5. Papa Murphy’s Pizza
> U.S. sales: $795 million
> Number of U.S. units: 1,400
Papa Murphy’s is the result of a 1995 merger between two other pizza chains, Papa Aldo’s and Murphy’s. It is based in Vancouver, Washington. Pies are sold on a take-and-bake basis — that is, they’re made up to customer specifications but left uncooked to be put into the oven at home, obviously solving the problem of soggy or tepid delivery pizza. Five crust choices are offered (including gluten-free), along with more than 25 toppings.
4. Papa John’s
> U.S. sales: $2.712 billion
> Number of U.S. units: 3,199
Born in Jeffersonville, Indiana, in 1984 (it is now based in the similarly named Jeffersontown, Kentucky), Papa John’s has been in the news in recent years due to controversies involving founder John Schnatter. These include legal battles, accusations of racism, and Schnatter’s contention that his business had suffered after the NFL kneeling protests during the national anthem spurred the company into canceling TV advertising. None of that has seemed to dim the public appetite for Papa John’s wide range of pre-planned or create-your-own pizzas, including those with garlic parmesan crusts.
3. Little Caesars
> U.S. sales: $3.820 billion
> Number of U.S. units: 4,350
Still another nationwide pizza chain with origins in the Detroit suburbs (see Jet’s Pizza, No. 11, and Hungry Howie’s Pizza, No. 8), Little Caesars grew out of a small storefront operation opened in 1959. With thin-crust, classic, and rectangular “Deep!Deep! Dish” pizzas, as well as pretzel crust and stuffed crust variations, Little Caesars’ varieties include the 5 Meat Feast (with Crazy!Crazy!” amounts of bacon, sausage, ham, pepperoni, and beef) and the Ultimate Supreme (pepperoni, sausage, mushrooms, onions, and green peppers).
2. Pizza Hut
> U.S. sales: $5.526 billion
> Number of U.S. units: 7,482
America’s number-two pizza chain was started by two brothers in Wichita, Kansas, in 1958. According to company lore, they gave it such a short name because their sign only had room for eight letters (plus a space, obviously). Standard meat, chicken, and vegetable pizzas are available. Toppings for DIY pies are the usual, with not quite as many options as some other chains offer, and crust options include multigrain and stuffed, among others.
> U.S. sales: $6.591 billion
> Number of U.S. units: 5,876
The only pizza chain in the Restaurant Business top 10, Domino’s is the fourth Michigan-born operation on this list (see Nos. 11, 8, and 3), but this time from a suburb of Ann Arbor, not Detroit. Begun in 1960, it now counts about 16,000 locations around the globe. Philly Cheese Steak, Pacific Veggie, and Wisconsin 6 Cheese are among the varieties offered, and of course pizzas may be customized. Chicken dishes, sandwiches, and pastas are also on the menu.
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