Papa John’s & the Incredible Shrinking Pizza!

An authentic, large NY-style pizza at Joe's in Arlington, TX

An authentic, large NY-style pizza at Joe’s in Arlington, TX

I love pizza! If I were stranded on a deserted island and could only have one food, it would be pizza. Hands down. It would come with pepperoni and sausage (pork or Italian). And, of course, it would be thin, NY-style crust. No Chicago “pizza pie” for me. There’s more than one thing that I don’t like about Chicago, but I digress.

Ever since tasting my first Pizza Hut “Thin ‘N Crispy” as a young lad in central Florida, I have been hooked. It was even after sharing a “Meat-Lovers” Thin ‘N Crispy, following our first date to the Lake Placid Elementary School Fall Festival, that I knew that Brenda, my wife, would be the one!  From the standard fare served by national chains such as Pizza Hut, Domino’s and Papa John’s to the “homemade” pies I’ve consumed at countless mom and pop restaurants throughout the country, there haven’t been very many pizzas that I found inedible. Some have been average, such as the somewhat cardboard-like crust pizzas delivered by PTA (Pizza Transit Authority) to my dorm rooms and the Phi Sig house during my early undergraduate days at The George Washington University (prior to Domino’s arriving on the scene). Others, such as any pizza I have ever eaten in the City (i.e., NYC), have been delicious.

A few pizza restaurants I have frequented may or may not have had the best tasting pizza (hard to remember that far back), but nevertheless hold a special place in my heart because of the memories that I have from eating there. One such place is the top of the 21st Amendment on Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington, D.C., on the edge of GWU’s campus back in the day (circa 1984-88). It was there that I was invited to join Phi Sigma Kappa (Lambda Chapter) in the fall of 1984. I can’t count the number of times that my fraternity brothers and I would hang out at the top of the 21A, eating pizza and shooting the breeze. I don’t believe that the 21A is still in business (at least at that location), but, it seems like yesterday (not almost 30 years ago) that I was chowing down on pizza with my brothers. Good times!

With all of my pizza-eating experience, I know a thing or two about good pizzas. As one who has ordered all sizes of pizzas, I also have a passing knowledge of what should constitute a good “large” pizza. So, when I ordered three “large” pizzas from Papa John’s on Tuesday night, I thought I knew the quality and quantity of the product I would be purchasing. As to the quality, Papa John’s delivered. As to the quantity, I think I may have figured out why they can use “better ingredients” for their “”better pizza.” It’s because they apparently don’t have to use as many ingredients on a “large, 14 inch” pizza when the pie turns out to be an inch short all the way around.

To paraphrase (very loosely) Justice Potter Stewart’s famous quip about “knowing pornography when he sees it,” I know what a large pizza looks like when I see it in the box. When the Papa John’s employee opened the box to show me my perfectly made, better pizza, what I saw was not a large pizza, but what might pass as a medium-sized pizza. Not believing my seeing eyes, I asked whether or not this was indeed a large pizza. The young man behind the counter assured me that it was. Because it had been more than a year since we had eaten a Papa John’s pizza, I asked when they “down-sized” the pizza. Somewhat flummoxed, he said it had been a while ago.

Although the box and the receipt on the side of the box said “14 Inches,” I knew that there was no way that this was a 14 inch pizza. Incredulous, as soon as I walked through the door of my house, I took out my tape measure and laid it out across the pizza.

Papa John's "Large, 14-inch" Pizza, which was actually 13-inches

Papa John’s “Large, 14-inch” Pizza, which was actually 13-inches

Was I wrong about the size? Did my lying eyes deceive me into thinking the pizza was smaller than it really was? Nope! It turns out that the Papa John’s “Large” pizza was only 13 inches. Where was the other inch of pizza? Did it shrink in the cooking process? Was this a mistake by the pizza makers at the local Papa John’s? Or, was the extra inch never there to begin with? Since the pizza was exactly 13 inches (and not, say, 13.75 inches), I’m guessing that the pre-made dough that is delivered to local Papa John’s franchises does not contain enough dough to make a 14 inch pizza. I could be wrong about that, but nothing that large food retailers or manufacturers do today to cut costs and increase profits surprises me.

I don’t really care if Papa John’s (or any other pizza franchise) advertises a “large, 14-inch pizza” for a certain price (in this case, $8.99 plus tax for up to 5 toppings). However, when fast-food chains or food manufacturers try to short-change their customers (either intentionally or unintentionally), they should not be surprised when those same customers spend their money elsewhere. And, it’s not just my experience with Papa John’s that has caused me to take notice. Sometime last year, I noticed that Pringles rolled out a new, smaller can of chips. At least at the local Wal-Mart, these were advertised as being on sale for one dollar. If shoppers were not paying attention or were not as familiar with how tall a red can of Pringles should be, then these consumers would have paid $1 for a smaller can, thinking they were getting a bargain when in fact it was just more money in the pocket of Proctor and Gamble. 

I don’t know about you, but I don’t like being taken advantage of. If you want to sell me a 13-inch pizza for $8.99 or a 16-inch pizza for 12.99, that’s great. Just don’t tell me you’re giving me an “Early Week Mania” special when there’s really nothing special about what I’m buying. Better ingredients. Better pizza. Papa John’s. I don’t think so!  Just give me a slice or two from any pizza joint in NYC and I’ll be a happy camper. Until I’m in the City again, maybe one of my PSK brothers can eat a couple slices for me. And, don’t forget the pepperoni and sausage 🙂






10 comments for “Papa John’s & the Incredible Shrinking Pizza!

  1. Max
    November 4, 2014 at 3:07 PM

    I also ordered a large from PJ today. I couldn’t believe how tiny it was. It is, by weight, approximately half as heavy as other pizza joints’ large in my area, yet the same cost. This must be why there are so few pj restaurants in my area. Now I have to buy the other half of dinner from somewhere else. Never again. I used to buy pj pizza a decade ago when I lived in another state and I don’t remember this being a problem. This is a medium pizza.

    • Harry Schultze
      September 24, 2016 at 3:38 PM

      Actually 10 years ago a large pizza was 16 inches a medium pizza was 14 inches. Today the large is 14 inches that’s the industry standard. Evidently they’re making them even smaller than the medium. What a rip off.

  2. primus
    December 2, 2014 at 6:20 PM

    Crap… I just got my 14″ pizza and it measured 12″… I was googling and found your site.

  3. August 22, 2015 at 6:13 PM

    We noticed that the PJ pizza looked smaller also, although we did not measure it. I think the size only changed here in Texas more recently, maybe within the last 6 months. They definitely need to be more honest about it though. I asked one of the workers there if the size had changed, and she said that it hadn’t since she had been working there (several months) but that other customers had been asking the same thing.

  4. Some guy
    August 7, 2016 at 3:40 PM

    I actually noticed the changes in sizes as well. The last time my family ordered from them, my dad was livid that the pizzas were smaller than advertised. Did they not learn from Subway’s 5 dollar foot long scandal?

  5. Harry Schultze
    September 24, 2016 at 3:34 PM

    I unfortunately used to work for Papa John’s both doing delivery and making pizzas and let me tell you they will do anything to make a profit! They tell you how much you can put on every Pizza and if you put on too much you get bitched at like you would not believe! It’s all about profits for this company and believe me they’re making profits. After I left I never ate their pizza again. I just couldn’t get all of those bad memories out of my mind.

  6. John doe
    March 10, 2017 at 10:46 AM

    The store either miss boxed your pizza for a medium or they didn’t stretch the dough to size. It does shrink a bit when it cooks but not that much. The dough should hang off the edges of the screen before baking; then come to the edge of the screen after baking. You can always call and get a quality replacement. Make sure to ask for a manager and write their name down. It’s more effective to ask for a manager by name, especially the general managers name.

  7. Kris
    December 9, 2017 at 11:26 AM

    I ordered a X large 16 inch pizza from dominos and got a 11 inch pizza at the full price lol then called to ask for my extra large pizza and two hours later they still Didnt show to deliver smh ????

  8. Education
    January 31, 2018 at 9:36 PM

    A Topix thread in which a Papa John’s manager describes exactly what it was that happened to your pizza:

    Jeez. Short a person one inch on their pizza and suddenly they must know everything about dough.

  9. Kat
    February 3, 2018 at 1:40 PM

    Their large PAN pizza (which is their deep crust) which looks like the one you have is 12inches, their large original is 14 inch.

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