Van-Cooked Pizza Was Once Delivered to Cedar Rapids Residents
When they came to your door with the pizza, it was undoubtedly the hottest food you've ever eaten in your house, that wasn't cooked in your kitchen. If you lived in Cedar Rapids when the magic pizza vans were crisscrossing the city, you probably had at least one. If not, you knew when your neighbors did.
Starting in October of 1984, Cedar Rapids residents could call a phone number, order a pizza, and have it delivered to their homes. What was so unique, was that after a customer called in the order, the pizza was prepared in the full, albeit small kitchen inside one of 15 vans in the city.
The pizza was popped in the oven inside the vehicle, and then the driver headed to your house. After they finished cooking the pizza outside your home, with the yellow light on the van flashing, it was then delivered to your front door. If you were having pizza, everyone nearby knew it. They either saw the light, smelled the pizza cooking, or both.
The business, which originally only offered service at night before expanding to lunch service, was known only as Pizza-2-U for about half a year. Trucks could make about 70 pizzas before needing to be restocked and also sold pop and salads. When they began, no one knew the company behind it was one of the biggest names in the pizza business.
After six months of success, representatives from Pizza Hut rolled into town in March of 1985 and revealed that Pizza-2-U was theirs. The company was using Cedar Rapids as a test market and wanted the new idea to prove itself, without everyone knowing it was Pizza Hut's. At least in the beginning.
Before Pizza Hut representatives visited Cedar Rapids, the white vans simply had a box that said
The Pizza Hut logo was added right behind the front door of the vans shortly after the company revealed Pizza-2-U belonged to them. I bet business got even more brisk.
Another thing that was so cool about Pizza Hut's Pizza-2-U was that it used the "Route Commander" system. It was created by Norand, and built in Cedar Rapids. Not only were workers able to communicate with the Cedar Rapids Pizza-2-U hub, but the device also allowed them to print out the customer's order, as well as a bill. The Gazette reported at the time that Norand was also making cash registers for all corporate-owned Pizza Hut restaurants.
After about four years in Cedar Rapids, Pizza-2-U ended. What Cedar Rapids residents were able to love, very few others would get the chance to enjoy. That is until food trucks became a thing in the early 2000s.
Did Pizza-2-U come to your house? If not, maybe you bought pizza out of one of their vans when they were set up in a nearby town.
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