of the most popular foods in the country.
The brothers knew a rising trend when they saw one. Their timing could not have been better.
The Original Red Roof
The Carneys borrowed $600 from their mother, which would be around $5500 in today’s money. They bought an old building that already had a sign and a red roof. Although they wanted a fancier name, the sign that came with the building only had room for eight letters. After puzzling over several ideas, they decided on Pizza Hut.
They also kept the building’s original red roof.
Success Started Early
Six months later, they opened a second restaurant. A year later, they had six. In 1959, they began franchising.
By 1971, Pizza Hut had become the leading pizza chain in the country. In 1980, it was one of the first to introduce pan pizzas as part of its menu.
The company’s first logo simply spelled out “Pizza Hut:” in bright red letters. In 1970, the company launched a new logo. It featured black lettering and was accompanied by a drawing of a Pizza Hut restaurant. This logo appeared in print and TV ads until 1974.
In 1974, Pizza Hut launched a rebranding effort. The company hired the internationally known Lippincott agency to help with this rebranding. Lippincott designers created a logo that showed a red roof over the words “Pizza Hut” in a bold black font. This was the first logo to use the red roof.
Over the years, Pizza Hut would change this logo slightly, but it never got rid of the basic design.
A New Version
In 1999, the company launched a more modern, playful version of the logo. Designed by Landor Associates, this showed the red roof at a jaunty slant. The letter “I” was topped with a green dot. The words “Pizza Hut” were slanted, and the logo was finished with a bright yellow slash underneath.
This never replaced the original roof logo, however. It was the company’s secondary logo, but the company used it in some advertising. Aside from slight changes, both logos remained the same until 2014.
In 2008, Pizza Hut sent emails to its customers announcing it had changed its name. Because of the overwhelming popularity of its pasta dishes, the email said, Pizza Hut would now become Pasta Hut. It ran advertisements showing Pizza Hut restaurants being demolished and replaced with Pasta Hut stores. The company’s headquarters in Dallas changed its outside sign to read Pasta Hut.
The emails and the advertising were all part of an elaborate, month-long April Fool’s joke. It coincided with the launch of new pasta dishes and an expanded dine-in menu. Once the joke was over, everything went back to its original name.
Rebranded and Refreshed
In 2014, Pizza Hut announced another rebranding to shore up slumping sales. The restaurant changed its menu to introduce new items like crust flavorings and specialty pizzas. The company also designed new employee uniforms.
Part of the rebranding included a new logo. This one featured a bright red circle with the roof and lettering in white. The roof and lettering were still slanted, but now they stood out against the red background. The design looked like a pizza pie with tomato sauce and toppings on it.
A Retro Rebranding
In 2019, Pizza Hut went through another makeover. This time, the company opted for a retro approach. It brought back the original 1974 red roof logo with the bold print lettering. The restaurant still uses this logo with the red circle serving as a secondary logo in packaging and advertising.
Related: Our guide on how to trademark a logo
Some Notable Deliveries
As the world’s biggest pizza chain, Pizza Hut has had some historic deliveries.
- White House: The company scored a major publicity prize in 1989, when then-First Lady Barbara Bush ordered the delivery of 200 pizzas to the White House. This was part of a gathering for children who were at the White House for a Reading Is Fundamental event.
- Outer space: After devising a way to create a space food version of pizza, Pizza Hut became the first company to deliver pizza into outer space. In 2001, a Pizza Hut pizza made its way to the International Space Station.
- Mt. Kilimanjaro: In 2016, the company made the world’s first delivery to Mt. Kilimanjaro, the highest mountain in Africa, to celebrate the 100th country to open a Pizza Hut.
- Plant-based pizza: In 2020, Pizza Hut became the first pizza restaurant to make and deliver a plant-based meat pizza.
Sign of Good Eating
Since its founding, Pizza Hut has turned its red roof into an international symbol of a much-loved food. The pizza may have changed with the times, but the red roof still stands.