Mike and Marian Ilitch opened their first Little Caesars restaurant in Garden City, Michigan more than 50 years ago.
Mike Ilitch had been on another career path as a talented shortstop with the Detroit Tigers farm team. While his teammates were looking for the local ballpark, Mike was eyeing the local pizza joint. Pizza was clearly in his blood. An injury prompted Mike to trade in his baseball glove for hot pads.
It was an exciting time for Mike and Marian Ilitch as they worked together toward that grand opening day of May 8, 1959.
Michael and Marian Ilitch, the founders of Little Caesars Pizza, dreamed big, took risks, and grew one pizza shop in a Detroit suburb into an international pizza chain.
It started with a little-known snack food called “pizza” brought home by World War II soldiers returning from Italy. Mike and Marian saw promise in this new food and were passionate about starting their own pizza business. They invested their $10,000 life savings toward opening a single Little Caesars shop in 1959.To grow the chain, Mike and Marian franchised their stores, ultimately giving thousands of individuals the opportunity to own their own business. Mike and Marian took personal pride in helping franchisees grow their businesses and providing employment opportunities for young crew members.
More than 50 years later, Little Caesars is the largest carry out pizza chain in the world and an internationally known brand. The success of Little Caesars allowed Mike and Marian to own other businesses in the food, sports and entertainment industries, including the Detroit Red Wings and Olympia Entertainment, among others. Just like Little Caesars, Mike and Marian’s businesses are synonymous with “fun.”
Leading Through Innovation
Innovation has given Little Caesars its unique place in the pizza industry, even from day one. When they opened their doors in 1959, people thought a carry out restaurant without tables and chairs would fail, but Mike and Marian’s innovative idea paid off.
Little Caesars has a history of industry firsts: Mike pioneered the two-for-one pizza deal later known as Pizza!Pizza!®, and then created a conveyor oven specially designed to bake pizza quickly and consistently to keep up with customer demand. The chain built stores where pizza was never served before, such as in sports arenas, college dormitories, and military bases.Little Caesars introduced Crazy Bread®, which became a standard accompaniment to pizza and was mimicked by other pizza chains. Little Caesars also broke the status quo by making pizzas ready when customers walk in, with no need to call ahead or wait in line, with the launch of its HOT-N-READY pizza offer.
Commitment to Core Values
Throughout its history, Little Caesars has provided quality pizza at a great price, resulting in outstanding value for customers. Quality and value are core values at Little Caesars, but the brand also represents passion, fun, commitment and a focus on family. This spirit comes to life in the fun-loving “Little Caesar” character who is loved by kids and adults alike around the globe. These characteristics are also reflected in breakthrough advertising and marketing campaigns that are remembered by customers for decades. Pizza!Pizza!® is an iconic phrase that resonates with customers, who remember fondly the advertising associated with it.
Giving back has always been a part of the way Little Caesars does business. Unique programs such as Little Caesars youth hockey, the Little Caesars Love Kitchen, and the Little Caesars Veterans Program have made a difference for millions of people through the years.
Realizing the American Dream
It has been a remarkable ride for the entire Little Caesars family, from colleagues, to franchisees, vendors and crew members. Mike and Marian have demonstrated that achieving the American dream is possible for those who dream big, take risks and work hard. Along the way, they have shared opportunities with others and earned respect by demonstrating humility.
A Bright Future
Little Caesars continues to innovate to provide more value to more people in more places. This means business opportunities for entrepreneurs, new stores across the world, tasty and convenient new products,and marketing innovations that delight customers. Most importantly, Little Caesars remains focused on what it does best: providing top-quality pizza made with fresh ingredients at a great price!