By Karen L. Edwards, COO.
Pizza Hut restaurants didn’t always have their iconic red roofs. The company was founded in 1958 by two brothers in Wichita, Kansas who, according to a blog post by Pizza Hut, borrowed $600 from their mom to buy equipment to get started.
They chose to name their restaurant Pizza Hut because their sign only had room for eight letters! After opening their first franchise a year later, the company began to quickly grow. In 1969, they turned to college friend Richard D. Burke, who had become an architect, and asked him to design a look that would distinguish their restaurants from the competition.
Pizza Hut shares on their blog, “Burke had originally charged the brothers a hefty upfront fee that the fledgling pizza start-up wasn’t able to scrape together. Instead, they offered Burke $100 per store built using his design, never guessing that Pizza Hut would become the global company that it is today.”
With over 16,000 restaurants and 350,000 team members in more than 100 countries, it’s easy to see how $100 per roof would have had Burke rolling in the dough!
The company said that an architect who worked with Burke said that the design was “a fusion of common sense, the architectural taste of the 1950s, and a need for the design to be both remarkable and appealing in a variety of locations.”
The roof became so recognizable that the company incorporated the red roof into its logo, and it remains there today, despite them moving away from the iconic look. “Obviously, it’s an iconic design that we will always have elements of in everything we do,” Yum! Brands CEO David Gibbs told the Dallas Morning News. “The red roof stands for Pizza Hut in the eyes of consumers…But in many cases, the business just demands that we move to a bigger, more contemporary asset.”
The look Burke designed resonates with consumers to this day through sites like Used to Be a Pizza Hut, where people post pictures of former locations that have been converted into other businesses, yet still have the iconic look.
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