CONCORD, Calif. — Round Table Pizza founder Bill Larson died Nov. 16 following a long battle with cancer, the company said. Larson was 73. He is survived by his wife Toni, nine children and 25 grandchildren.
"Bill was an entrepreneur and a visionary. His devotion to families, quality and community remain cornerstones of our business today," Jim Fletcher, chairman and chief executive of Round Table Pizza Inc., said in a statement. "Although Bill was widely known and respected, he was never very comfortable as a celebrity. He was always very gracious and humble and continuously offering suggestions for improvements to the business he created."
In 1958, Larson returned from a four-year stint in the Navy and went to work at a pizza parlor in San Mateo, Calif. He liked the work and immediately began planning to construct a pizza restaurant of his own. A year later he quit his job, borrowed $1,800 and opened his first pizza parlor in Menlo Park, Calif. He named the restaurant Round Table after the round redwood tables he and his dad constructed.
As a result of the special
Bill Larson, founder of Round Table Pizza, with son, Bob. Photo courtesy of Round Table Pizza
crust and sauce recipe he developed, along with the generous pizza toppings and great family experience he provided, Round Table Pizza immediately developed a strong following from customers and entrepreneurs who wanted to open new Round Table Pizza restaurants throughout California and beyond.
Larson sold a portion of Round Table stock to a group of investors in 1979. The investors formed an Employee Stock Ownership Plan in 1985 and, by 1992, Round Table Pizza was wholly employee owned. The company is now 500 units strong.
"Bill divested his ownership interest in Round Table Pizza 14 years ago, but he never lost his interest or enthusiasm for the business," Fletcher said. "Today, his son, Bob, owns and operates the original Round Table Pizza restaurant in Menlo Park, and while he hung up his pizza paddle years ago, Bill continued to share his perspectives about his business with his son and all of us."