History

Sammy Sign

1959

Straw Hat Pizza was formed July 10th, 1959 by Charlie Olsen and Bill Henderlong. The first location opened in 1960 in San Leandro, CA. They picked the name because of the types of uniforms worn by many pizzerias in California at the time. This way customers would quickly identify with and understand the type of product they sold. Straw Hat Pizza introduced the Charlie Horse, named after one of the founders, as a way to attract in families. This was a free kids ride and was very popular. In 8 years Straw Hat Pizza grew to 20 stores throughout Northern California.

1969

In July 1969, the founders sold Straw Hat Pizza to the Saga Corporation. The Saga Corporation also purchased Pizza Palace and merged the two brands into the “Straw Hat Pizza Palace”. After merging the combined chain had 48 locations.

  • Saga Corp: Founded in 1948 by William Scandling, Bill Laughlin and Harry Anderson. The cafeteria at Hobart College in Kalamazoo, MI had gone broke and the three men decided to reopen it and operate it. Their college food service grew to become one of the largest food companies in the US with revenues in excess of $161 million in 1970. In addition to Straw Hat Pizza, Saga Corp owned the “Velvet Turtle” - a find dining restaurant, “Black Angus” – a Steak House and “Refectory” – a casual dining chain.
  • “Pizza Palace” was founded in 1961 in Santa Barbara with their first location opening in Torrance, CA. It was owned by Bill Smith and Chuck Gerhardt. In 1969 it had 28 locations in Los Angeles through Santa Barbara. It was a pioneer in QSR at the time and having live music in the evening gave them a third time period during the day they could attract customers in (Lunch, Dinner and Evening).

The décor at the time was wooden benches and tables, red velvet wall paper, tiffany style lighting creating an Old English atmosphere.

1972

In 1972 the name was shortened to Straw Hat Pizza. In the 1970’s Straw Hat Pizza became the place to go for live music at night. It was around this time the first video games introduced into a Pizza Parlor.

1975

Salad! In the mid-1970’s Straw Hat Pizza added full salad bars to the restaurants. It also received a décor upgrade with Grass cloth wallpaper, booths, chairs and finished table tops.
Dining Room Horse

1977

Straw Hat Pizza introduces the Hot Hat sandwich! A great product with meat and cheese wrapped in our amazing pizza dough and baked.

1981

Straw Hat Pizza introduces a new logo. This includes our three color triangle and is on a brown background. It is also the year Tim Conway started making his very memorable commercials for the brand. We also introduced the slogan “All for Fun, Fun for All”.

1986

On June 10th, 1986 the Saga Corporation agreed to be purchased by the Marriott Corporation. This made Marriott the third biggest food service provider in the United States.

1987

Marriott Corporation sells all Straw Hat Pizzas to Pizza Hut so they can convert them over and get a foothold in the California market. The Straw Hat Pizza franchisees at the time did not like the idea of becoming Pizza Huts so they fought for the rights to keep the brand and won. They formed the “Straw Hat Cooperative Corporation” to support the stores and keep the brand alive. This was a unique form of ownership where the franchisees each owned a share of the company. The company was operated as a non-profit for the benefit of the owners.

1990’s

Straw Hat Pizza starts using the slogan “People Pleasin’ Pizza” and “Best of All”. Introduces Gourmet Pizzas into its lineup. In 1996 the chain had 60 locations.

2000’s

Straw Hat Pizza updates the slogan to “Genuine California Pizza” highlighting all the great things that makes a “California Style” Pizza – thin layered crust, tangy sauce and a blend of amazing cheeses! The brand updates its look to include larger televisions and a wide range of sports and entertainment décor.

2008

The Straw Hat Cooperative Corporation forms Straw Hat Restaurants, Inc. to help grow the brand under a franchise model.

2011

The Straw Hat Cooperative Corporation merges and has all stores become franchises under Straw Hat Restaurants, Inc.

Today

The Straw Hat Pizza is franchised by Straw Hat Restaurants Inc. We are actively franchising and still sell the same amazing pizzas we have since 1959 along with our Hot Hats and other amazing products. Our emphasis is on creating a great place for you and your family to enjoy great food and have fun.
Pizza Cook

What is the Brand About?

All For Fun, Fun For All

Straw Hat Pizza has always been the place to go for family dinners, Birthday and Team Parties. The majority of our business is dine in. We provide a comfortable and fun environment to relax with family or friends. All of our locations have games and big screen televisions to provide entertainment.

People Pleasing Pizza

One of the main reasons we have thrived since 1959 is our great pizza! One of the original west coast pizzerias we serve a traditional “California Style” pizza – a thin and layered crust with tangy sauce, fresh toppings and a blend of six cheeses. In addition to our pizzas, we also serve our legendary Hot Hat sandwiches – our fresh meats and other toppings wrapped in our amazing dough and baked in the oven. We also serve a variety of appetizers, salad and desert!

Whatever the Occasion, We Make It Easy

Straw Hat Pizza is similar to most QSR establishments. Customers order at the counter and we bring it out to their table. We also offer pickup and delivery. Our locations also get an ever increasing portion of their sales through the web and smart phone applications. We have embraced the advantages of third party ordering options and delivery to drive sales. A number of locations have also purchased food trucks or trailers and are active in catering various events.

Store Look

Key Features

  • Modern bright interiors with large dining rooms
  • Meeting rooms or areas
  • Arcade Games and redemption centers with prizes
  • Booths and Tables of varying sizes
  • Surrounded by big screen televisions – a great place to watch your favorite teams
  • Décor is a blend of sports and other entertainment
  • 8-20 Beers on tap with local craft beers available
  • Full Salad Bars
  • Coke Freestyle Machines with a vast number of flavors to meet everyone’s taste.
  • Many stores have special events in their locations such as Pay per View Events (UFC, Boxing), live Entertainment and Karaoke.
  • Delivery

Franchising Areas

Northern California

Northern California Map

Central California

Central California Map

Southern California

Southern California Map

Is It a Fit For Me?

Contrary to what most people think, you do not need to have restaurant experience to be successful. However, understand the restaurant business is VERY hands on. Unless you have a high volume location you will need to be active in your business to be successful. Some of our owners work a lot of hours. In short, a restaurant is not a passive investment.

Some skills that are helpful to have are budgeting, time management and organization. Doing well in these areas will keep you from struggling. You should also be able to lead and direct your staff.

There are some regular activities you will do in the course of running your business that you will need to feel comfortable with:

  • Working on your feet for long periods of time.
  • Investing the time in your training.
  • Spend time talking to customers in your store
  • Spend time going out in the community promoting your business
  • Dealing with upset customers

Finally, the key is to follow the system. A franchise is a successful system, but you have to follow it. If you are a very independent person and want to do things your way or make changes to the existing system then a franchise might not be the best investment for you.

Straw Hat Resaturants

Straw Hat Restaurants Inc. is a privately held company run by a board of directors. The board is primarily made up of store owners so they understand the business and the brands success or failure impacts them directly.

SAL LISTEK, CHAIRMAN OF BOARD
Sal Listek Sal Listek is a Member of the Board of Directors, a part time position. Mr. Listek has been a principal of Listek Enterprise, Inc. since 1991. He has owned and operated the Straw Hat Restaurant in Antioch, California, since 1990, and the Straw Hat Restaurant in Brentwood, California since July 2004.
RANDY WISE, DIRECTOR & SECRETARY
Randy Wise Randy Wise has been a Straw Hat Pizza franchise owner since 1984. He and his wife currently own and operate a location in Santa Maria, CA. Mr. Wise has been an active Board member for the majority of his franchise career. He presently serves as the Board's Secretary/Treasurer.
DANA SMITH, DIRECTOR
Dana Smith Dana Smith is a Member of the Board, a part time position, since July 2014. Mr. Smith with his family was active in the ownership and operations of 14 Wendy’s franchises until 1995. After the selling the Wendy’s franchise rights, Mr. Smith became a commercial real estate agent specializing in retail and restaurant site acquisitions. Mr. Smith has been involved in developing real estate including building homes, office buildings, apartment buildings and warehouses. Mr. Smith is currently the owner of the Straw Hat restaurant located at Harveys in South Lake Tahoe, Nevada.
MANJIT WALIA, DIRECTOR
Manjit Walia Manjit Walia is a Member of the Board of Directors, a part time position, since July 2014. Mr. Walia is a computer science engineer with 20 years’ experience in hi tech research and development. Mr. Walia also owns a real estate license and is active in real estate development. Mr. Walia is currently a partner of a Straw Hat Pizza restaurant located in Cordelia, California.
VARUN LIMBACHIYA, DIRECTOR
Varun Limbachiya Varum Limbachiya, has been a Straw Hat franchisee since December 30, 2009, owning and operating the Alameda CA Straw Hat Pizza location. Mr. Limbachiya has been a member of the Board of Directors since September 10, 2015 having been appointed in accordance with the bylaws to fill an existing vacancy.