It wasnít all that long ago that the pizza companies held the position of strength. Delivery was a novelty, not a right, and it cost $5 before the first topping was picked. If you wanted late night delivery, you had to have an understanding girlfriend because Dominoís closed three hours ago. The rare pizza kitchen that did deliver after bar close charged $16 for a one-topping, and no matter how hard you slurred would not stop off to grab you more Windsor.
There were just simple maxims regarding pizza delivery that were understood. Breadsticks were going to be overpriced. The best deal in the coupon flyers was ten larges for the price of eight mediums (plus tax.) Anything over two toppings required a payday loan. A strange thing has happened recently, however. With the public realizing it can get nine shitty Tonyís pizzas at the supermarket by bartering used motor oil, the pompous delivery companies realized they could no longer gouge a nation in the jaws of a recession. And the price war began.
Itís gotten to the point that as long as you donít care about your cardiovascular health, there is no reason not to increase your delivery pizza intake. The deals keep getting better and Iím pretty sure if you want to push the envelope, no reasonable offer will be refused. The examples are everywhere. I already mentioned that Pizza Hut started this avalanche by dropping the price of its mediums. This continued on to larges and specialties, but the Great Pizza Slugfest reached Waterloo proportions when Pizza Hut finally played its trump card: It treated stuffed crust pizza like every other pie and mercilessly dumped its price for the first time since 1995.
Viewed objectively, a price cut on stuffed crust pizza doesnít seem like that big of a deal. But when Pizza Hut first released this particular concoction way back when, it acted like it had split the Sicilian atom. Pizza eaters had long been lulled into a false prison of well-defined compartments. But Pizza Hut scientists made a breakthrough when they discovered a secret area where more cheese could be hoarded and the company cemented itself as a pioneer in the fight for childhood obesity. Subsequently, it protected its secret as such. Promotions would come and promotions would go, but stuffed crust pizza always sat on the menu retailing well above its cheese-deficient brothers. The proof was in the noon Pizza Hut buffet, where the restaurant would roll out their favorites like meat loverís and other things like that weird casserole that nobody has ever seen past 2:00. Stuffed crust, though, was never to be seen in this smorgasbord. Apparently nothing is sacred anymore, because while stuffed crust had always stayed above the fray, it has now surrendered its crown and joined the pepperoni proletariat.
Itís hard to judge where this will go, but it can only end with razor-thin profit margins and tears falling into stringy mustaches. Little Caesarís has been retailing ready-made pizza below cost for a decade now, and for $10 Papa Johnís is letting you put any topping you want onto a pizza Ė Sausage, Pineapple, Band-Aids. Eventually the gimmicks are going to reach a breaking point when the companies realize they canít out-lose-money each other forever. So who is going to make it?
Pizza Hut is probably invulnerable due to its sturdy popularity. Even more important than that is its crafty alliance with those other nutritional stalwarts, KFC and Taco Bell. Only once in my life have I ever entered a fabled Kentaco Hut, and when I did, the sheer wonder of the menu options caused me to lose control of critical bodily functions. I have been to your standard KFC/Taco Bell a few times, and in Breckenridge, Minnesota, I jumped at the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to have mashed potatoes and tacos in the same meal. This alliance, the nWo of fast food, makes it clear that Pizza Hut still holds a few more trump cards beyond cheese-bloated crust that the human stomach canít fully comprehend.
How about Papa Johnís? Better Ingredients, Annoying Pitchman. Papa Johnís swept through the dorms when I was a freshman on the wave of its chic offerings. Casting itself as a trendier version of Pizza Hut, we soon realized that the extra $4 we were paying for garlic butter and rubber peppers wasnít worth it. It seems the rest of the nation has figured this out too, because Papa Johnís is torching any semblance of a menu and just begging you to order something. Anything. Plus, since I think Papa John Schnatter is an undesirable person to have on my television, this could be a company primed to fall.
Little Caesarís is safe, due to its lucrative side venture of selling heroin by the dumpster behind each store. Thereís no other explanation for how it pre-makes 75 pizzas a day, sells 14 of them, and yet remains in business. Thus, as long as Seattle keeps producing musicians, Little Caesarís real business will keep it comfortably afloat.
Whatever happens in the next year or so, this is a pizza cheapening renaissance that college students will not soon forget. After years of iron fist rule, the pizza companies are groveling at your feet to secure your business. Assuming you are sick of Tonyís pizza, and letís face it, Tony would rather shoot himself than eat his own pizza, now is the time to get on the phone and order a big greasy mess before bedtime.