Latest updated June 18, 2024 by

How Domino’s, Pizza Hut, Little Caesars, and Papa John’s Battled for Dough-mination in the 80s & 90s

The “Great Pizza Wars” of the 90’s may be a thing of the past, but the legacy of competition lives on. These pizza giants continue to battle for dominance, offering new crust flavors, app-based ordering, and even gourmet toppings. But…

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The “Great Pizza Wars” of the 90’s may be a thing of the past, but the legacy of competition lives on. These pizza giants continue to battle for dominance, offering new crust flavors, app-based ordering, and even gourmet toppings. But one thing remains constant: our insatiable love for a good slice of pizza.

The 1980s-1990’s were a golden age for pizza chains as each brand fought for a slice of the market with outrageous deals, wacky mascots, and epic advertising battles.

The competition escalated with hilarious and sometimes bizarre advertising. Pizza Hut unleashed Bigfoot to promote their oversized pizzas, while Little Caesars countered with a monster truck crushing a miniature Pizza Hut truck. Domino’s infamous “Noid” commercials were both weird and strangely endearing.

Pizza Hut: The King (with a Questionable Sidekick)

Pizza Hut reigned supreme in the early 90s, known for its dine-in experience, iconic red roof, and the beloved Personal Pan Pizza. Their commercials featured the family-friendly “Book It!” program and a rather forgettable mascot named “The Doughboy.”

Let’s take a look at some of the now discontinued favorites from the 1980’s and 1990’s:

The Big New Yorker Pizza: Debuting in 1999, this 16-inch pizza boasted six oversized, foldable slices inspired by classic New York-style pizza. Topped with a crispy thin crust, sweet marinara sauce, and extra cheese, it was a fan favorite for years. Unfortunately, after a glorious run, the Big New Yorker was discontinued in 1999. And in 2023, it made a brief reappearance.

Bigfoot Pizza (1993): This oversized square pizza competed with Little Caesars’ Big Big Cheese. The Pizza Hut Bigfoot stomped onto the scene in 1993, leaving a footprint unlike any other. This legendary pizza measured a whopping two square feet, offering a massive 21 slices for a party-sized feast.

Due to the high cost of special boxes, pans, and the sheer amount of dough required, the Bigfoot proved difficult to maintain profitably. After a few years of battling logistics, Pizza Hut retired the Bigfoot in the late 90s, leaving behind a legacy of epic pizza proportions and a touch of 90s nostalgia.

Stuffed Crust Pizza with Flavors (early 2000s): These came in wild varieties like cheddar and jalapeño or bacon and cheese. Debuting in 1995, this innovative creation took the pizza world by storm, forever changing the way we experience that leftover crust.

P’Zone (calzone-like folded pizza): A favorite for many, it was discontinued in the late 2010s. The P’Zone wasn’t your average pizza offering. Debuting in 1994, this innovative creation brought the taste of a calzone to the Pizza Hut menu, capturing the hearts (and stomachs) of pizza lovers for a period.

The P’Zone has been taken off the menu and brought back a few times over the years, most recently disappearing after a March Madness promotion in 2019.

Domino’s: The Underdog with a Crusty Reputation

Domino’s, notorious for its “cardboard crust” reputation, was desperate for a change. In 1995, CEO David Brandon famously admitted their pizza “stunk” and embarked on a massive overhaul. This bold move, coupled with their 30-minute delivery guarantee, began their climb to the top. Their mascot, the Noid, remained a strange but memorable figure.

The Noid (discontinued mascot): This troublemaking cartoon character was Domino’s mascot for a while but was eventually dropped. Debuting in 1986, the Noid was a bizarre claymation creature. Clad in a red, skin-tight body suit with a giant red N plastered on his chest and topped with floppy rabbit ears, the Noid was impossible to ignore. His mission? To foil Domino’s deliveries at all costs, sabotaging pizzas and causing mayhem for the Domino’s delivery guy.

Domino’s ExtravaganZZa Pizza (pre-2009): A pizza loaded with various toppings. It piled pepperoni, ham, Italian sausage, beef, fresh green peppers, onions, mushrooms, and black olives onto a bed of 100% real mozzarella cheese.

This supreme pizza option seemingly offered something for everyone, catering to those who craved a flavor explosion. It’s reign on the Domino’s menu ended sometime later leaving a void for those who enjoyed its all-encompassing toppings.

Stuffed Cheesy Bread (pre-2010s): A cheesy bread option with a gooey center. These delightful breadsticks arrived on the Domino’s scene much earlier than you might expect, and have become a popular menu item. They feature oven-baked bread generously stuffed with a blend of cheeses, then topped with even more cheese and a sprinkle of garlic and parmesan for a flavor punch.

Little Caesars: Hot-and-Ready Value

Little Caesars wasn’t interested in delivery or fancy mascots. Their strategy was simple: value. Their famous “Hot-N-Ready” pizzas, available for a shockingly low price, were a game-changer for budget-conscious consumers. Little Caesars carved out a loyal niche in the market.

Pizza By The Foot: Launched in 1993 to compete with Pizza Hut’s BigFoot Pizza, the Pizza By The Foot, wasn’t just a large pizza; it was an experience. The Pizza by the Foot came in two separate boxes, each containing a long, deep-dish pizza. When lined up together, these two halves formed a pizza measuring a full yard, or 36 inches! It typically came with a classic pepperoni topping, offering a double dose of Little Caesars’ signature flavor.

The Big Big Cheese Pizza: Debuting in 1993, this rectangular beast stretched a remarkable 12 inches by 24 inches, boasting a whopping 24 slices of cheesy goodness. Targeted as a party pizza for value-conscious eaters, the Big Big Cheese offered a classic pepperoni topping and a deep-dish style crust. It was discontinued in the late 90’s.

This behemoth offered a whopping 24 slices, perfect for feeding a crowd or satisfying serious cheese cravings. Unlike some competitors’ giant pizzas, the Big! Big! Cheese kept things simple, featuring a generous amount of mozzarella cheese on a large rectangular crust. Launched in the mid-90s, it became a popular choice for budget-minded pizza lovers.

Crazy Bread with Dipping Sauces (other than marinara): Little Caesars offered a wider variety of dipping sauces for their Crazy Bread in the past. Debuting in 1982, this twisty, buttery breadstick creation has become synonymous with the Little Caesars brand.

Papa John’s: Quality Above All Else

Papa John’s positioned itself as the premium option. Founder John Schnatter himself became the company’s spokesperson, emphasizing “better ingredients, better pizza.” Their focus on quality resonated with customers who were willing to pay a bit more.

Garden Fresh Pizza (pre-2010s): A lighter option with veggies.

Papa John’s offered a taste of the garden in the 1990s with their Garden Fresh Pizza. This vegetarian option catered to health-conscious pizza lovers or those seeking a lighter alternative. Packed with a vibrant mix of fresh green peppers, onions, mushrooms, and possibly even other seasonal vegetables, it offered a departure from their typical meat-heavy pizzas.

Papa’s Perfect Pan Pizza: Billed as the “largest and most significant new product launch in Papa John’s history,” it aimed to capture a loyal following among deep-dish enthusiasts. the Papa’s Perfect Pan proved too labor-intensive and wasn’t as profitable as their core menu items. By 2009, the Papa’s Perfect Pan was discontinued, leaving a void for those who enjoyed its unique deep-dish take on Papa John’s pizza.

Cinna Pie (various times): A pizza with bacon, lettuce, and tomato. It has been brought back and discontinued a few times. This wasn’t your average cinnamon roll. Imagine a warm, golden brown pastry made with Papa John’s signature fresh dough. Inside, a generous helping of sweet cinnamon filling swirled with brown sugar, promising a delicious explosion of flavor in every bite.

It was topped with a delightful oat crumble adding a satisfying textural contrast. Then came the real indulgence: a drizzle of white icing, creating the perfect balance of sweetness and gooey goodness.

The “Great Pizza Wars” may be a thing of the past, but the legacy of competition lives on. Today, these pizza giants continue to battle for dominance, offering new crust flavors, app-based ordering, and even gourmet toppings. But one thing remains constant: our insatiable love for a good slice of pizza.

Keep in mind, these are just a few examples, and there are many more discontinued items from each chain. Some chains also bring back popular items for a limited time, so you might get lucky and see an old favorite return!

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