WICHITA, Kan. -- After Pizza Hut founder turned Papa John's franchisee Frank Carney was inducted into the Kansas Business Hall of Fame in early February, Wichita Eagle columnist Carrie Rengers asked him an interesting question:
When a baseball player is inducted into the Hall of Fame, he's allowed to wear only one hat, even if he played for multiple teams. Therefore, were Carney to wear a hat at his induction, which pizza brand would it bear?
"The Pizza Hut hat is what I would have had on," Carney said. "If it wouldn't have been for Pizza Hut, I would not be in Papa John's."
Despite franchising some 160 Papa John's units, Carney said he's still proud of the brand he started in 1958, though his Pizza Hut pride wanes on occasion.
"I'm very, very upset when I see a poorly run Pizza Hut," he said.
In the mid-1990s, Papa John's commercials featuring Carney claiming he'd "found a better pizza" than Pizza Hut's provoked the ire of Pizza Hut officials and operators within the U.S. pizza industry. Some said Carney shouldn't be disloyal to the product that made him wealthy and famous, regardless of which brand he represented.
In a public speech and in news stories, Carney explained that the pizza made by he and brother and co-founder Dan Carney wasn't the same quality pizza now made by the Pizza Hut. He also said it wasn't the quality of pizza currently made by Papa John's.
He has said, however, (See "Who's Who: Frank Carney") that Pizza Hut has come a long way in the past few years to improve quality, some of which has been encouraged by competition with Papa John's.