Pizza Hut FOUNDED 1958
By Maggie Overfelt

(FORTUNE Small Business) – BREAKTHROUGH Once they decided to create a consistent look for all their restaurants in 1963, Dan and Frank Carney watched as Pizza Hut, their Wichita-based company, grew from 43 stores to 300 by 1967.

A PIECE OF THE PIE After a neighbor read a Saturday Evening Post article about pizza's newfound popularity in New York City, the brothers borrowed $600 from their mother and set up shop in a tavern in 1958 to bring the craze to the Great Plains. By 1963, Pizza Hut had locations in states as far away as Arizona; its only threat was the California-based Shakey's. "Pizza Hut franchises came in all shapes and sizes," says Frank, now 64. "We decided to standardize our buildings, to set an image that each franchisee would have to uphold."

UPPER CRUST The decree for uniformity in America's "neighborhood pizza place" created a flood of new franchise queries, marking the company's first big growth spurt. "Potential franchisees want to be part of a strong brand," explains Susan P. Kezios, founder of the American Franchisee Association. "When they standardized their buildings, Pizza Hut was among the first to emerge with that strong an image." In 1975, when the chain boasted 1,800 franchises, PepsiCo made its first offer to buy Pizza Hut. Frank ended up selling the company two years later for $320 million. --MAGGIE OVERFELT