Why Pizza Hut's Cofounder Is Upset About This Food That Built America Episode

No one ever said Pizza Hut made a top-tier quality pie, like the kinds you'll find on the streets of Italy — even the chain itself based its first recipe off of a casual "handful of this and a handful of that" back in 1958, but that doesn't mean it's anything short of delicious (via Kansas Historical Society). Pizza Hut has long been a takeout staple in American kitchens (just maybe skip its newest Detroit-style slices — trust us on this one).

As a matter of fact, Pizza Hut topped the global pizza sales charts until 2017, when Domino's took first place after years of head-to-head competition, reports CNBC. So when the History Channel announced an episode of its series The Food That Built America — a special Pizza Wars: Pizza Hut vs. Domino's edition — the chain's cofounder Dan Carney was excited for a chance to see just how his success story would hit the small screen. That was until it was actually released.

The Carney brothers were portrayed in an unfavorable light

Carney's excitement fizzled fast, though, after he saw how History Channel portrayed him and his late brother, especially in contrast to their biggest competitor. He shared with The Wichita Eagle, "It was a great idea," but the execution was overall "crappy."

One gripe? No one contacted Carney for any input, and the brothers' characters were less based on fact, and more based on "somebody's imagination." The boys were shown as impulsive and goofy — or as Carney calls it, "Kansas yokels" — without a business bone in their body, which struck a nerve.

Frank and Dan Carney were young college students with a $600 loan and one goal in mind: To create a successful restaurant empire. Although Frank was just 19 years old when they started their business, the two brothers were well-educated and had a game plan. Frank and Dan took career-building entrepreneurship courses at the University of Wichita, and both understood what it meant to build and run a business, despite their age (via The Sunflower).

The History Channel doc foregoes that information in favor of highlighting the fact that Frank dropped out of college (to which he later returned), and that Dan paused work towards his master's degree for a stint in the Air Force, notes The Balance.

Carney feels that the business facts were all wrong

Even if the History Channel felt the need to beef up Frank and Dan's characters for a juicier story, Carney tells The Wichita Eagle that his greatest source of frustration is that the episode just isn't true.

At one point in the episode, the Carney brothers approach rising competitor Domino's to buy out the business. The brothers supposedly went to founder Tom Monaghan's office with an offer for a controlling stake in the business in the fall of 1976, pointing out that Domino's is struggling to keep up with the financial responsibilities of the rapidly expanding pizza chain. Monaghan turns down the intimidating deal, but the encounter ends with a threat from Carney: "We'll never stop coming for you."

But a quick Google search and conversation with Carney himself proves all of that to be untrue. Carney insists that Pizza Hut never made an offer to purchase Domino's. Better yet, he never even met Monaghan — the very same businessman the Carneys approach in Pizza Wars — until years later, when Pizza Hut was already sold.

Domino's may have had a leg up in the Pizza Wars episode

Another point of blatant irritation for Carney is how biased the episode seemed to be towards Domino's. He lamented the fact to The Wichita Eagle, saying that the documentary was less about the history of the companies, and moreso "served as a rather prejudiced ad for Domino's."

Carney even raised another flag, noting that there was at least one advertisement for Domino's during a commercial break. Considering the fact that Domino's has overtaken Pizza Hut's position as top pizza seller in the United States in recent years, well, this seems a bit fishy. Talk about adding fuel to the fire!

The Pizza Hut cofounder was so upset by the company's portrayal in the episode that he's even considering filing a lawsuit. However, without his brother by his side and at the now-retired age of 89, Carney isn't sure it's worth the legal hassle and stress. But as a tried and true businessman, we're glad he has enough fight in him to call it like it is.