Though the sit-down Pizza Hut has largely gone the way of the buffalo, the GeoCities page, Rock 'Em Sock 'Em Robots, or "dating," the uniformity of its location design means that many of the red-roofed erstwhile chain restaurants live on, enjoying second lives as new establishments. With Used to Be a Pizza Hut, Pittsburgh resident Mike Neilson curates user-submitted photos of former Pizza Huts as far-flung as New Zealand and Australia, now taking the form of anything from Adult Video Stores to Police Stations. It's an oddly compelling urge, revisiting this kind of transnational corporate vernacular, one born at least partially from nostalgia, as Neilson admits, for table-top Pac Man machines, "mediocre pizza" (debatable), and those little red plastic cups. "I don't think they are necessarily beautiful buildings," he recently explained to The Atlantic Cities. "But they mean something to us because they are so recognizable."
According to company lore, Pizza Hut got its name because the wife of Dan Carney, one of the founders, thought the first location looked unmistakably hut-like. As the restaurant chain expanded, architect Richard D. Burke was enlisted to come up with an instantly recognizable design for subsequent locations. Despite Pizza Hut's decision to discontinue the form when they made the shift toward delivery, there were still 6,304 "traditional units" standing as of 2004, each with the shingled roofs and trapezoidal windows signifying equal parts suburban comfort and strip-mall anomie. As Phillip Langdon notes in Orange Roofs, Golden Arches, "the chain restaurant is something of a strange object – considered outside the realm of significant architecture, yet swiftly reflecting shifts in popular taste and unquestionably making an impact on daily life. These buildings rarely show up in architectural journals, yet they have become some of the most numerous and conspicuous in the United States today."
What, then, can be gleaned from surveying these dregs of an artificial architectural trend? The most popular new calling for the former Hut seems to be that of the Mexican or Chinese restaurant. The trapezoidal windows often stay, but sadly, many are robbed of their telltale roof humps.