Everything You Need To Know Before Eating At Pizza Inn

Who doesn't love a freshly delivered or oven-baked pizza? Topped with pepperoni, sausage, bell peppers, even pineapple, or anything else your heart desires, pizza is for everyone. And because pizza is so popular, there are many ways to get your fix when a craving strikes. Sure, you could drive down to that fancy Italian restaurant a couple miles away, but you could also purchase a frozen pie from the supermarket, or even better, order it fresh for delivery. It's easier than ever these days, as pizza chains have popped up all over the country. Think Papa Johns, Domino's, or Toppers, just to name a few — all brilliant stores to get fantastic pizzas from. None, however, are quite like Pizza Inn.

Proclaiming itself to be America's hometown pizza buffet, Pizza Inn offers loads of different pizza options, served up at its all-day buffet, or available for delivery. All the classic delicious pizzas that you order from other restaurants you can find here, and enjoy their cheesy goodness. But like any pizza chain, restaurant, or even grocery store, there's a lot that we as the consumers likely don't know about the inner workings of Pizza Inn — until now, that is. Read on for everything you need to know about Pizza Inn before the next time you hit up the buffet.

Pizza Inn was founded by two brothers outside a university campus

It's interesting how many restaurants start up almost by accident. And this seems to be especially true of pizza chains. The founding brothers of Domino's were considering other career options (and one was already a mailman) before they founded the chain. Other founders realized they loved pizza so much that they dropped out of school to pursue the line of work, as is the case with Pizza Hut. The founders of Pizza Inn share a similar story of their own in regards to how their chain got on its feet. There isn't anything wild or extraordinary about it, but hey, when it comes to pizza, do you really need to be over the top?

Pizza Inn was founded in Dallas, Texas, by a pair of brothers who shared a love for all things pizza. The two opened up their business in 1958 near the bustling campus of Southern Methodist University. Operating a pizza joint super close to a college is a pretty smart business move, considering that pizza is arguably a staple for study sessions and tailgating parties alike. This strategic decision, along with the quality of pizza and exceptional service you can get in each store, is likely what helped propel Pizza Inn to more widespread success as a major competitor in the fast casual pizza industry. 

The chain recently updated its logo and design

Pizza Inn has been in the pizza-making game for a long time now. And when you make an incredible cheese or pepperoni pizza, there isn't really a need to change anything about the recipe. But there's a lot more that goes into a successful business. A brand's logo, their online website, and even the way a restaurant is laid out sometimes needs to be revisited by companies in order to give their business a cleaner, more refreshing feel. And recently, Pizza Inn did exactly that, undergoing a major rebrand of their logo and more to update the look and feel of the brand in September 2022. 

With Pizza Inn's latest redesign, the company hopes to pay homage to their past, while at the same time, embracing the changes that come with technological and stylistic innovation. And according to a company press release, along with the updated logo design, there are changes coming to the restaurants as well. The chain plans on adding a party room made for families and groups of people to gather and enjoy themselves with some pizza. They also have plans to completely redo the restaurant interiors as well, giving locations a fresher, more modern look (as per Restaurant Business). There even seems to be plans for a photo area, where you can stand in front of a pair of cheesy wings and a halo and become a pizza angel, all for Instagram, of course. 

Pizza Inn's mascot also got an upgrade

One of the most noticeable aspects about Pizza Inn's recent makeover is the change that has occurred with the mascot. In the case of Pizza Inn, JoJo is the smiling pizza chef that one sees when they visit the Pizza Inn website, or walk into one of the restaurants. In his earliest form, JoJo had a pointed red hat, a checkered apron, and a bright smile on his face as he tossed some pizza dough up into the air (via PMQ). However, a little bit has changed since JoJo's earliest incarnation.

In JoJo's newest redesign, he looks quite different from how he was rendered in 1958. First and foremost, the pointed red hat that featured on all of his previous iterations is gone, as well as the checkered apron, according to a Pizza Inn press release. Instead, he is wearing a bright red shirt and a white apron around his waist. Another noticeable change is that instead of using two hands to toss the pizza dough up in the air, JoJo is now doing it with just one arm, suggesting that he's picked up some pizza tossing skills during his time as Pizza Inn's mascot. Something that hasn't changed about JoJo, however, and will remain a feature of the mascot as long as the chain is open is his bright smile that welcomes customers to the website or restaurant.

The first Pizzert was made in 1986

Pizza certainly makes for a cheesy, saucy, and filling meal, but what if you want something a little sweeter once you've had your fill of slices? If you're at a birthday party or sports gathering, you can often follow up your pizza with some cake or ice cream. And if you're ordering from a pizza chain, you can sometimes find dessert pizzas made with cinnamon and served with ice cream. Even cookie cakes are reminiscent of pizza, albeit way more sweet. You can make dessert pizzas at home too, but if you're at Pizza Inn, you can do one better and help yourself to a selection of desserts that will satisfy any pizza lover's sweet tooth, including their original "Pizzerts."

Pizzerts, as the name suggests, are Pizza Inn's signature dessert pizzas. They come topped with chocolate chips, Bavarian cream, or a the selection of fruits. These dessert pizzas have been around Pizza Inn for quite a while now. According to Pizza Inn, the first Pizzert pizza was made in 1986, meaning that the chain has sold this sweet, delightful dessert for over 35 years now. And the chain claims it was the first ever to create a dessert pizza. Over the years, the Pizzert has evolved, and Pizza Inn has served up some pretty uniquely flavored and limited-edition pizzerts in the past — pumpkin pizzert anyone? (via Restaurant Magazine). 

Pizza Inn locations are mostly found in the southeastern U.S.

If you've been reading this and scratching your head, wondering when you can find a Pizza Inn, there's a good chance you're probably not alone. Although the restaurant is decently popular, it isn't the biggest chain out there. If it was as big as say, Little Caesars or Dominos, we'd all be more likely to see them wherever we go, but there just aren't a whole lot of Pizza Inn locations across the country.

If you go to the Pizza Inn website, and make your way to their location page, you'll only see 14 out of the 50 states highlighted in red. It seems like Pizza Inn is situated primarily in the southeastern part of the country at the moment, mostly clustered in states from New Mexico to Virginia. And it's worth noting that some states have a lot more Pizza Inn locations than others. While Virginia only has four of them, there are 32 Pizza Inn restaurants in the state of Arkansas alone, which is one more than even the chain's founding state of Texas. This isn't to say that Pizza Inn is a bad chain by any means — that just means that if you really want some pizza from this chain, then you're going to need to be in a specific place to get some.

Sales have been in decline for years

When it comes to restaurants, it has to be admitted that things slowed down a lot during the COVID-19 pandemic. Many small mom-and-pop restaurants had to shut down entirely, while other locations had to cut hours, staff, or even the number of customers they could help at once. Of course, even before the pandemic, some restaurants across the country were struggling, and the pandemic only made it worse. This includes Pizza Inn, which, according to an Eat This, Not That article, was close to bankruptcy in 2020. 

That possible bankruptcy is likely due to a decrease in sales, as the chain placed a heavy emphasis on the family-style buffet aspect of its restaurants. That's not to say this all came crashing upon Pizza Inn at once. Even before the pandemic, the company was struggling in terms of sales. While around 152 stores could be found across the country in 2018, at Pizza Inn's peak the chain had around 500 locations (via FSR Magazine). That's already a pretty significant drop, and the pandemic certainly didn't help, either. Before the virus hit the states, Pizza Inn reportedly had 155 locations in the Southeast (via Yahoo News). However, as of December 2021, the number of Pizza Inns dropped to 128, which is a much further cry from its heyday.

But Pizza Inn has plans to turn things around

Despite having to close locations over the years amid falling sales, and all of the hardships Pizza Inn had to face during the pandemic, the chain still has plans to expand and improve. The updating and rebranding of Pizza Inn's design and logo are one thing, but the pizza company has also been growing in terms of locations, as well. According to Restaurant Business, the chain was actually able to add two more buffet locations to its roster in fiscal year 2022. Even though this isn't the biggest burst of growth, it does bring hope to the chain, as the company holds onto its mission of coming back strong from its difficulties.

Furthermore, the parent company of the Pizza Inn chain, the RAVE Restaurant Group, has reported a mass increase in net income from 2021. The company reported they had a net income of about $6.8 million in the fourth quarter of 2022. For reference, in the fourth quarter of 2021, the restaurant only brought in a $0.9 million net income. That's certainly a massive improvement in just a single year. And we're not the only ones who hope this trend continues and that someday there are Pizza Inns all across the country.

The chain's parent company owns another pizza brand as well

Pizza Inn is not owned by a single individual or family, but rather the RAVE Restaurant Group, which is a company that works primarily with pizza. In fact, the company used to be called Pizza Inn Holdings, Inc., and while the name has changed, Pizza Inn is still a huge part of the RAVE Restaurant Group's work. However, while Pizza Inn is one of the oldest pizza restaurant chains that RAVE owns, it isn't the only one. The company actually owns two pizza brands, the first, of course, being Pizza Inn, while the second is known as Pie Five Pizza.

Pie Five Pizza, aside from offering its patrons fantastic pizza, is fairly different from Pizza Inn. While both have dessert menus, the famous pizzert isn't present on Pie Five Pizza menus. Furthermore, Pizza Inn doesn't just have pizza — you can get wings, pastas, and other great foods from each restaurant. Meanwhile Pie Five Pizza primarily focuses on the pizza aspect of its menu, with some salads and breadstick options on the side. While both of the restaurants that the RAVE Restaurant Group owns seem great in their own right, Pizza Inn seems to offer a lot more heart and nostalgia than the newer, faster pizza-themed restaurant that is Pie Five Pizza.

Pizza Inn is dedicated to giving back to the community

Giving back to one's community is an important thing, even if you are a restaurant. Many grocery store chains, famous chefs, and restaurant owners have been known to collaborate with nonprofits, or offer promotions to donate some of what they make to charities. Pizza Inn is a chain that has a history in helping its communities and the people in them who are in need. One such example is when Pizza Inn hosted a donation drive in honor of National Military Appreciation month (via Restaurant Magazine). The chain worked with the nonprofit, Operation Gratitude, in order to raise money to supply care packages to military members who were deployed.

Another instance of Pizza Inn showing some care to the people who eat in its restaurants is when the chain hosted a fundraiser in two of their Kentucky locations in order to assist local families who had been negatively affected by a tornado. Not only did the Pizza Inn team feed the first responders with their delicious pizza and more, but the restaurant directly tried to assist those families who were affected as well by donating a portion of sales to them. You might not expect that out of a pizza restaurant, or maybe you do — but either way, it's still nice to see a good deed done, especially when it involves pizza.

Pizza Inn's CEO previously worked for a major competitior

If you work with pizza and love your job, then you may want to spend your entire life in the industry, or at least in proximity to a restaurant that sells the fantastic pies. Many of the head figures who run Pizza Inn have experience in the restaurant industry, though one individual in particular has experience in pizza — and not just any pizza, but a chain that you've likely heard of and eaten at. Brandon Solano is the current Chief Executive Officer for RAVE Restaurant Group, though he hasn't always had the position. Before he took up a spot in the company, he worked for another pizza chain — Domino's.

According to Michigan Live, Brandon Solano previously worked at Domino's as the Vice President of Brand Innovation. He developed and introduced new desserts and food items to the pizza chain's menu, and helped generate and execute new ideas with Domino's product marketing team. After his work at Domino's he also worked at chains such as Wendy's, Pei Wei Asian Kitchen, and Papa Murphy's, until he found a place with the RAVE Restaurant Group (via Food Business News). Even with his experience at Domino's alone, that's a pretty impressive resume, so we could see why Solano was hired.

There's a similar chain with the same name operating in Africa

In the U.S., the name "Pizza Inn" clearly refers to the pizza chain that is discussed in this article. However, it turns out that there is another Pizza Inn chain out there. Except this one isn't located in the states. If you ever find yourself craving some pizza, and happen to be in Africa, you can stop by a Pizza Inn and order yourself some freshly made pizza. No, it isn't the same brand as the Pizza Inn we know and eat at here in America, but it still has a lot of delicious food to offer, and is quite popular as well.

The African Pizza Inn is owned by Simbisa Brands Limited, who own a plethora of "inns," including Creamy Inn, Chicken Inn, even Fish Inn. Pizza just happens to be one of the many restaurants they operate. The mascot of this Pizza Inn is fairly similar to JoJo, as well. The logo also features a smiling baker with a huge mustache, except his pizza is baked and finished, while JoJo is still in the process of making his. The differences between these two restaurants, as well as the similarities, are pretty clear, but either way they both offer wonderful, delicious pizzas for everyone to enjoy.