In Beverly Hills, these sad, wide, expressive eyes stare out at the busy King Georges Road rushing by, just like they have every day for the last 40 years. They don’t blink, even when the tears well up. They don’t close, even when all they want to do is sleep. Ever vigilant, they’re waiting for that sight that was once so familiar, so welcome – the happy family walking over the little bridge across the canal, looking forward to a special treat for dinner. Where else could we be talking about?
Back when it was still possible, it was a special treat. Home delivery was only introduced around 1985, so prior to that if you wanted Pizza Hut, you had to either pick it up yourself (effort) or eat in. Today, Pizza Hut is purely a pickup/delivery racket operating out of tiny, charmless shopfronts, but back then, Pizza Huts announced themselves with bold red roofs and hut-like restaurants. Why do you think they called it Pizza Hut?
Picture it – it’s a Friday night, your parents have just come home from work and they can’t be assed cooking. You know what you want, but you don’t want to nag them for it. And then suddenly…it happens. The TV captures everyone’s attention and says the unspoken:
The low-rent, completely not-fancy atmosphere of a Pizza Hut dining experience has yet to be replicated in this modern age. If regular restaurants are Dendy, Pizza Hut was Greater Union. For starters, the walls were all brick, and the chairs were all red. The first Pizza Hut in Australia was established in 1970, and all subsequent restaurants followed the design template laid down at Belfield. It showed; as late as 1999 you could still travel back in time to the 70s when dining at Pizza Hut. Don’t forget the restaurant-exclusive menu item, gingerbread man Pizza Pete, either. No other gingerbread man tastes like Pizza Pete.
In the 90s, with the advent of delivery and all-you-can-eat restaurants like Sizzler, Pizza Hut knew they had to step things up a notch. After all, they’d created delivery. They could destroy it. Unfortunately, by creating possibly the catchiest jingle in the history of advertising, they hadn’t made it easy for themselves:
So they introduced the Works, which was their attempt at all you can eat. Honestly, I think this is where Pizza Hut’s dine-in experience started to go wrong. Now, I know you’re thinking ‘hey, I remember all you can eat at Pizza Hut, and it was awesome’, and I’m not disagreeing. But before the advent of the Works, you’d just rock up, get a table, order a pizza and they’d bring it to your table. The Works required you to grab a plate and go up to the pizza bar, which was adorned with a variety of ‘popular toppings’. If you were a vegetarian, for instance, you had to put up with either plain cheese or thin crust vegetarian, and that’s IF someone hadn’t spilled meat on them, and IF wussy kids who couldn’t handle pineapple or other adventurous toppings had left any of the plainer varieties for you. And I won’t even get started on the obscene advertising for the Kids Works, which wouldn’t be allowed on TV these days:
Then you’d start wondering how often people coughed on these public pizzas. How often they were sneezed on. How long they’d been sitting there. They didn’t seem as hot anymore because they’d been sitting there so long. It didn’t take long for the whole experience, as well intentioned as it may have been, to become completely unpalatable. Add to that some kid having a noisy, messy birthday party in there every time you’d visit, and you were suddenly a delivery convert. Pizza Hut was Greater Union.
In 1999, Pizza Hut boasted 230 restaurants across Australia and NZ compared to just 185 delivery units. By 2002, there were less than 100 restaurants. Today, there’s the one on George Street in the city, and that’s about it. What happened? Pizza Hut claim that rising costs and diminished returns forced the closure of the restaurant arm of the company, and maybe that’s true. What happened to this particular Pizza Hut, though? Located right beside the ancient Beverly Hills Cinema, the two provided a wildly entertaining and impossibly well-matched double team for anyone wanting a night out in Beverly Hills (I’m sure those people are out there). But once the Pizza Hut closed, it was subjected to a variety of indignities, including being painted completely green, being used as a political headquarters for NSW MP Kevin Greene (groan [thanks, reader Catherine!]), and finally, being cut in half when the cinema expanded to include the former bank that sat between them.
The cinema had owned the bank for a while, filling it with arcade games and such, but when it took the opportunity to renovate and incorporate the building completely, Pizza Hut paid the price. The cinema’s power generator now occupies the southeastern corner of the restaurant, and the insides are exposed to the elements. Why not just get rid of it completely? Instead of putting the space to good use, the corpse of the Beverly Hills family dining experience is left to fester, acting as a reminder to us all of a time when $5 would get you all you could eat, and when home delivery was seen as the anti-social option. It still is.
INFLUENTIAL UPDATE: It seems as if someone took my advice, because the Pizza Hut is now entirely gone:Why couldn’t it have happened to Dominos instead?
there were around 300 restaurants in 1996 thay started closeing them here in brisbane in 1997 newmarket been the first store to close witch also opened in 1970
it sat derelict till 1999 before been knocked down for a mcdonalds it seemed thay closed the oldest stores first any idea what year belfield and beverly hills stores closed ?
Ok I grew up in Bevo and I can tell you everything that existed in the last 20 years there. I once had a birthday party at that pizza hut in 1996 and it was awesome!!
The bank that was between them was westpac. Commonwealth was up the road and is now. Chinese restaurant with a tiled front facade. Look at the front of the building from the other side of the road and u can see the lettering prevalent on all closed CBA branches around the suburbs (inc. Canterbury, Wiley park, – the 2 from bexley and bexley north are obviously banks but are other businesses now inc a funeral home)
Kevin Green was the MP who painted it green. Didn’t last long in there.
There have been plans to do something with that space for years, but they competed with roselands and their ideas, but centro went broke and the owners of bev hills cinemas couldn’t sell it without doing it up, and that’s how greater union ended up with them.
pizza hut painted it green as thay painted them all green here in brisbane after closeing them gess thay hoped it whould make it hard to notice that there stores were closeing ?
there’s still a few dine in Pizza Huts around the traps, one in Sydneys CBD, Windsor and Orange I think. I’ve visited the former in recent months.
I can remember when Pizza Hut opened – was so exciting. We used to go down and get take away pizza as a special treat.
Beverly Hills has changed a great deal – there used to be 2 supermarkets ( woolworths and Franklins I think ) and an amazing shop that you could buy bulk honey, (out of these containers that had like a guillotine door to cut off the flow), fresh nuts and glace fruit – at least that’s the things I can remember. I can also remember the smell – gorgeous! There was a shop on Stoney Creek Rd across the road from the school which used to supply lunch orders for the school and lollies on the way to the bus stop. There was always lots of rumours about what people found in their sausage rolls – nails, cockroaches etc.
The cinema used to be one of those classic old picture theatres with the stalls and the dress circle. It then went through a number of metamorphases on it’s way to the current development – at one stage it showed soft porn movies. It was then shut for a number of years, then had a tacky re-development and not maintained at all (I can remember being there when the roof was leaking), and then lots of wrangling before they came up with the current development.
Sandra, do you remember the totally rotten teeth of the woman who ran the take-away shop? I found her, and the whole shop, really creepy and usually just used the school tuck-shop.
I just remember my sister ‘losing’ her bus money regularly to buy lollies. As I was never a lolly eater I wasn’t particularly attracted to the shop. And the sausage roll rumors put me off eating anything from there.
It was a funny dark little shop. And bizzarely, I can’t remember her teeth – usually something I would remember. Maybe I was too busy looking for foreign objects in anything I bought.
The sausage roll rumours never put off my sister. I still remember my dismay at her one day ordering 4 of them for lunch!
A piece on the supermarkets would be really interesting. I remember we’d go to Franklins quite frequently and sometimes Mum would send me down there to buy my brother’s tinned Heinz baby food. He’s almost 8 years younger than me, so I guess I would’ve been only 8 at the time. I have only the vaguest recollections of going into what was Woolworths next door. I believe that it was the first self service supermarket Woolies in Australia, ie, with checkouts at the front and not in departments. It closed very early on and was replaced by the cane shop which was there for an eternity. I believe that it only recently closed. All along, however, that building still had the signs of the large Woolworths vertical sign on the roof. Perhaps it’s still there.
I also remember when the Beverly Hills cinema went through its soft porn stage. There were shops at the front of the theatre, one of which had a barber’s shop for many years.
Sadly, i drove past this site yesterday, and this former Pizza Hut buildin was demolished
There is a pizza hut resturant 10 minute walk from my house it is not a 70s Pizza Hut more like a 90s version and they have the works but I think you can order pizza to your table. We went there for the first time for me in at least 15 years went with my nieces to the Pizza Hut in bexley. My partner who was born in the early 80s had been to one since she was a child we loved it and realised how much I missed it. Pizza Hut was stupid the resturant was packed bring back more pizza huts they are fab
where in bexley was the dine in – has the building been demolished or is it still there ?
Nope, it’s gone. It’s a block of units on a corner opposite a service station along Forest Road. But every time one of the residents orders a pizza, history twitches in its slumber.
There are Pizza Hut restaurants in lake haven on the central coast and east maitland (where I live)
So many birthday parties! I remember the dessert machine was the most exciting thing about eating there.
Wasn’t there a Payless Supermarket with cement stairs in the centre?
This would have been in the early to mid 90’s.
You guys are certainly bringing back memories of a ‘Past Life’… Shortly after leaving the Royal Australian Navy, I found myself starting a second ‘career’ at Pizza Hut Australia (in ’75) as a Trainee Manager, with initial training at Petersham Pizza Hut, (’75, now gone,) then Trainee Manager at Double Bay Pizza Hut (’75, now gone,) Assistant Manager at Beverly Hills Pizza Hut (’75-’76, now gone,) Licensee/ Manager, Liverpool Pizza Hut (Elizabeth Drive, ’76-’77, now gone…) Hard work, but great fun and very fond memories…!
Rick do you know -remember how many restrants pizza hut had in nsw -australia in 1976-77 thay had 268 by 1982 and over 300 by 1997 when thay decided to no longer open dine in stores and slowly close them leaveing only 16 open aus wide today the first to close in brisbane was newmarket -annerly and cooparoo in december 1997 do u know when the 2 liverpool stores closed 1997-98-99 ?
Where was the double bay dine in also ?
Hi Jeffrey, wow, testing the old brain cells now… Not sure how many all up in NSW, but at the time I joined, I believe the Sydney Pizza Huts were Baulkham Hills, Beverly Hills, Bexley, Double Bay, Petersham, Liverpool (1), Seven Hills (?), Thornleigh, and perhaps a few more… During the time I spent with PHA, a number of new stores opened up, (in order) being Revesby, Parramatta, Canley Vale, Liverpool (2), Bondi Junction, and just before I left for Melbourne, Engadine… (All up, around 17 rings a bell at the time I left.) PHA’s Head Office at that time was in Bridge St., (I think,) Pymble… And yes, they did have a very small dine-in (though not free-standing,) restaurant New South Head Road, Double Bay, which I think was the first one to close when they opened up Bondi Junction…
Ok cool thanks for letting us know what you remember – do u remember – know around when any of the dine ins closed 1997 to now
Many of the things you’re looking for you can find here: http://www.pizzahut.com.au/about-us/historical-highlights I think they started closing down dine-ins when they bought out Dial-A-Dino’s in 1987 and realized just how profitable take-away only outlets were compared to their fully staffed, full service, fully licenced, real estate intensive, labour intensive, Family Restaurant model was. Wouldn’t give out the turnover figures, even if I could remember them, nor the start-up costs, business ethics, you know..! We all visited each other’s Pizza Huts, and due to the hours we worked, after closing, would often meet centrally at the 24/7 The Spaghetti Factory in the Rocks and party in the dawn…
Thats cool was just interested to know thay didnt start closeing the dine ins till 1997 thay were still opening new dine in stores in 1995 thay had made them all you chould eat from around 1991-2 to help keep them popular but it didn’t work it seems tho 16 dine ins are still open australia wide and are still all you can eat but not $5 like in the 90’s around $16 now I think
Rick did any or all of the new stores open with the original logo with brown roof and pizza hut pete masscot or did thay open with the late 70’s -1999 new logo and red roof did your liverpool restaurant get changed to the new logo while you were the manager. What year did your store open ?
Boy, you are ‘high-maintenance’, Jeffrey, aren’t you, is this ’20 Questions’, or are you writing a thesis..? Try getting in touch with Pizza Hut (Yum), I’m sure they’ll be able to recall more than I can… 🙂
Na just interested im very sorry to bother you
Sorry for been anoying rick but this is very interesting did u know what years the stores you worked at had opened also are you aloud to tell us the revenue – profits your liverpool store was a week at the point thay were thinking of closeing it and when you tuned it around ? Did you ever goto see any of the other new restrants as thay were been built – before thay opened -were you told how much it cost to build and open them back at that time ?
Rick, my dad David Marsden was a manager at the Beverley hills store around time you were there, he then went to Canley Vale store when that opened, do you know my dad?
I remember there was one in Kingsford for ages. It was there with a Maccas and KFC, and serviced the entire south eastern suburbs. But in about 95, their pizza gradually started going downhill. They cleaned up with those Bigfoot pizzas (do you remember them? They were awesome, giant rectangle ones, with squares of pizza in the middle with no crust!). But the quality took a serious nose dive. Ham and pineapple pizza – slathered in way too much tomato paste to compensate for the three pieces of pineapple and the spam used sparingly, topped with cheese that would slide right off if you weren’t careful when you picked a piece up because the tomato paste made it slippery. I use to wipe off some of the tomato paste before putting the cheese back on just to make it edible.
When Pizza Haven and Dominos came along (hey, whatever happened to Pizza Haven?), they broke Pizza Huts monopoly, and outdid them with quality and other crust options (thin and crispy is so much better!).
I do miss the all you can eat bar though…
So needless to say, the one in Kingsford has been long gone. I think Pizza Hut could have improved their game, not sure why they went so bad, which was just before PH and D came to Australia.
We have a Pizza Hut around the corner, but the servo style lighting and metal park bench, interrogation room look just isn’t the same…
Sarah you must of missed the sad and unfortunate news that In 18 July 2008 Pizza Haven Australia went bust due to the Global Financial Crisis and had been acquired by Eagle Boys another Australian pizza chain. Here is the Sydney Morning Herald article about Eagle Boys another Australian pizza chain acquiring Pizza Haven Australia: http://www.smh.com.au//business/eagle-boys-devours-pizza-haven-20080718-3he0.html Thank you Sarah for bring back memories of me and my brother back in 2005 – 2007 where we and my Auntie use to take us to Pizza Haven Hurstville which used to be at Unit 2 163-165 Forest Road, Hurstville, NSW 2220 right after our swimming lesson at Hurstville Aquatic Leisure Centre but sadly Pizza Haven Hurstville closed down late 2007.
If you want to see the inside of this building from memory it was in the original puberty blues movie.
The plot of land was sold in November of 2012 for $900 000 and then was sold again. The people who have it are trying to build an eight story complex on top of it but because of their being a drain running right through it, the property has been going through the water board and sewage and electrical easements for years.
First Pizza Hut I ever visited. Our mum took us there only a couple of times. I remember sheets of stickers we got which were a bit reminiscent of the TV show “Laugh In” with phrases like “Where’s my Bippy” ( I have absolutely no idea what a bippy is/was). On one visit with another family the other kids mother stole a couple of the Pizza hut coffee cups and put them in my mum’s handbag, shes was so shocked she didn’t know what to do, so we ended up with a couple of Pizza hut mugs at home lol. Lets not forget the original red and white checked table cloths! ahhh the memories
[…] to Michael Wayne of Past/Lives, the “sad, wide, expressive eyes” of this drearily over-painted and graffiti-tagged former […]
Now here’s something former Pizza Hut employees might consider contributing something to..!
I keep finding myself inadvertently ending up on this site from time to time which I love, as I am a huge nostalgia-phile for old Sydney (all through my childhood from mid 1980’s and particularly the 90’s) and I have many memories of this particular Hut.
I can’t say I recall going there maybe more than once or twice for birthday parties as a kid, but my sister and I used to park behind it and go to see movies at crazy old Beverly Hills cinema – I remember the dark blue seats and it was very white in the foyer. I remember it very well and haven’t seen it in its newest incarnation at all. I will have to stop by sometime but I feel it would make me sad. I saw many important movies as a kid there, The Little Mermaid when I was five and I even recall seeing Stargate with my Mum and Sister back in the day too. I liked the old cinema a lot.
I am going through your articles now and enjoying my read. Have you ever considered writing a piece on the decline of Tilt arcade at Miranda Westfield? I have fun memories from that place, on my first non-adult accompanied outings at about thirteen with my friends. We would spend *hours* at Tilt….. ah, happy times.
Keep up the good work. I have so many favourite, haunted memories of places in Sydney and I love discovering others that feel that way, too. The Arm Disposal in Hurstville opposite the Westfield and on Forrest Road was one of my favourites places.. I don’t even know why, LOL.
Note: I am tickled to mention that I have been chowing down on a Dominoes HOME DELIVERED pizza while reading this. The ghosts of Pizza Hut’s Past would not be pleased. XD
I was 14 working there part time in ’89 for almost a year . My first job bed. Loved it.
Was a privilege getting put on ‘cut’ and the till. Then being on ‘make’ was so cool. Doing close and the dishes at the back was fun too. The managers were great too.
Used to go to this Pizza Hut with mum/dad/3 brothers and sister in the early 80s. I distinctly remember complaining the place always smelt like vomit. Nowadays I have refined tastes and realise it was the smell of grated parmesan cheese.
I also have strange flashback dreams about the red and white table cloths. I also wonder if anyone remembers as a child being given a pencil and a kids activity sheet, they may have had references to Ripley’s believe it or not bits on them (or maybe not, so many years ago).
Yes, I remember the sheets, with puzzles from Coles Funny Picture Books, and the little pencils.
I occasionally take my kids to the dine-in at Minto and it’s always full to the brim! So cool. Pizza Hut need to open some more.