If there's any doubt that the pizza segment of the U.S. retail restaurant is alive and well, consider that nearly 3 billion pizzas are sold in the U.S. each year. So what are the top pizza restaurant chains in the U.S.?
Rankings change from year to year, but here's a list of those that were considered notable in 2016. Many have over 500 units and gross sales of over $375 million, according to the Directory of Chain Restaurant Operators, and the Daily Meal surveyed diners who cited some of them as the "best" pizza chains out there.
Depending on where you live, you may not have heard of some of them, but they might give real pizza lovers a good reason to travel. And, of course, others are household names.
The Most Popular Pizza Chains
- Pizza Hut: The champion for many years, Pizza Hut has over 11,000 units as of 2017 and over $13 billion in gross sales.
- Domino's: The delivery king, Domino's has over 14,000 units and delivers more than 1.5 million pizzas every day worldwide.
- Little Caesars Pizza: Little Caesars has been around since 1949.
- Papa John's International: With more than 4,200 locations, you can find Papa John's in every state.
- Papa Murphy's International: Papa Murphy's opened its 1,400th restaurant in 2016.
- California Pizza Kitchen: They have fewer than 300 units, but California Pizza Kitchen brings in sales that place them above other contenders with more units.
- Sbarro: This chain is an international favorite with about 1,000 locations in 30 countries.
- Chuck E. Cheese's: This favorite has more than 500 locations.
- Marco's Pizza: Marco's has more than 400 locations in 30 states.
- Old Chicago Pizza & Taproom: This chain was actually founded in Colorado in 1976, not Illinois. It now has about 100 U.S. locations.
- Giovanni's Pizza Power: Locations are currently limited to Tennessee, Ohio, Kentucky and West Virginia, but the chain is growing.
- Pizza Inn: This one has been around since 1958 and has more than 300 locations, mostly in the south.
- Donato's: Known for its specialty toppings, this chain has more than 200 locations.
- Hungry Howie's Pizza & Subs: Hungry Howie's specializes in flavored crusts. Founded in Taylor, Michigan, it now has more than 545 locations in 21 states.
- Jet's Pizza: This chain has dibs on what might be the best deep dish pizza in the country. It has restaurants in Tennessee, Michigan, Ohio, North Carolina, and Florida.
- Round Table Pizza: With more than 500 locations scattered across the U.S., Round Table Pizza is worthy of this list.
- CiCi's Pizza: Cici's started out in Texas and now has more than 500 locations in 34 states.
Pizza Chain Trendsetters
This list of Top 10 Pizza Restaurant Chain Trendsetters in the U.S. dates back to 2013, but all the chains mentioned are still alive and thriving. The list is based on innovation, technology, franchising, and marketing advancements. PizzaMarketplace.com compared 70 chains. Again, some surprisingly small and unknown chains are going dough-to-dough with the pizza mega-chains.
1. Dominos - Headquarters in Ann Arbor, Michigan
2. Papa John's - Headquarters in Louisville, Kentucky
3. Papa Murphy's - Headquarters in Vancouver, Washington
4. Pizza Hut - Headquarters in Plano, Texas
5. Naked Pizza - Headquarters in New Orleans, Louisiana
6. Little Caesars - Headquarters in Detroit, Michigan
7. CiCi's - Coppell, Headquarters in Texas
8. Streetza Pizza - Headquarters in Milwaukee, Wisconsin
9. California Pizza Kitchen - Headquarters in Los Angeles, CA
10. Independents (Non-mega-chain pizza restaurants) - Headquarters Everywhere, USA
When Americans think of pizza, places like Illinois, Texas, Michigan, and California may not immediately come to mind, but they should. These are the U.S. states with the most trendsetters on the list.
Not all the largest U.S. pizza restaurant chains like Domino’s, Papa John’s, California Pizza Kitchen, and Pizza Hut are located in the Midwest, although some of them are. Chains that are demonstrating the most innovative pizza-making and marketing strategies are located in creative Midwestern hubs.