About Straw Hat Pizza
Straw Hat Cooperative Corporation licenses nearly 50 Straw Hat Pizza locations in California & Nevada. The "Cooperative" is solely directed by its membership and has been called "the un-franchise, franchise." It provides the benefits of a franchise system, however, its individual owners enjoy greater control, and corporate overhead is kept to a minimum, (about 1/3rd of the average franchise fee.)
It was summer, 1959. Frankie Avalon was at the top of the charts and Sandra Dee played "Gidget" in the very first Beach Party movie. The Brooklyn Dodgers had just arrived in Los Angeles but Surfing was the real West Coast craze. The Pacific Coast Highway was dotted with woody wagons, convertibles and bushy, bushy blonde hairdos and burgers were best served in a wrapper through a drive-thru window. California was legendary American landscape and the first Straw Hat Pizza parlor was about to join the list of California icons.
Opening its doors for the first time in San Leandro, a small town on San Francisco Bay, Straw Hat began serving its trailblazing Genuine California Pizza on July 10, 1959. It was an unrivaled pizza with a layered, flaky crust, the freshest toppings, light sauce, and six kinds of naturally aged cheese. Straw Hat's California creation was unlike any other pizza. It was crisper and tastier, and it satisfied a left coast appetite for fresher, lighter, and more unique offerings. Little did anyone realize at the time, but Straw Hat was on the cutting edge of a taste trend that would last for decades to come.
The first Straw Hat restaurants were modest but lively hangouts with hard bench seating, bright red carpets and flocked wallpaper, and they were a special place for people of all ages. Along with its unique menu and ice cold beer, each establishment featured old time movies, free Charlie Horse rides for kids, and often showcased local banjo bands. People drove for miles to visit Straw Hat. And every Straw Hat restaurant's top priority was meeting and exceeding its guests' expectations the motto was "people pleasing pizza." By 1969, Straw Hat had added a bountiful salad bar was known as the Straw Hat Pizza Palace with locations up and down the California Coast and throughout Southern California.
In the Seventies, Straw Hat introduced its soon-to-be famous Hot Hat stuffed sandwich. The Hot Hat may have had a strange sounding name at first, but it quickly became a best seller, which to this day, remains a hallmark of the brand. As its menu expanded, so did the chain. In the later part of the decade, Straw Hat took on an entirely new look with updated buildings, colors, and logos. And with this new look, Straw Hat was once again on the cutting edge of the industry and was one of the fastest growing restaurant chains in the world. To grow and still maintain its high standards and guest service, Straw Hat, at that time part of the Saga Corporation, introduced a model franchising program. The company developed and implemented some of the best training, quality, service and cleanliness programs which were the envy of the business, and remain in place today.
By the mid-Eighties, Straw Hat Pizza was regarded as the dominant pizza restaurant in the Western United States as the Pizza Hut chain was trying to establish a market presence in the same area. Pizza Hut made a move to eliminate a major stumbling block to its own expansion by purchasing all company owned Straw Hat Pizza restaurants in 1987; thus removing its prevailing competition. Although the company owned Straw Hat restaurants were quickly changed to Pizza Hut locations, Straw Hat's franchise owners refused to participate in the acquisition. The Straw Hat owners would not allow their superior California crust pizza and unique restaurants to be converted. They stuck together and won the right to carry forward the Straw Hat brand as a cooperative organization. Although a smaller chain than before, it was a first of its kind in the restaurant industry. Once again, Straw Hat was on the cutting edge.
Today, Straw Hat Pizza is totally owned and operated by its cooperative members; its "parent" company is the Straw Hat Cooperative Corporation. Each owner has a real say in his or her company's future, and the Cooperative was recently awarded the prestigious seal of Fair Franchising by the American Association Franchisees & Dealers (AAFD). Very few other chains have received this honor, and it is a reflection of the pride and satisfaction Straw Hat owners hold in their company. It is a model organization in the industry. (As a side note, most of the Pizza Hut acquisition locations have now closed their doors.)
And the future holds great promise for Straw Hat Pizza. Once again Straw Hat has a new look, new buildings, colors and logos but it has retained its commitment to guest service, quality, cleanliness, and of course, its genuine California crust pizza, Hot Hats and Salad Bar. People of all ages still drive many miles to visit Straw Hat. The Cooperative is growing each year by adding new members and training them to be the best operators in the business. A renewed commitment to nationally recognized marketing programs has seen success throughout the chain, and its purchasing programs are second to none. The Cooperative is also growing with the development of two new cutting-edge concepts. All three concepts serve the best genuine California pizza in settings that can fill the need of targeted markets and city locations.
In authentic California spirit, "Our future's so bright, we gotta wear shades!"
Straw Hat is proud to be a true California pioneer, and a California icon. And we're thankful to serve you. Thanks for visiting our website. You are invited to enjoy a genuine California Straw Hat Pizza soon!
Straw Hat. Left Coast : ) Right Pizza.