Today, the contenders for the world’s largest pizza franchise sell millions of pizzas every day and the global pizza market is worth tens of billions of pounds (that’s a LOT of pizza), but what are the largest pizza chains in the world?
The immense popularity of pizza has led to the birth and growth of the biggest pizza chains in the world, each competing to capture a slice of this lucrative – and delicious – pie. They not only cater to local tastes with customised toppings and styles, but also drive significant economic activity.
The operations of the vast global pizza chains have a profound impact on the worldwide supply chain, influencing everything from agriculture for ingredients like wheat and cheese to the logistics of food delivery. The scale of these operations is a testament to pizza’s universal appeal, with these famous brands serving as key players in both the food industry and the global economy.
The runners and riders for the title of world’s largest pizza chain distinguish themselves through their extensive reach and scale. These titans boast a rich and varied heritage, often originating from single small-town eateries and evolving into international franchises with thousands of outlets around the world. They represent more than mere dining destinations; they are cultural icons, actively moulding culinary preferences and setting food trends on a worldwide stage.
So which of these global brands are the largest pizza chains in the world? Let’s find out.
A Very Short History of Pizza
People have been adding ingredients to bread for millennia. Almost all the ancient civilisations baked bread with an assortment of toppings such as cheese, meat, vegetables, herbs, oils and fruit.
Modern pizza, the type we’d recognise today evolved from the Italian city of Naples in the late eighteenth or early nineteenth century. It made its way to America with Italian immigrants at the end of the nineteenth century and the country’s first pizzeria, Lombardi’s, opened in Manhattan in 1905. However, pizza’s popularity in the UK and the USA really began to take off after World War II.
Today, pizza ranges from scruffy but scrumptious street food to deconstructed fine-dining fabulousness. If you’re craving a stuffed crust or dying for a deep pan, the biggest pizza chains in the world have got your back!
A list of the largest pizza chains in the world can be measured in a number of ways, including by number of customers, revenue or employees. For the purposes of this list, it will be measured by the number of locations around the world.
Headquarters: London, UK | Locations: Approx. 400 | Founded: 1965
The UK’s biggest pizza chain, and one of the biggest pizza chains in the world, Pizza Express was founded by English entrepreneur Peter Boizot in 1965 after he returned from a trip to Italy with a Neapolitan pizza oven and a Sicilian chef.
The first restaurant opened in London’s Wardour Street and Pizza Express became one of the pioneers of casual dining in the UK.
Headquarters: Moscow, Russia | Locations: Approx.1,000 | Founded: 2011
From a windowless basement in a Syktyvkar suburb a thousand miles east of Moscow, Fyodor Ovchinnikov launched Dodo Pizza. In just a dozen years, the company has become one of the biggest pizza chains in the world. In Russia, Dodo outsells Domino’s, Papa John’s and Pizza Hut combined, and is one of the planet’s fastest-growing restaurant chains.
Dodo Pizza can be found all over Eastern Europe as well as Slovenia, Nigeria, Uzbekistan, China and Vietnam. It’s believed Dodo made the world’s first pizza delivery by drone, to customers in Syktyvkar’s central square.
Headquarters: Madrid, Spain | Locations: Approx.1,600 | Founded: 1987
Telepizza is the world’s largest pizza chain that didn’t originate in the United States. Spain’s largest pizza chain, Telepizza was founded by Cuban-born entrepreneur Leopoldo Fernández Pujals, originally as ‘Pizza Phone’.
Over 90% of the company’s business is home delivery and take-away, and they’re present in over twenty countries around the world. Telepizza is so popular in Spain it’s often reported that they outsell McDonald’s!
Headquarters: Michigan, USA | Locations: Approx.5,500 | Founded: 1959
The first restaurant, known then as Little Caesar’s Pizza Treat, was opened in 1959 by husband and wife Mike and Marian Ilitch who invested their life savings into the venture. Little Caesar was Marian’s pet name for her husband! Today, it’s one of the world’s largest pizza franchise operations.
One of the biggest pizza chains in the world, Little Caesars is famous for the 1979 PIZZA! PIZZA! advertising catchphrase which was one of the first to offer a two-for-one deal, undercutting the single pizza price of their competitors. They’re operational in around thirty countries, and their first store in the UK opened in 2022 in Derby.
Headquarters: Kentucky, USA | Locations: Approx. 6,000 | Founded: 1984
In 1984, ‘Papa’ John Schnatter sold his 1971 Chevy Camaro to buy a pizza oven, which he installed inside a broom cupboard at the back of his father’s pub in Jefferson, Indiana. He soon started selling pizzas to the pub’s customers. Within three years he had six restaurants, and by 1991 he had over a hundred. One of the biggest pizza chains in the world today, Papa John’s opened its first international restaurant in Mexico City in 1998 and its first in the UK, in Grays in Essex, a year later.
There are around 6,000 locations in almost fifty countries, and in 2009, John Schnatter bought his original Camaro back after offering a reward of a quarter of a million dollars!
Hunt Brothers Pizza
Headquarters: Tennessee, USA | Locations: Approx. 9,000 | Founded: 1991
Hunt Brothers may not be the most well-known name on this list of largest pizza chains in the world but they’re one of the biggest. Believed to be the world’s number one pizza brand in the convenience store industry, their counters are located inside shops across thirty US states, all of which are east of New Mexico and Colorado.
Started by siblings Jim, Charlie, Don and Lonnie in 1991, the Hunt brothers also opened outlets on US Army bases in Germany and built up a strong presence in the motorsports world. They sponsor NASCAR drivers and cars and are the official pizza partner of a variety of National Hockey League and minor league baseball teams and arenas.
Headquarters: Texas, USA | Locations: Approx. 19,000 | Founded: 1958
On May 31, 1958, brothers Dan and Frank Carney, students at Wichita State University in Kansas, opened their first Pizza Hut restaurant after borrowing $600 from their mum. Within a year they had six locations and they never looked back.
In 2001, the company developed a pizza that was delivered to the International Space Station on a Soyuz rocket and eaten by cosmonaut Yuri Usachov.
Today, Pizza Hut vies with Domino’s for the title of world’s biggest pizza chain and can be found in around 100 countries including Sri Lanka, Brunei, Mongolia and Ethiopia. The UKs first Pizza Hut – of which there are now around 700 restaurants and delivery outlets – was in Islington in north London.
Headquarters: Michigan, USA | Locations: Approx. 20,000 | Founded: 1960
In Michigan in 1960, brothers Tom and James Monaghan bought a pizza parlour called DomiNick’s owned by Dominick DeVarti. DeVarti didn’t allow them to use the name DomiNick’s, so it was changed to Domino’s.
James, a postman, didn’t want to quit his job, so he sold his half of the business to his brother for the old VW Beetle they used to do deliveries in. Tom sold out in the late 1990s for close to $1 billion. From its humble beginnings, the company has today grown to become the world’s largest pizza franchise.
The three dots on the logo represent the three original stores, and you can now find Domino’s in around 90 countries. According to the company themselves, they serve around a million customers every day.
A Big Pizza The Pie: The World’s Largest Pizza Chain
The success of the biggest pizza chains in the world reflects not just a triumph in culinary innovation, but also an astonishing achievement in global business strategy.
These companies, often originating from single family-run restaurants, have grown into multinational enterprises, influencing global dining trends and supply chains. Their ability to adapt to regional tastes while maintaining the universal appeal of pizza showcases their unique position in the fast-food industry.
As they continue to expand and innovate, these chains not only satisfy the appetites of millions daily but also mark an enduring chapter in the story of global cuisine.