When Mike Ilitch reflects on the billion-dollar family empire that he founded in a Garden City, Mich., storefront 50 years ago today, he is most proud of the fact that his pizza tastes "excellent in
the morning." When the business then known as Little Caesars Pizza Treat opened for business, "we knew we had something that was a legitimate leftover," he tells Jaclyn Trop.
been a lot more accomplishments along the way, of course. The nation's fourth-largest pizza chain -- and its largest carry-out and independently owned pizza maker -- now has more than 2,800 stores in
20 countries and all 50 states. It claims to have been the fastest-growing pizza chain in 2008, opening stores in 41 states and seven countries. And it has found success during the recession by
expanding into lower- and middle-income neighborhoods, according to Darren Tristano, evp of research firm Technomic Inc.
Little Caesars' Hot-N-Ready deal -- a large pepperoni pizza for $5
-- shook the industry when it debuted in 2004 and many wonder how the chain can squeeze a profit out of it. The snack debuted 50 years ago with a price of $2.39 -- equivalent to about $16 today.
Analysts say the company curtails expenses by eliminating overhead costs like home delivery.
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