Price was the only favorable element of Little Caesars pizza, the cheapest on our list. Judges cited inconsistent and unbalanced ingredients. This chain is strictly carryout.
Little Caesars fared poorly in our comparison of four pizza chains. Several of the 11 tasters likened the product to frozen supermarket offerings -- and to a value brand, at that. We tasted both a plain cheese pizza and one with half pepperoni and half green pepper and onion. The dominant complaint in the judges' Little Caesars reviews was a lack of consistency. As one taster put it, the cheese pie was "really saucy" but the pepperoni pizza had "too much crust and not enough sauce." Several taste testers described the sauce as "tangy" and the crust as "flavorless," and neither description was meant as a compliment. The quantity of veggie toppings on the pizza was deemed "absurd" (as in, way too much) -- an assessment shared by several testers -- and some said the toppings didn't seem fresh.
Little Caesars has a handful of sit-down restaurants, but carryout is the primary option and has been since the chain’s 1959 launch. We had to call twice to place an order for pickup; the first time no one answered at the nearest Columbus, Ohio, outlet. Although we sat on hold for 10 minutes the second time around, the requested pies were waiting for us when we arrived to pick them up 10 minutes later. The quick turnaround is aided by Little Caesars' Hot-n-Ready concept. The stores make up pizzas in advance and keep them warm until a customer walks in to take one home. The cheese version is well-known for costing a mere $5 and the pepperoni costs the same. Alas, our tasting and a similar test by editors at Epicurious suggest that the system sacrifices freshness, prompting comparisons to frozen pizza. (The company recently began demoing a more “high tech,” Reserve-n-Ready mobile-ordering concept at certain venues that would allow customers to skip lines entirely and pick up pre-paid, customized and made-fresh pizzas from secured compartments using special access codes. Perhaps it will be a game changer.)
Little Caesars offers a comparatively small menu. There are three Hot-n-Ready pizzas plus a handful of other pizza options. Adding a topping to a Little Caesars pizza costs $1.50. The chain also sells wings, Italian bread, breadsticks, and their signature Crazy Bites. A large slice of cheese pizza contains 250 calories and 8 grams of fat and a pepperoni slice has 280 calories and 11 grams of fat. The vegetable toppings we ordered are considered a custom pizza, and we could find no available nutrition information.
Anyone remotely familiar with the chain probably remembers the Little Caesars slogan "Pizza! Pizza!" It refers to a previous offer of two pizzas for the price of one pizza (from competitors). That promotion has long been replaced, but the tagline and the promise of value pricing are still associated with Little Caesars. The company claims more than 4,500 locations worldwide and by some estimates close to $4 billion in revenue.
Little Caesars was the cheapest of the pizza chains we reviewed, by a wide margin, but the pizza experience didn't prove worth the savings. If you need to feed a crowd for less, this chain might be the one to call. Otherwise, make a different choice.