How 5 Leading Pizza Brands Got Their Names

Which pizza chain founder’s nickname was inspired by legendary billionaire Howard Hughes?

The Hungry Howie’s website lists its blonde-haired mascot as one of four famous Howies, including Howie Mandel, Howie Long and Howie Dorough of Backstreet Boys fame.


Hungry Howie’s

Nicknames FTW
Steve Jackson, Hungry Howie’s CEO and a former delivery driver, bestowed the nickname “Howie” on founder Jim Hearn when they were growing up. Why? Jackson compared Hearn to Howard Hughes, because, to Jackson, Hearn was a rich, successful man—just like Hughes. When Hearn opened his first pizzeria location in Taylor, Michigan, in 1973, Jackson suggested using the fun nickname, and Hungry Howie’s was born in 1973!



Seek Creativity From Employees
In 1960, Tom Monaghan and his brother, James, bought DomiNick’s, a small pizza shop in Ypsilanti, Michigan. After purchasing two additional pizzerias, Monaghan wanted the stores to share the same branding, but the original owner prohibited him from using the DomiNick’s name. An employee suggested the name Domino’s instead; Monaghan loved the idea and officially renamed the business Domino’s Pizza, Inc. in 1965.


Pizza Hut

Nine Was a Lucky Number
This megachain’s name was inspired by the former bar that founders Dan and Frank Carney rented to open their first location in Wichita, Kansas, in 1958. Pepsi provided them with a free sign for the restaurant, but it only had room for nine characters/spaces. They knew “pizza” had to be part of the name, but they were stumped on the remaining three letters. Since the building itself looked like a hut, one of their wives suggested “Pizza Hut,” and the name stuck.


Little Caesars

Wives Are Always Right
This carryout brand’s first location was in a strip mall in Garden City, Michigan. Founder Mike Ilitch wanted to call the business Pizza Treat, but his wife didn’t like the name. She liked to think of Mike as her “little Caesar,” so she suggested that evocative name, and the rest is history.


Papa Murphy’s

When Take-and-Bake Companies Collide
In 1995, West Coast take-and-bake leaders Papa Aldo's and Murphy's Pizza merged, and so did their names. Papa Murphy's made the most sense for the new company’s name, even though there is no actual Papa Murphy!

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