I Really Miss 1990s Pizza Hut Buffets. (2024)

All-you-can-eat Pizza Hut buffets were by far the best thing to happen to pizzas, buffets, and anyone who didn’t care about their bodies in the 1990s. Where I’m from, the proud and intermittently trashy state of Illinois, they were a pre-Seamless staple and an excuse to visit the red-roofed sanctuary that was America’s foremost pseudo-Italian food franchise. At that time, Pizza Hut was a freewheeling, come-as-you-are-at-your-worst sort of place best understood in terms of the proximity of the pizza to the pudding. For the low price of $3.99 — $1.99 for anyone under the age of 10 — a nutrient-agnostic diner could have it all.

The first ever Pizza Hut was open by brothers Dan and Frank Carney in Wichita, Kansas in 1958. The name reportedly came from Dan’s wife who thought the first lazily construction location looked like a hut. As the company expanded, the recognizable red, shingled roofs proliferated across the country. The buffets made their debut early in the summer of 1992. The year before the business had grown by 10 percent, but due to increased delivery sales. So, naturally, Pizza Hut doubled down on dining in. Some 2,000 14-foot, all-you-can-eat buffets were installed across America.

Did the experiment in buffet technology work? It depends on what metric you privilege. Did it make Pizza Hut more successful? No. Did it help the executive pull in more customers? Hard to say. “You cannot have one asset that is flat or growing very slowly and have the entire company growing very rapidly,” senior vice president of marketing for PepsiCo Bob Perkins, told the New York Times in 1992. The idea was that buffets would supercharge dine-in growth alongside delivery growth.

By 1999, it was pretty clear that wasn’t going to happen. But Pizza Hut dug in its stuffed, crusty heels. The suits wanted to make it work. They wanted to advertise having the best pizza and then they wanted to serve it at the continental breakfast from hell. God bless them.

The problem was that unlimited pizza, pasta, and salad were no match for simultaneous trend away from buffets. Pizza Hut was headed toward consolidation. Today, many of the trademark red roofs are pitched atop non-pizza businesses. There are Verizon stores and Sbarros in old Pizza Huts. People sell wrenches where proud buffets once steamed, as if they didn’t have a crucial impact on so many childhoods for the better part of a decade. It’s like the Tooth Fairy just up and quit to become a stripper.

Without the buffets on the inside, kids today are missing out on a lot more than a pointless amount of mediocre pizza. Those buffets functioned as open bars for tiny people who couldn’t yet enjoy open bars. It was Fuddruckers for those unprepared for Fuddruckers. Eating from the buffet wasn’t a nutritional experience, it was a formative one. Pizza Hut buffets prepared me for a decade of sloppy wedding receptions.

Pizza Hut was also a place where kids learned that messiness — banished from home — was, in fact, a genuine option. At home, wasting food, leaving the table intermittently, and mixing foods in bizarre ways was discouraged. At Pizza Hut it was normal. The buffet was a free-for-all by design — not unlike America. It is where I learned that butter knives don’t break skin and that I can, in fact, eat whatever I want if I’m willing to pay the consequences.

Those may not be good lessons, but they were valuable.

And, despite all that bread and cheese, my parents always seemed lighter at Pizza Hut. Maybe it was because they didn’t have to cook, cleanup, or break the bank. Maybe it was because they found the sound of a plate being dropped every three to four minutes as calming as I did. As remarkably unremarkable as it all was, we were all happy to be there. The Pizza Hut buffet was stupid in a specific sort of way that we could experience and share together. It was, well, nice.

Though 1990s Pizza Hut seemed made for children (Land Before Time puppets, pudding, monosyllabic menus), it was actually designed for exhausted mothers and fathers. How do I know this? Two reasons. First of all, there is a provision in several states’ liquor laws called the “Pizza Hut Exception,” which permits parents to drink beer while their kids roam free range. Secondly, I saw my parents in that environment. They loved it.

The genius of the Pizza Hut buffet was that it was a bait-and-switch. The kids thought it was for them, but it wasn’t. It was for adults who just didn’t want to cope. At Pizza Hut, you didn’t have to. Nobody expected you to put on a face. Nobody tried. I liked that.

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I Really Miss 1990s Pizza Hut Buffets. (2024)


Why did Pizza Hut stop their buffet? ›

It appears that they weren't really helping out business for Pizza Hut either, and nationwide consumers were trending away from the dining model. Buffet-style dining has come to be seen as unsanitary and uncool, contrary to the culture of Instagrammable, customizable food.

What was Pizza Hut's slogan in the 90s? ›

From 1995 to 1999, the slogan was "You'll love the stuff we're made of". The advertising slogan is currently "No one outpizzas the hut". Pizza Hut does not have an official international mascot, but at one time, a series of commercials in the U.S. aired, titled "The Pizza Head Show".

What is Pizza Hut bringing back from the 90s? ›

Pizza Hut Announces the Return of 'The Big New Yorker,' An Iconic Fan-Favorite Pizza from the 1990s. PLANO, Texas, Jan. 10, 2023 — Today, Pizza Hut announces that its famous 16” New York-style pizza, “The Big New Yorker,” will return to its menu after its initial launch 24 years ago.

Is the Pizza Hut buffet worth it? ›

Whichever way you look at it, £12.99 for a good feed with several courses is pretty decent. A normal full pizza is about £10-£12, starters £3-£5 and desserts £4-£5, so with the buffet deal it's easy to see how you could save a bit of cash.

Why are people boycotting Pizza Hut? ›

Why the chain is facing a worldwide boycott. Pizza Hut is facing consumer boycotts after the chain reportedly provided free meals to soldiers on Israeli military bases.

What did Pizza Hut change its name to? ›

Starbucks, Pizza Hut did not 'change brand names to avoid Israel boycott'

What is the 90s fan's favorite pizza at Pizza Hut? ›

The Big New Yorker was a 16-inch pizza cut into large slices that had a thin, foldable crust (you know, so you can form a delectable grease river) topped with sweet marinara sauce, extra cheese, and a Parmesan-oregano seasoning.

What does Pizza Hut stand for? ›

In 1958, two brothers borrowed $600 from their mom to open a pizza place in Wichita, Kansas. They named it Pizza Hut, because their sign only had room for eight letters. How profound! Soon, the restaurant grew.

When did Pizza Hut start to decline? ›

The Downfall Begins: Traces the decline of Pizza Hut's market share to 14.3% by 2016, attributing this setback to fierce competition from rivals such as Dominos and Papa John's, alongside issues such as a lack of unique products, an outdated brand image, and neglect of delivery services. Dine-In vs.

Why did Pizza Hut change their logo back? ›

“Pizza Hut is an iconic brand that is engrained in the hearts and minds of so many of our customers, we felt it was our job to make our creative reflect both the rich legacy of Pizza Hut, as well as nod to where we're headed,” Marianne Radley, Pizza Hut's chief brand officer, told CNN Business.

Why did Taco Bell change to Pizza Hut? ›

Taco Bell is an integral part of Demolition Man's legacy in the United States, but in European markets, it was replaced by Pizza Hut. Both companies were owned at the time by PepsiCo, which allowed it to be swapped out for a sister company with relative ease.

Do you get unlimited pizza at Pizza Hut Buffet? ›


For the controversial Pizza lovers out there, we've got the love it or hate it Hawaiian. Plus, we've got the veggies out there covered too, with our Simply Veg and Veggie HOT one for some meat-free Pizza-lovin.

Why is buffet so cheap? ›

“Buffets have always been a landing spot for food scraps,” says Chef Britt. “They call them the 'trickle-down specials' — day-old vegetables or beef trimmings can be repurposed into a soup or a hash.” Buffets are also able to save money by utilizing economies of scale and buying food in bulk.

Do you get a drink with Pizza Hut Buffet? ›

Unlimited possibilities at Pizza Hut Restaurants. There are unlimited possibilities at Pizza Hut thanks to our 7-day Pizza Buffet, unlimited Salad Bar and Bottomless Soft Drinks - all alongside a delicious selection of Pizzas, Sides and Desserts of course!

Why is Pizza Hut no longer popular? ›

The Downfall Begins: Traces the decline of Pizza Hut's market share to 14.3% by 2016, attributing this setback to fierce competition from rivals such as Dominos and Papa John's, alongside issues such as a lack of unique products, an outdated brand image, and neglect of delivery services.

Did Pizza Hut get rid of the pan pizza? ›

Original Pan® is a Pizza Hut classic that remains a mainstay on our menu.

Who owns Pizza Hut? ›

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