Special Report

5 Pizza Chains to Avoid

Pizza in a cardboard box on a dark chalkboard. Space for your text. Top view of pizza package. Pizza delivery.
Tanya Sid / Shutterstock.com

Pizza is about to have a moment. For starters, National Pizza Day is on February 9. Considering that Americans eat an acre’s worth of pizza every day (per Dairy Herd Management), it seems only fitting that this food is honored with its own special day. This recognition is just the start of the biggest pizza weekend of the year, though.

In 2024, Super Bowl Sunday is just two days after National Pizza Day. It is not just the biggest day for professional football in the U.S. It is also the biggest single day of the year for pizzerias from coast to coast. Americans order more pizzas on the Sunday of the Super Bowl than any other day of the year. Early February is the height of pizza season, to be sure.

As you consider how you will celebrate National Pizza Day or Super Bowl Sunday (or maybe you’re just thinking about an easy dinner tonight), you likely have a myriad of pizza options close by. Which ones should you avoid? That is quite a loaded question.

We all know that pontificating about politics is a surefire way to start an argument, but sharing your opinions about pizza may not be far behind. Millions of people not only love pizza, but they also ardently hold to their viewpoints on the subject. If you’ve ever been involved in a “discussion” about whether pineapple belongs on pizza or not, then you know what we’re talking about. The mere mention of it stirs an impassioned response from both the pro and anti-pineapple crowds.

Given the intensity of differing viewpoints, it is with no lack of trepidation that we foray into the topic of pizza chains. Specifically, which pizza chains should you avoid?

Compiling the List

Pepperoni pizza
Source: Ulga / Getty Images
We consulted multiple reviews of national pizza chains.

To answer that question, 24/7 Wall St. consulted pizza reviews on five different food blogs and websites. Because pizza preferences are so subjective, we only included pizza chains that were ranked near the bottom on multiple sites.

Opinions among the reviewers varied, as they always do about pizza. There was almost no unity regarding which pizza chains are the best. A few of the chains that received high marks from individual reviewers include Mellow Mushroom, Jet’s, California Pizza Kitchen, and MOD.

Chains that received middling reviews include Pizza Hut, Papa John’s, Donato’s, and Marco’s. Individual reviewers had substantially different views of these chains, but it ended with pretty average scores after evaluating all of the reviews.

There was far greater consistency in the votes for the worst pizza chains, though. These five chains stood out in our survey due to their low rankings almost across the board.

5. Domino’s

Source: jetcityimage / iStock Editorial via Getty Images
Domino’s received mid to low grades from reviewers, even after the franchise’s attempts to improve their pizza.
  • Common Criticisms: Lack of consistent quality, Low-quality toppings

A few years ago, Domino’s launched an advertising campaign that was essentially one massive mea culpa. The company acknowledged the quality of its product in the past was, well, terrible. The ads quoted customers who said the crust was like cardboard and the sauce tasted like ketchup. Then, Domino’s promised to improve the quality of its pies.

There is little doubt that a Domino’s pizza in 2024 is far better than a pizza from 2004. However, there are still issues plaguing the world’s largest pizza chain. One reviewer noted that Domino’s uses, “some of the lowest-quality beef on the market.” Others noted that, while the overall quality of the pizza is better than it used to be, it is still nothing that is going to blow you away.

Domino’s was certainly not the worst chain in our survey, but it ranked low enough to warrant inclusion on this list. (If you’re still on the fence, here are 5 reasons to avoid Domino’s pizza today.)

4. Papa Murphy’s

Papa Murphy's
Source: Crackerfist1010 / Wikimedia Commons
Even if you bake your Papa Murphy’s pizza to perfection, it’s still going to be a below-average pie.
  • Common Criticisms: Inferior ingredients, Crust texture

Papa Murphy’s stands out from the rest of these chains because of its “Take ‘N’ Bake” pizza. When you purchase a pie from Papa Murphy’s, it is uncooked. You bake it yourself when you get home, thus ensuring that you have the freshest possible pizza. It all sounds great, but the end result is lackluster.

The ingredients in a Papa Murphy’s pizza just don’t match those of other chains. One reviewer noted that “the greatest pizza master in Italy” could bake a Papa Murphy’s pizza “in an imported brick over,” and the end result would still be, “meh.”

The crust was compared to that of a frozen pizza. Another reviewer stated that it reminded them of “roller rink pizza.”

3. Little Caesars

Little Caesars
Source: jetcityimage / iStock Editorial via Getty Images
The pizza at Little Caesars is fast, cheap, and not very good.
  • Common Criticisms: Low-quality ingredients

Little Caesars has a long-standing reputation for “HOT-N-READY” pizzas. You walk in, order a pizza, and you immediately walk out with your pie. As far as convenience goes, it is hard to beat. However, if a pizza is ready before you even order it, that should also temper your expectations about its quality. This pizza is about speed and affordability, not exquisite taste.

The subpar quality of Little Caesars pizza is offset by its low price point. If you have a crowd to feed on a shoestring budget, Little Caesars is the way to go. But, as with so many other things in life, you get what you pay for. Your guests will be fed, but the pizza will be mediocre or worse.

2. CiCi’s

CiCi's Pizza restaurant
Source: Niceckhart / Wikimedia Commons
Cici’s was very close to being named the worst American pizza chain in our survey.
  • Common Criticisms: Lack of freshness, Flavorless sauce, Off-putting cheese consistency

The final two pizzas on our list received the harshest criticism by far from the foodies we consulted. CiCi’s was ranked as the absolute worst pizza chain in America on two of the five sites in our survey.

While you can order takeout or delivery, CiCi’s is most well-known for its inexpensive all-you-can-eat buffet. Prices vary by location, but the average buffet at CiCi’s costs $8.99 for adults and $5.99 for children. Your local CiCi’s may offer a buffet at an even cheaper price.

As with most buffets, CiCi’s is built on the model of quantity over quality. However, even in that model, consumers should expect at least a modicum of taste. CiCi’s doesn’t even provide that much. Consumers are left to wonder, is this cheap buffet really a bargain if the food is truly this bad?

One reviewer noted that comparing CiCi’s crust to cardboard is “an insult to amalgamated paper products.” The reviewer also noted that the cheese on CiCi’s pizza is slimy. After sitting on the buffet for a while, though, the cheese goes from slimy to a congealed rubbery mass.

Honestly, if you have a hankering for pizza and you’re on a tight budget, there are a lot of frozen pizzas at your local grocery store that surpass both the taste and texture of CiCi’s.

1. Chuck E. Cheese

Chuck E. Cheese restaurant
Source: Michael Rivera / Wikimedia Commons
Chuck E. Cheese entertainment centers have been redesigned, but the pizza is still just plain bad.
  • Common Criticisms: Unappetizing cheese, Toppings that lack quality, Cardboard-like crust, High prices

Two of the sites we consulted ranked CiCi’s at the very bottom of American pizza chains. Two of the other sites listed Chuck E. Cheese as the absolute worst. It was also ranked as the second-worst on a third site, so Chuck E. Cheese narrowly edged out CiCi’s as the worst pizza chain in America.

Chuck E. Cheese made news last year with the announcement that it would be retiring its animatronic band. “The Pizza Time Players” had been a staple of this chain since 1977, led by the restaurant’s namesake rat/mouse, Chuck E. Cheese. However, the mechanical band is now going by the wayside in favor of more modern technology. It was part of a $300 million investment to upgrade the franchise’s “fun centers.”

While many people (mostly parents) were saddened by the news, the move makes sense for the company since Chuck E. Cheese is essentially a children’s arcade that just happens to sell pizza. But, in reality, the band was a welcome distraction from just how bad this pizza really is.

The reviewers in our survey lambasted this chain’s pizza. Among the most stinging criticisms were:

  • The cheese tastes “artificial.”
  • The pizza is “tomato sauce and cheese-covered cardboard.”
  • The “crust was obviously once frozen.”
  • The “sausage looks like it came out of Chuck’s non-singing end.”

We could go on, but you get the point.

The chain revamped its menu in the last few years in an attempt to change its image as an entertainment center that serves the worst pizza imaginable. However, even if the pizza is nominally better than it used to be (and that’s a big “if”), it still falls way, way short of the standard set by other national pizza chains. No amount of Skee-Ball, screaming children, or overhyped prizes can make up for pizza this bad.

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