When it comes to the massive pizza chains spread out across North America, the eternal question is often asked: Who makes it better?
Two of the heavyweight pizza chains out there are undoubtedly Pizza Hut and Papa John’s, and in this piece we’ll try our best to answer the aforementioned question in regards to these two heavy hitters in the pizza industry.
When you can’t get authentic Italian or New York Pizza, who’s the better go-to: Pizza Hut or Papa John’s?
Pizza in Italy and New York
When it comes to pizza, all foodies know that the greatest of pizzas can only be found in Italy, New York and Chicago, and in that order. Not to say that there aren’t other epic pizzas the world over, but statistically speaking, that is the state of affairs.
I’ve been to Italy and tasted the pizza, specifically in Naples, where the memory of my first bite still lives vibrant and clear to this day in my mind and in my foodie heart. I was seven that very first time and I can still smell the basil and oregano, the fresh pressed tomato, the crust…the bubbling cheese on a simple slice of Margherita.
In New York, I remember standing at The Original Vincent’s Pizza waiting for my takeout order, that familiar smell from my time in Naples coming back to me in a flood. I remember, I ate Vincent’s Original pizza on a park bench not too far from the restaurant, taking in all the sights and smells—the smell of the pizza the most overwhelming of all.
But where do you get your pizza when you can’t board a plane and go to Italy or New York, and frozen pizza just won’t cut it?
The large chains are no doubt where you must go and the pizza at such places is more than acceptable and definitely hits the spot for some.
They didn’t become the multi-billion dollar organizations that they evidently are by serving sub-par food. It/they definitely hit the proverbial spot when in a bind, and craving good pizza and not being able to find it is most definitely a bind, friends.
It was only 36 years ago that Papa John’s restaurant was opened for the first time in 1984. The story is classic upstart lore, as John Schnatter –Papa John himself—apparently knocked out a back wall in his father’s tavern, sold his Camaro, bought some used ovens and other equipment, and started doling out pies.
By word of mouth, popularity grew steadily and by 1994 he had grown what was at first a back of tavern pizza joint into 500 locations. The year prior (1993) the company went public. Interestingly enough only three years later or so, that number of locations grew to be a whopping 1500 locations. They’ve even got one of the biggest names to ever play in the NBA on the board in Shaq, and he also acts as an ambassador. You might have noticed him in the commercials.
According to John’s Wikipedia page, he sought his old Camaro out once gaining great success and actually bought it back, rewarding the new owner a reported $250, 000. Talk about coming full circle.
Papa John’s total revenue as of 2019 was $1.619 billion.
The older guard, Pizza Hut, first opened in the summer of 1958. It was founded by Dan and Frank Carney, and in Wichita, Kansas of all places. It did so well, they were able to open another restaurant in half a year, and in just a single year that number grew to a total of six locations. It was in 1959 that they started selling franchise locations to further expand what they had created.
The rest, as they say, is history.
Today, the company enjoys a domination the world over of a whopping 18,703 restaurants.
Yum Brands is the parent company of Pizza Hut’s; they also own Taco Bell and of course KFC, so overall, they are clearly racking in more revenues than good old Papa John’s, for sure.
But do more locations and more money overall mean that they have the better pizza than the younger restaurant? Let’s see what the numbers say, folks…
Who makes the better pie?
The Papa John’s slogan: “Better Ingredients. Better Pizza. Papa John’s.” We’d have to agree with it, so my choice is evidently clear. To prove it further, how about some statistics?
On a business side of things, CNBC reported that Yum Brands in general did very well in sales recently in the US markets, but did a lot less in terms of earnings internationally, yet what does that mean in terms of taste?
For foodies, that’s the better way to look at things…the better way to get at the nitty-gritty…the answer of answers…who makes the better pie? That giant three-floor restaurant on the corner over there cutting corners for the sake of getting bigger, or that little mom and pop place beside the apartment complex that uses only the freshest of ingredients?
See my point?
According to a report at businessinsider.com, who tested all three of the major chains’, which include these two and of course Domino’s; they stated that Papa John’s gets the edge in their breadsticks alone, giving the overall nod to Pizza Hut, which was surprising to me.
As far as uproxx.com’s report, they stated that Papa John’s took home the reward for their Stuffed Crust pizza. So still a tossup for sure.
The bottom line
So now that we’ve given you a base of other opinions, I’d say that for me, looking back on the great pizza that I’ve tasted, a pizza needs to taste and smell fresh, where the best possible ingredients are used; where the sauce’s smell throws its arms at you, pulling you towards it like some unseen beacon of sorts.
The sauce must be not too sweet, not too salty; the cheese a tad more on the oilier side (but not overwhelmingly so)…the ingredients fresh.
So for me, I’ll most definitely go with Papa John’s. What do you think, readers? Who makes it better and why?