Dominos, Pizza Hut and Papa John’s: Who's winning the pizza chain war?

4 months ago by James Mattone in Features

New Yorkers get the dollar slice. Chicagoans get the deep dish pie they call pizza. And pizza purists in New Haven, Connecticut are still locked in a war between Pepe’s and Sally’s for who has the better coal-fired apizza (pronounced “ah-beets.”)

Whether you are in a pizza mecca or out in the forests of Montana, there always seems to be a Domino’s ($NYSE:DPZ), a Papa John’s ($NASDAQ:PZZA) or a Pizza Hut ($NYSE:YUM) around the corner or a phone call away.

These three brands — the modern-day giants of American pizza — have locations in the rest of North America and five other continents.

But when it comes to cold, hard data, which brand is winning the pizza-chain war? By looking at everything from store locations to social momentum, we begin to gain an understanding of how these three brands are doing.

Location, location

In the contiguous 48 states, the three largest pizza chains stretch from border to border with over 16,000 locations combined. As of July 23, Pizza Hut, a subsidiary of YUM! Brands (along with Taco Bell and Kentucky Fried Chicken), has the most storefronts, beating Domino’s by just over 705 pizzerias and eclipsing Papa John’s with 64 percent more locations.

Chain

Stores

Pizza Hut

6,584

Domino's Pizza

5,879

Papa John's Pizza

4,004

Since we're talking pizza, it's appropriate to show the above store breakdown as a pie chart.

Granted, Pizza Hut had a head start in the pizza delivery race: Dan and Frank Carney began firing up their pizza ovens just outside of their alma mater Wichita State in 1958. That's 7 years before Tom and James Monaghan renamed DomiNick’s in Ypsilanti, Michigan to Domino’s, and over 2 decades prior to Papa John Schnatter staking his claim in the take-out pizza game.

 

The state of states

Pizza Hut may be winning the war, but they cannot claim a total monopoly over their younger rivals. For example, Pizza Hut currently has the most stores in Houston, where there are the most chain pizzerias out of any city in America.

Chain

City

City (Count)

Pizza Hut

Houston

61

Domino's Pizza

Houston

56

Papa John's Pizza

Houston

38

Looking further out west, however, Domino’s has the slight edge in the battle for Los Angeles.

Chain

City

City (Count)

Domino's Pizza

Los Angeles

32

Pizza Hut

Los Angeles

31

Papa John's Pizza

Los Angeles

14

And, in the Sunshine State, Papa John’s has more locations from the outskirts of Disney World to the Floribama Shore.

Chain

State

State (Count)

Papa John's Pizza

FL

413

Domino's Pizza

FL

387

Pizza Hut

FL

381

Thinknum subscribers can see more of this data – and see other international locations tracked by our software – here.

Social media clout

Outside of brick-and-mortar locations, each pizza brand has built up a following on Twitter and Facebook, which can give some insight to their relative popularity. All three franchises founded their Twitter accounts within three years of each other, and while Pizza Hut and Domino’s are in a close race for followers, Papa John’s is getting kneaded and pounded by its competition.

(The slight dip in all accounts’ followers can be explained by the early July Twitter purge of locked users, which affected a vast majority of companies.)

On Facebook, Pizza Hut has found its secret sauce, drawing in 10 million more likes than Domino’s. As for Papa John’s… they seem to be lost in the sauce without any meat to their Facebook presence.

Along with garnering the most likes, Pizza Hut is dominating when it comes to how Facebook uses location data based on posts and selfies in its "Were Here" count. It seems that Pizza Hut lovers want to share their family dinners and 3 a.m. snack sessions more than Domino’s and Papa John’s fans, visiting Pizza Hut six times more than those who check into two of their competitors combined.

As we reported earlier in July, the PR firestorm that continues to surround Papa John’s and its founder will make it especially tough for the chain to gain ground on social media. And although Domino’s is going pie-for-pie with YUM! Brands’ pizzeria, the data shows that in America, you can’t out pizza the Hut.

James Mattone

James is a recent Boston University graduate who calls the world of esports and video games his home. As a young journalist, he has already covered two E3 expos a...

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