Pizza Hut and Death by Modernization

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About 10 years ago, we lived close to a Pizza Hut. Sometimes, on a cold and snowy evening, I’d make my way there for takeout, bringing home its piping hot delicousness for a wife coping with being a new mother. In fact, the first thing my wife wanted after finishing her labor giving birth to our firstborn was a Pizza Hut pizza.

At that time, our local Pizza Hut restaurant was still one of the old kind, the ones with the funny red roofs. It was dim and cool inside. They still had a salad bar. Living nearby served us and the restaurant well for several years. Here is what happened to end this simple, rewarding arrangement: Pizza Hut corporate closed the store.

They didn’t leave the community, instead they built a new Pizza Hut store directly across the street from where our old one had been. The new Pizza Hut store sucked. It was bright and blue inside. The atmosphere aimed at being hip and high energy, but instead managed only to be sterile and hard. There were no arcade games, no jukebox. Instead there were flat screen televisions everywhere blaring ESPN. It was an obviously corporate environment pushing obviously corporate products. We ate there once, maybe twice, but no more.

At the time, I reflected on how the change in the design was a sign of what was wrong with modern America. In the shift from one Pizza Hut design to the other, the embrace of soullessness, the forced false cheeriness, and the rejection of romance and mystery that characterize our time was on full display. Where the old Pizza Hut had been more like a selection from Kind of Blue, the new one was a Katy Perry video.

I bring all this up now because the blogger at retroramblings.com has written a post called “Back when Pizza Hut Was an Experience“. After recounting the details of the Pizza Hut experience in its heyday, he writes:

These days, when I visit a Pizza Hut, everything is different. There are not more stained glass lights above the tables, just a cheap brass light fixture. The candles and the checkered table cloths are gone. The cloth napkins have been replaced by a roll of paper towels on the table. The waitress doesn’t cut and serve your first slice. The beer and pitchers of drinks are a thing of the past. The jukebox is filled with modern tunes, and the sit down arcade console is gone. Now, you just go and get a pizza, but not the experience. The shakers of pepper flakes and Parmesan cheese are still there, but that is about all that is left of the experience. Even the quality of the pizza has dropped off significantly from their heyday.

That is all certainly true. What this post misses though is the fact that what has happened to Pizza Hut in the last 30 years has happened to all of America. Some people like to think that corporate competition makes things better. It certainly doesn’t make everything better. Sometimes, when corporations seek to be more like one another and to conform to the cultural zeitgeist, it makes things worse. For evidence, simply consider Pizza Hut and every Hollywood remake.

Soullessness is the dominant theme of American popular culture and that soullessness is what the writer of the original post is lamenting though he doesn’t say so explicitly. Our soullessness, unfortunately, is not limited to the design of pizza restaurants, but rather it infects everything including the majority of our people who go right on gobbling up what our empty society is feeding them, never pausing to wonder what it is that has left them so hungry in the first place.

5 thoughts on “Pizza Hut and Death by Modernization

  1. Thanks for linking to my post, and also a hearty thanks for illustrating the larger point. You are indeed correct when you say that people have no idea what has left them so hungry to begin with. I see it everyday. I talk to folks many times a day and see the same thing over and over again. People miss the way things used to be. Whether it’s cars, movies, food, sanctity of marriage…whatever. We all seem to have this burning desire inside to go back in time and relive the past.

    My blog focuses on this, and I bring up a different topic everyday. The subjects of posts are endless, because no matter what I post, I invariably get the same type of responses…”I miss that…things aren’t the same….they don’t make them like they used to….the new version sucks!”

    Why we don’t actively do something about it is beyond me. In our house, we have tried to turn back the clock a little and slow life down. We don’t have a cable subscription, instead, we watch old television shows from the 70’s and 80’s. We enjoy time together, because at the heart of it all, that is what I really miss. Times together without everyone staring at a phone.

    Thanks again for picking up where I left off. You’ve got a great post here.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. We do a lot of that at our house too. We watch very little television and NO modern TV shows (Well, we used to watch “Last Man Standing”), but the favorite shows of my kids, who are now in their teens, are “I Love Lucy”, “Gilligan’s Island”, and “The Brady Bunch” We always eat dinner as a family, no smart phones allowed in anyone’s hands after 5 p.m.

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  2. In Michigan we had a chain of restaurants called “Bill Knapp’s.” They always had Donald Duck and Mickey Mouse comic books in the waiting area for the kids. They served food like Chicken Fricassee and meat loaf and au gratin potatoes. Beverages came in small clear glasses. It was comfortable, warm and quiet. The lighting was dim, they had pleasing wallpaper and actual drapes in the windows. You could have a conversation at a normal level. They brought fresh hot biscuits to the tables before you ordered. The waitresses were friendly, but not over the top cheerful On your birthday they brought out a slice of chocolate cake with a single candle and they played a recording of Bing Crosby singing “Happy Birthday” over the speakers.

    Then they tried to become more “relevant” to the younger generation. They brightened up the restaurants, put televisions everywhere, played loud music, took down the wallpaper and painted weird designs and phrases all over the walls, and their new slogan was “That was then! This is WOW!” Within a year and a half they hardly had any customers and tried going back to their traditional logo, decor, and feel, but it was too late and they closed all their restaurants.

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