Hail pizza! Little Caesars HQ unveils homage to its own

Louis Aguilar
The Detroit News

Detroit — Pizza, the foundation of the Ilitch family’s billionaire dollar empire, will be enshrined at the Little Caesars Global Headquarters being built in downtown Woodward Avenue.

On Monday, 102 pieces of glass shaped like pizza slices began to be installed on the facade of the future headquarters for the world’s largest carry-out pizza chain. The 14-foot windows, each weighing close to 1,000 pounds, will adorn the nine-story headquarters being built on a parking lot at Woodward and Columbia. It’s next to the pizza chain’s current headquarters in the Fox Theatre.“It will be a source of pride for our organization and the 700 Little Caesars employees that will call it home,” said Chris Ilitch, president and CEO of Ilitch Holdings. “A worthy home for an iconic Detroit brand.”

The $150 million, nine-story building is expected to open this summer. Many of the 700 employees to be staffed there are white-collar professionals — most of whom now work in the Fox Theatre and other Detroit locations.

“Primarily, it’s our office support staff,” said Dave Scrivano, president and CEO of Little Caesars. “It will be the resource for our stores worldwide (which are operated by independent franchise owners).

“There will be training people, research and development, architects, real estate, accounting and finance. Of course, people will be coming here how to learn how run the business,” he said, referring to franchise owners.

Little Caesars is the third largest pizza chain in the U.S. Pizza Hut is tops and second is Ann Arbor-based Domino’s. In 2016, Little Caesars generated an estimated $3.8 billion in U.S sales, according to the trade publication Pizza Today. It’s also in 24 international markets.

“I just got back from Peru, where we just opened a store,” Scrivano said.

In 1959, Michael and Marian Ilitch put $10,000 in life savings into opening a small pizza shop in Garden City. Back then, the idea of takeout pizza was still a new idea. It was first of many innovations and savvy marketing that analysts credit for its success.

In 1979, the firm launched a campaign to sell two pizzas for the price of one with the popular catchphrase ''Pizza! Pizza!'' uttered by a small cartoon Caesar.

In 2004, amid a time of sluggish growth, the company introduced the $5 Hot-N-Ready pizza. It propelled the company’s rise to become a global force in the world of carry-out food.

The headquarters will be paid for by private financing with no public tax dollars.

Pizza slice shaped windows are installed on the front of the new Little Caesars world headquarters on Monday, December 18.

The Ilitches have been the driving force in the effort to overhaul more than 50 blocks of Detroit into dense upscale neighborhoods full of new residences and businesses. The development plan, known as the District Detroit, is focused on the northern edge of downtown.

Little Caesars Arena, the $863 million sports and entertainment complex that opened this fall, is expected to be the anchor of the development plan. The “LCA” is home to the Ilitch’s Detroit Red Wings as well as Tom Gores’ Detroit Pistons. Its Olympia Entertainment manages the city-owned arena, which is expected to become the top concert venue in the region in the wake of the recent closings of Joe Louis Arena and the Palace of Auburn Hills.

The Ilitch family’s host of businesses include the Little Caesars Pizza chain, the Detroit Tigers and Red Wings. Mike, the patriarch, died in February.

Marian Ilitch owns the MotorCity Casino Hotel. The Detroit Tigers are now in a family trust. Their combined businesses employ 23,000 people, according to the company. Forbes estimates the family’s net worth at $5.8 billion.

Twitter: @LouisAguilar_DN