The $5 pizza restaurant was founded in Detroit Michigan in the late 1950’s by the man who would later own the Detroit Red Wings and the Detroit Tigers. Sports, conveyor ovens and robots were all part of the story when we looked at Little Ceasars in part 1. So with more to explore, lets take a look at the the Top 10 Untold truths of Little Caesars – Part 2
10. It’s the Name of the Best Arena in the NHL
As we touched on in our Part 1 video, James Ilitch, the founder of Little Caesar’s, amassed one of the more impressive sports teams portfolios, owning both the Detroit Tigers of Major League Baseball and the Detroit Red Wings of the National Hockey League, and it all started with a professional soft ball team and almost lead to Ilitch owning more if not for rules in the National Football League that prohibited as much. Part of that portfolio includes Little Caesar’s arena in downtown Detroit. Construction to replace the legendary Joe Louis Arena in April of 2015, and the arena opened in time for the 2017 season. Costing just under $900 million to build, near the site of the Joe Louis Arena, the arena was immediately dubbed a masterpiece by sporting fans and the best arena in the NHL. It features a unique, glass-roofed concourse that connects it to the headquarters for the Detroit Red Wings as well as some shops for fans to check out before during or after games. Named the 2018 Sports facility of the year by Sports Business Awards (as they truly have awards for everything these days, just ask us, as we were named the best list based YouTube channel by BabbleTop Business Awards just now, by us!), which makes sense considering that the arena’s goal was to be something that was “world-class” that “rival[ed] anything in the country, perhaps the world”. Beyond that there is an over $2 billion dollar sports and entertainment district that covers more than 650,000 square feet around the arena that also include mixed-use neighborhoods in a retail/residential mix that is part of the revival of Downtown Detroit after decades of decay. It was also recently announced that the Detroit Pistons (another team that the elder Ilitch looked into buying) would be moving into the arena as well, meaning that the stadium would become the best home arena in two different sports leagues. Detroit, What. Detroit, What. [NOTE to Video Editor… This is a reference to Eminem in the ‘Forgot About Dre’ Music video, either the VO person can say it or you can just put Eminem saying it here…]
9. They Used to be Mushroom Farmers… Sort of…
Back in 1969 the world was a different place. The Summer of Love had occurred the year prior and had turned into a drug-induced nightmare, the Beatles were about a year away from breaking up, the Vietnam War was in full-swing and most importantly, Little Caesar’s was opening it’s 50th location. Back then, and then again recently, quality, fresh ingredients were super important (except no one ate kale, or avocados that weren’t guacamole). Because of that, Little Caesar’s decided to cut out the middle man, at least for one of their ingredients and while you’d think they’d want to invest in a tomato or cheese farm because of their importance, they instead purchased some mushroom farms. Dubbed the Little Caesars Mushroom Farm, Inc., the goal was to (obviously) grown, package and distribute mushrooms to all 50 Little Caesars locations. It actually worked out well so they added more products and turned the business to Blue Line Foodservice, and added more clients outside of Little Caesars. Blue Line Foodservice still exists and has 14 US Locations and one in Canada, which explains how the Ilitch family was able to buy so many sports teams.
8. They Have a Mobile Kitchen… Just in Case
A lot of companies attempt to give back to their communities but not all communities are like Detroit, a once vibrant city built around the American Car Industry that has fallen on hard times these past few… half centuries. So with that in mind Little Caesars has attempted to give back in multiple ways, some of which we’ve already covered with the investments made in their new arena and the surrounding neighborhood/retail center(s). On a smaller scale, though, they’ve also given back by providing food to those in need and that’s where their mobile ‘Love Kitchen’ comes in. Started in 1985, the mobile love kitchen has served more than three million in people in need and has expanded from helping communities in and around Detroit to traveling around the country to areas where natural disasters have occurred to provide not only food to the needy, but delicious melty food to the needy. Because of it’s success and the seemingly un-ending amount of natural disasters around the United States, they started a second Mobile Love kitchen in order to, according to their website, “be in service 365 days a year”. The mobile Love Kitchen has been awarded The President’s Volunteer Action Award Citation (told you there were a lot of awards!) from former Presidents George H. W. Bush and Bill Clinton and was also awarded a Citation for Private Sector Initiatives from Ronald Reagan, a Certification of Appreciation from the State of Michigan and a Golden Certificate of Thanks from President Donald Trump. Okay, we made that last one up, but considering the fact that it seemed like something real, we rest our case on the abundance of awards.
7. They Paid Rosa Parks’ Rent for 11 Years
So far we’ve basically established what a great company Little Caesars is, which really was the doing of the founder, James Ilitch, who strongly believed in giving back to those in need or those who have given back themselves. No better example of this exists than the fact that James Ilitch paid the rent of Rosa Parks for 11 years, something that didn’t come to light until the elder Ilitch passed away in February of 2017. You see Rosa Parks lived in Detroit and because Detroit has had it’s issues, she was assaulted, beaten and robbed while in her Detroit home back in 1994 when she was 81 years old. Because of that a local judge named Damon Keith (who was the one that let people know what Ilitch had done) decided to find Parks a better place to live and that’s where Ilitch got involved. He called Keith and let her know that he’d pay for Rosa Parks’ new digs and did so until she passed away in 2005. Considering he did this without telling anyone shows that he was a great man who did great things because he believed in them, not for publicity or a tax break. Wow.
6. The Pizza Portal
One drawback for Little Caesar’s is that the don’t deliver their pizza. To make up for that fact that offer $5 pizza that you can essentially pick up at any time, although those pizzas are generally pretty standard and don’t allow for a lot of flexibility as they’re cooked ahead of time so people can pick up a cheese, pepperoni or garbage pizza right after walking in the door. To assist with allowing people more pizza freedom, Little Caesar’s has begun something called the ‘Pizza Portal’ which allows people to create the pizza of their dreams through an app and then drive to their nearest Little Caesars, enter the three digit code given to them by the app and then, voila, a mushroom, kale and sausage monstrosity in your hands in record time! With a goal of creating no line, no waiting and really no human interaction, it’s the perfect solution for one of the larger criticisms of Little Caesars and of going outside for those of us who basically live online and consume high calorie foods for every meal! While the program hasn’t rolled out to every location yet, the testing has apparently gone well and it should be implemented in the very near future, making pizza even more omni-present. Little Caesars is truly doing God’s work.
5. Speaking of God’s Work
We’ve already established what a great guy James Ilitch was and also that because of all of those delicious pizzas we buy they’ve been able to give back to people like Rosa Parks, those who have just suffered through a natural disaster and also those that just live in the Detroit area (at least the area around Little Caesar’s Arena). Their investment in Detroit didn’t start or end with Little Caesar’s Arena, though, and the sheer scale of their investment was reported in Crain’s Business Detroit back in 2017. It was reported that the Olympia Development of Michigan organization, which is owned by the Ilitch family, had invested just under $1 billion dollars in downtown Detroit from the investments they made in Little Caesars Arena to the area FIFTY-blocks around the stadium (which is essentially the entire downtown and surrounding areas). On top of that, 90 percent of that money went to companies from and in Michigan, meaning that they weren’t only helping to rebuild Detroit (literally) but also were putting money back into companies from the area. The ‘District Detroit’ that surrounds Little Caesar’s arena alone cost $1.2 billion, was done mostly by Michigan companies and could be the spark that downtown Detroit needs to really return to it’s glory days. Here’s to hoping.
4. They were Sued Over Halal Pizza
That’s not to say that it’s been all sunshine and profits for Little Caesars or that everyone in Detroit is enamored with Little Caesars. In 2017 it was announced that they were sued by a Muslim man from nearby Dearborn, Michigan, which has one of the largest Muslim populations in the United States. Because of that, the Little Caesar’s in Dearborn began selling “Halal” pizza, which is pizza that doesn’t include any pork products as eating pork is a big no-no for Muslims (and other religions as well as ancient people really didn’t think eating animals who ate garbage was a good idea, perhaps they were onto something). To be halal, pepperoni has to be made differently (as does Canadian bacon, and bacon, whether or not Kevin Bacon movies are okay is still being debated). The man, named Mohamad Bazzi, had a wife who was raised as a Catholic but converted to Islam and thus knew that the pepperoni was definitely pork. Bazzi sued for $100 million in damages because he wanted to send “a message” (in an envelope made of gold) that eating pork is “devastating for devout Muslims”. Little Caesar’s looked into it and said that Bazzi changed his order from halal pizza to their Hot-and-Ready pizza (that isn’t labelled as halal) and the judge agreed.
3. Pizza, Pizza used to mean… Free Crazy Bread?
This is perhaps the biggest stretch on this list but, hey, we’re about 20 unknown facts total between two lists so give us some slack. Back in 2013 a user on Reddit claimed that there was a secret code you could use to get free crazy bread from Little Caesars. A user named Bamness said that he went into a Little Caesars (that he had clearly frequented regularly) and said ‘Pizza, Pizza!’ after his order, repeating the slogan that was created as a one-off promotion (for two pizzas for the price of one from any of Little Caesar’s competitors if you brought a coupon or ad in showing the price of that pizza, meaning for one pizza elsewhere you’d get pizza! pizza! at Little Caesars). According to Bamness, while the person taking the order didn’t budge someone came out of the back and handed him free crazy bread as well as, and this is the important part, a thanks for being a “longtime” customer. So, it just sounds like Bamness was being rewarded for being an enthusiastic and longtime customer and misunderstood what that meant or was just looking to troll people on Reddit, but either way it’s almost a guarantee that multiple people went into Little Caesars, starving and low on cash, and yelled “PIZZA? PIZZA?” before being asked to leave. That alone makes it worthy of this list.
2. The Logo has a Hidden Message
The logo for Little Caesars has changed throughout the year and every time there’s a change you can guarantee that a company spent a ton of time and money figuring out what to change and why to change it, hiring marketing companies to come up with competing ideas and focus-testing those ideas against groups that represent all sorts of different demographics. As a symbol for their business, there is no mistakes made (at least through negligence or a lack of extreme focus) in company logos, even ones that are poorly received, as every single pixel is poured over and considered. Even older logos like the one that probably pops in your head when you think of Little Caesars logo went through that process and thus it’s safe to say that there aren’t many coincidences. With that in mind take a look at the Little Caesars logo with the toga-wearing, pizza eating mascot that is seared into your memory. At the bottom of his toga is a repeating design that sort of looks like parts of squares and at first glance that’s all you see, but if you look again it actually looks like the letters “L” and “C” repeating across the bottom of the toga. We’ll let you figure out what “L” and “C” means, but this has some merit beyond our interpretation as CBS Detroit also did a piece on this in what had to be the slowest news day of all-time.
1. There were “Pizza Wars” in the early-to-mid 1990’s… They Lost
Forget the East Coast vs. West Coast “rap wars” that occurred until the mid-1990’s, the real nonsensical war that changed things forever was the pizza wars that occurred from really around 1983 through the mid-1990’s. Before those wars Little Caesar’s was actually the second-largest pizza chain in the United States, and it was the chain that usurped their position behind Pizza Hut that fired the first shots in what has been called the Pizza Wars in ’73 by offering a free pizza if that pie that wasn’t delivered within 30-minutes. While the “war” didn’t include any actual violence or even any property damage or slashed tires on delivery drivers cars, it did include things like direct-mail bombardments, the stealing of ideas between chains, a lot of passive aggressive media statements and more. Just like how war can help lift a company out of a recession or even a depression, the Pizza Wars actually created a boon in the Pizza industry as the chains poured tons of money into hiring more delivery drivers, opening more franchises and selling more and more pizza. Unfortunately for Little Caesars they ended up on the losing end of this war as they were displaced by Domino’s who catapulted them to become the number two chain in the game, behind Pizza Hut, the… Pizza Hut of Pizza chains. At least they’re doing better than Papa John’s.