The untold truth of Little Caesars

There are few people that will admit to going to Little Caesars because they love the pizza, but there are a ton of people who head there for a convenient, decent, affordable couple of pizzas that will feed the whole family. They've built an empire based on having pizza ready on demand, and in our busy world, that's a huge thing. So, what don't you know about one of America's favorite places for super-fast pizza pick-up?

It started under a different name

Little Caesars was founded by Mike Ilitch, and it was a huge risk. He and his wife, Marian, spent their entire life savings opening the doors to their pizza place on May 8, 1959, and that original location on Cherry Hill Road in Garden City, Michigan, is still there and still serving customers.

According to The Detroit News, they originally served things like fish, hot dogs, chicken, and shrimp, and in those early days the place was called Little Caesar's Pizza Treat. The first day they were open, they made 49 pizzas and kept track of their sales in a little notebook, but it was just a start. They were franchised by 1962, and 20 years later they bought the Detroit Red Wings. Their purchase of the Detroit Tigers came in 1990 (via Jacobs Media), proving the sky's pretty much the limit. Their headquarters moved to Detroit after a $12-million renovation of the Fox Theatre, but that original location is still there. When Ilitch passed away in 2017, the doors of his original store still opened the next day — for the 21,099th time. 

They won't be adding delivery

Pizza and delivery seem to go hand in hand, but Little Caesars has always been pick-up only. That's not going to change, either, according to what CEO David Scrivano told CNBC in 2017.

"Our customers know that is exceptionally fast to pick up a pizza [at Little Caesars] versus waiting 35 [to] 45 minutes or an hour for delivery," he said. And it's certainly true, but there's a bit more to it than that. With everyone else already offering delivery, Little Caesars would likely struggle to do what others are already doing. There's also the fact the customer base for many locations tends to be in economically disadvantaged areas, and that would mean lower tips for drivers. Delivery fees would raise the price of the pizza, and they've prided themselves on remaining super-affordable. There's just no reason to start delivering, Scrivano says, and adds that they've become so popular among their customers that a stop at Little Caesars is a part of many families' regular routines anyway.

They bought a mushroom farm to supply their earliest chains

Anyone who knows their way around a kitchen knows that quality ingredients are important. In 1969, Little Caesars opened its 50th location, and by 1971 they were looking for more and more ways to make sure their restaurants were getting the good stuff. They opened Little Caesars Mushroom Farms, Inc., to grow, package, and distribute mushrooms to all their locations. It worked so well additional products were added, and it gradually became Blue Line Foodservice. Even though it was founded to supply Little Caesars, Blue Line took on other clients in the 1990s and now has 14 US locations and one Canadian one.

They have a mobile pizza kitchen for emergencies

Most companies have found some way to give back to their communities, but Little Caesars goes above and beyond with their mobile Love Kitchen. Since they first put the mobile kitchen into operation in 1985, they've gotten several presidential awards for their service (from the Reagan, Clinton, and Bush administrations), along with a number of other citations and acknowledgements.

In 2014, they announced they were adding a second mobile kitchen to their fleet, which had already handed out more than three million meals to families who were homeless or displaced. They dispatch their kitchens to areas across the country throughout the year to feed those in need, and when there's a natural disaster, they mobilize to head out into the most devastated areas. In 2017, they headed to Texas and stopped first at the Freeman Coliseum to feed the first responders on the front lines of Hurricane Harvey, continuing the tradition that sent the Love Kitchen to Hurricanes Katrina, Rita, and Sandy, the scenes of devastating wildfires, and 9/11.

They did add a "Pizza Portal" for fast pick-up

You can't call and order a pizza for delivery, but Little Caesars has started offering customers something that might be even better — the Pizza Portal. According to Digital Trends, the idea went into testing phases in August 2017, with the promise of being implemented at locations across the country. Customers just download the app, order and pay for their pizza, and they'll get a three-digit code. Stop at your local Little Caesars, pull up to the Pizza Portal, and enter your code. Then, pizza happens!

In theory, there's no restrictions on what kind of pizza you order through the app and the portal, and Little Caesars says it's all about making it as convenient as possible for customers to get their pizzas. The goal is no line, no waiting, and as a side effect, introverts can rejoice at this people-free pizza pickup.

Founder Mike Ilitch paid Rosa Parks's rent for 11 years

When Little Caesars founder Mike Ilitch passed away on February 10, 2017, The Detroit News quoted one customer as simply saying, "We lost a good guy, didn't we?" The world doesn't even know just how good he was, because there are a lot of things he did quietly. It was only in 2014 that Sports Business Journal talked to a Detroit judge named Damon Keith. Keith came forward because he wanted the world to know one thing Ilitch had done for 11 years: he paid Rosa Parks's rent.

In 1994, Parks was assaulted, beaten, and robbed while she was in her Detroit home. She was 81 years old at the time, and Keith promised her he was going to find her a safe place to live. Ilitch got in touch with him, and told him he'd foot the bill for her rent. And he did, until her 2005 death.

He didn't talk about it, he just did it. Keith wanted everyone to know about it, in addition to giving millions to local charities, funding college scholarships, youth sports leagues, and giving free sponsorship to Detroit's ailing industries. "Of all the incredible things he has done for the city," Keith said, "people should know about what he did for Rosa Parks."

They're investing millions into revitalizing Detroit

In 2017, Crain's Detroit Business reported some astronomical numbers, and those numbers reflected the amount of money Little Caesars has put back into the revitalization of Detroit. As of July 31, Olympia Development of Michigan — which is owned by the Ilitch family — had paid a pretty shocking $926 million into projects like Little Caesars Arena (pictured) and the buildings in a 50-block radius of the stadium. About 90 percent of the funds went directly to companies in Michigan, and just what kind of impact it wil have on the area remains to be seen. The plan isn't without skeptics, of course, but supporters are hoping the arena — which will be the home of both the Red Wings and the Pistons, and will host 41 games for each team every year — will become the heartbeat of a new Detroit.

The Chicago Tribune says that by the time the District Detroit project is complete, it'll be at the cost of $1.2 billion. The state-of-the-art stadium earned the nickname Pizzarena pretty quickly, and supporters hope it'll be the start of a renaissance for the city — thanks, in large part, to Little Caesars.

They were sued over halal pizzas

Not everyone in Detroit is happy with Little Caesars, though, and in 2017 they were sued over pizza that was labeled halal. According to Dearborn's Mohamad Bazzi (via the Detroit Free Press), the pizza was labeled halal but wasn't, and it was only after he'd eaten some of the regular pepperoni that he realized he'd eaten pork. The lawsuit said that Bazzi's wife — who was born into Catholicism but converted to Islam — knew the pepperoni was definitely pork, leaving them with no choice but to file a suit for $100 million in damages in hopes of sending a clear message to Little Caesars: serving pork after claiming something is halal can be devastating for their devout Muslim customers.

According to Little Caesars (via CBS Detroit), Bazzi changed his order from a halal pizza to a Hot-and-Ready pizza that isn't labeled halal, and therefore the chain wasn't responsible. The suit was ultimately dismissed by the judge.

Saying "pizza, pizza" during your order used to get you free Crazy Bread

We all love secret menus, and according to one Redditor, Little Caesars used to have a secret code phrase that would score you an order of free Crazy Bread. A poster going by the name Bamness said he gave it a shot in 2013, and said, "Pizza, pizza!" when he finished up giving his order. The employee taking the order didn't get it, but someone else came out from the back and gave him his free Crazy Bread — along with thanks for being a longtime customer. It's been somewhere around 15 years since that was a regular thing, but who knows? Try it, and you might just get some free Crazy Bread.

There's a hidden message in the logo

It's no secret that companies choose their logos very, very carefully, and they put a lot of thought into the symbol that's going to represent their business. Little Caesars is no different, and even if you're familiar with the toga-wearing, pizza-eating mascot, you may not have noticed the hidden message he has sewn into some of his togas.

Check out the hem, and you'll see that some of them have a decoration that makes the letters "LC," according to CBS Detroit — you know, for "Little Caesars." Not all of them do, and we like to think that he just has different togas for different occasions.