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 1992 (via Jacobs Media), proving the sky's pretty much the limit. Their headquarters moved to Detroit after a $12-million renovation of the Fox Theater, but they kept the doors open on their original location for a long time. When Ilitch passed away in 2017, the doors of his original store still opened the next day — for the 21,099th time. 

Most locations don't offer delivery

Pizza and delivery seem to go hand in hand, but Little Caesars has leaned towards a pick-up only model. 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.

If your local Little Caesars bucks the trend and does offer delivery, consider yourself lucky.

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.

There's a 243-foot tall Little Caesars in Detroit

Sorry to disappoint, but the largest Little Caesar in the world is not a massive shrine-like statue in a secret deserted location. In fact, it resides in Detroit, Michigan, and you wouldn't even know it existed from ground level. In 2017, the Little Caesars arena was unveiled in downtown Detroit and it displays a 243-foot tall Little Caesars logo painted on the roof of the arena.

While the name may not be the flashiest or most subtle, M Live reported that building the Little Caesars arena cost almost $863 million — with nearly 38% of the bill falling on Detroit's taxpayers (via Detroit News). Also serving as a concert venue, the Little Caesars arena is home of the Detroit Red Wings ice hockey team and the Detroit Pistons basketball team.

However, the Little Caesars arena recently was in the news after the last "holdout" house in the arena's district burned down unexpectedly. The house, at the time of the fire, was unoccupied. In order to build the arena, the Ilitch family organization paid out more than $50 million to private landowners in exchange for the land. However, the last house left in the arena area, a two-story house built in the 1800s, once had a $5 million price tag that gave it the title of the most expensive house on the market in Detroit in 2017 (per Detroit Free Press). That's a lot of pizzas.

Little Caesars has offered some odd menu options

Of course, Little Caesars' menu offers a wide variety of pasta, pizzas, and other carb-filled delights. However, Little Caesars has had a few interesting and slightly unhinged menu items in the past with some being delicious and others being just weird.

In 1993, Little Caesars offered a spaghetti dinner with four pasta shapes options to appeal to a possible make-believe take-out spaghetti market that needed to be reached. Nearly 20 years later, Caesars later implemented the Little Caesars pizza cones as part of its Pizza Kit Fundraising Program. The pizza cones were not available at restaurants, but the kits were available to be purchased online by non-profit organizations to raise money for various causes (via Pizza Marketplace).

Little Caesars also unveiled in 2021 its new "Crazy Calzony ––" a collapsed calzone and pepperoni pizza hybrid that Paste Magazine said looked "like the result of a pizza lab accident." Similarly horrifying in complexion, the crazy calzone got a facelift when Little Caesars launched the Batman Calzony in partnership with the newly released Batman movie starring Robert Pattinson –– the only thing yummier than a Little Caesars pizza (via Detroit Free Press). Of course, we can't forget the crazy bread bouquets Little Caesars offered for Valentine's Day 2022 — because the key to someone's heart is obviously garlic and cheese (via PR Newswire).

How much does it cost to open a Little Caesars?

Opening your own Little Caesars could be a dream-come-true for the young at heart who have always wanted to get paid to eat pizza, However, it's more challenging for the average Joe or Jane to open their own Little Caesars franchise.

The Little Caesars website offers some basic numbers outlining the costs and fees needed to open your own Little Caesars franchise, including $350,000 required in net worth, a $150,000 liquid asset requirement, a $20,000 franchising fee, and a 6% royalty per week. For veterans, Little Caesars waives the franchising fee and offers $5,000 to $10,000 dollars in equipment credit (via The Grub Wire). There are different franchise options to choose from that go beyond its normal carry out format such as a self-serve format and a cashier express format with limited menu options and modified layouts (via Franchise Help).

The estimated initial investment can climb as high as 1.5 million dollars, depending on costs such as training expenses, rent, insurance, permits, supplies, equipment, and other fees (via The Grub Wire). It seems like a lot, but is low compared to other pizza chains like Pizza Hut which could require over two million dollars in total investments (via Franchise Direct). The profits on average for a Little Caesars franchise ranges from $50,000 to $200,000 a year after expenses, making it a worthy investment if you have a few hundred thousand dollars just laying around (via Mobile Cuisine).

Bill Murray once worked at Little Caesars

We all know and love Bill Murray for his lovable sense of humor and his iconic roles from hit movies like "Ghostbusters," "Caddyshack," and the most underrated Murray movie of all time, "Scrooged." However, Murray talked about his humble beginning on "Jimmy Kimmel Live" in 2014, including when he worked at a Little Caesars in Evanston, Illinois.

Murray told Kimmel that it was the best job he had ever had –– a shocking statement from one of the most well-known film actors and comedians of all time (via Time). Murray, then a 23-year-old med school drop-out, worked alongside a soon-to-be-famous chef –– a 15-year-old named Kerry Simon (via Las Vegas Review-Journal). Simon was a celebrity chef and "Iron Chef" alum that was credited for revitalizing and reinventing Las Vegas' restaurant scene until he died 2015 at the age of 60 (via CNN).

Simon told the Las Vegas Review-Journal in 2014 that "you could tell [Murray] was different. Just naturally funny" and even "tried to talk him into being a chef." We think Murray made the right choice, eventually going on to star on "Saturday Night Live" and becoming one of Little Caesars' most famous employees.

Little Caesars couldn't use its Pizza! Pizza! slogan in Canada

Little Caesars' recognizable slogan, "Pizza! Pizza!," is as classic as the toga-adorned man eating pizza stamped on every box and sign. However, the nostalgic slogan isn't as old as you would think. It was originally coined in 1979 after Little Caesars introduced its two-for-one pizza deal, birthing the now iconic and explosive catchphrase (per Little Caesars website). However, the famous phrase disappeared for 15 years until it was brought back into Little Caesars' advertisements in 2012 (via Ad Age).

"Pizza! Pizza!" came into some hot water after Little Caesars was told that it couldn't use the phrase at its Canadian stores. It turns out that rival pizza joint, Pizza Pizza, already had the saying trademarked for the company's name. Pizza Pizza first opened in 1967, so it is unclear whether or not Little Caesars used the name as an "inspiration" for its well-known expression. So instead of saying "Pizza! Pizza!," Canadian Little Caesars stores use "Delivery, Delivery" or "Quality, Quality" instead in advertisements (via Pop Rewind). Can't say that's much better, but A for effort.

Little Caesars is the official pizza of the NFL

The NFL has had a fully-loaded sponsor roster filled with famous food companies and fast food legends with its partnership with Postmates (via Verdict Food Service) and Subway in 2020. In June 2022, the NFL announced a partnership with Little Caesars as its official pizza sponsor for the league (via PR Newswire). The spot was previously held by Pizza Hut from 2018 to 2022 and Papa John's before it from 2010 to 2018 (per USA Today).

A statement to Forbes expressed how the multi-year deal with the NFL is "one of its 'highest-profile partnerships to date' " and how it's "a pivotal moment" for the restaurant chain's continued growth. The NFL affiliation follows the previous partnership Little Caesars had with the NHL as its official pizza delivery service for the 2020 to 2021 season.

The PR Newswire press release outlines the deal's details including new components such as new products, promotions, and yet-to-be-announced "social media games" prior to the 2022 hockey season. The partnership will also have a fundraising aspect that will bring Little Caesars Love Kitchen, a charity that works to feed unhoused people, to various NFL event cities. Now, we just need a football-shaped "Crazy Calzony."