The architect who designed Pizza Hut’s red-roofed restaurants has made a ton of money in an unusual deal

(NEXSTAR) – What do architects Frank Lloyd Wright, IM Pei and Antoni Gaudi have in common? Well, chances are you’ve never had a stuffed crust pizza in one of their buildings.

However, the same cannot be said for Richard D. Burke.

Burke is responsible for the design of all red-roofed Pizza Hut restaurants around the world, having created the concept in the late 60s for Dan and Frank Carney, the two brothers who founded Pizza Hut. But Burke — a fraternity brother of Dan and Frank Carney during their days at Wichita State University — had nearly gone without a job after the Carneys approached him for his services, according to Pizza Hut. .

“According to the story, Burke originally charged the brothers a hefty upfront fee that the fledgling pizza startup was unable to muster,” the company wrote in a 2015 blog post. of that, they offered Burke $100 per store built using his design, never guessing that Pizza Hut would become the global company it is today.”

Estimates vary as to how many “red roof” Pizza Hut locations appeared over the following decades, but reported about 6,300 in 2004, which would have made Burke a multi-millionaire. A Pizza Hut representative was unavailable to confirm how much Burke earned from the deal.

In 2016, however, there were only around 3,000 traditional locations still standing when Pizza Hut announced it was ditching the iconic architecture for a sleeker, more modern design to meet increased demand for delivery. , reported the Dallas Morning News.

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“Obviously it’s an iconic design that we’ll always have elements of in everything we do,” Yum! Brands CEO David Gibbs told the outlet of Pizza Hut’s iconic red-roofed buildings in 2016. “The red roof represents Pizza Hut in the eyes of consumers. …but in many cases, the business simply demands that we move on to a larger, more contemporary asset.

Even still, Burke’s unmistakable contributions to modern architecture can still be appreciated across the country – if you know where to look. Many former Pizza Hut locations have been purchased or repurposed for use as entirely different restaurants, businesses, or even churches, all while retaining those must-have rooftops. Several online resources have also become available for people wishing to find or share photos of a local business that was clearly once a Pizza Hut, including Used to Be a Pizza Hut, which allows users to search for former Huts in their region.

Australian photojournalists Chloe Cahill and Ho Hai Tran – two self-proclaimed 90s kids who discovered Pizza Hut to be a “place of wonder” in their youth – even compiled a photographic collection of these old huts in a book, “Pizza Hunter”. released in 2016.

For them, the works of Wright, Pei and Gaudi might even pale in comparison to the other Pizza-Hut-shaped businesses designed by Burke.

“Those that remain, those that have not been torn down or are not destined to be torn down, exist in the space where the insignificant and the unforgettable meet,” reads the book’s official website. “Although they have been remodeled, repainted or moved, these buildings are still easily recognizable and are reminiscent of a time of fast food, all-you-can-eat pizza and self-serve sundaes.”