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 The cloth napkins have been replaced by a roll of paper towels on the table.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.