16 Popular Pizza Chains, Ranked Worst to Best
Before you place an order for delivery or takeout, check out our pick for the best pizza chain.
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Searching for the Best Pizza Chain
Everyone loves pizza night! Sometimes that means making a homemade pizza, or popping a frozen pizza in the oven. Other times, the best solution is to order delivery or takeout. There are plenty of fast-food pizza options, but it’s hard to know which one will hit all the marks. That means a taste test is in order!
We considered many factors when ranking the best pizza chain. We had to bear in mind the crust, the sauce and the pizza toppings. For this experiment, we ordered a medium (or equivalent) pizza with the standard crust option and cheese or pepperoni as the topping.
Here are all the places we tried:
- California Pizza Kitchen
- Chuck E. Cheese
- Dave & Busters
- Little Caesar’s
- Lou Malnati’s
- Papa John’s
- Papa Murphy’s
- Pizza Hut
We looked for the most satisfying pizza with delicious toppings (and plenty of them) as well as gooey, melty cheese, perfect crust and flavorful sauce. Most importantly, though, we looked for a pizza that made us want to go back for another slice. Read on to see how your favorite pizza chain ranked.
16. Chuck E. Cheese
You probably remember trips to Chuck E. Cheese as a kid. You can now reminisce over takeout pizza! The pizza had an unusual crust, almost like a thin cornbread, and unfortunately, it didn’t travel well. The sauce was unremarkable, too. While there are definitely fond memories of games at Chuck E. Cheese growing up, the pizza seems to be less of a priority at this chain. That being said, there is some satisfaction in taking that first bite. It tastes like elementary school birthday party nostalgia.
Jet’s offers a huge assortment of pizzas on its menu. You can go for thin crust, deep dish, hand-tossed or New York-style crust—or opt for a specialty: the four (or eight) corner pizza. Jet’s has plenty of specialty topping combos too.
For the sake of this test, we went with the hand-tossed pepperoni pizza. It arrived with plenty of toppings—always a plus, but seemed greasy to us (yes, even by delivery pizza standards) and the crust was chewier than we’d like. Since the four-corner pizzas and Jet’s Bread are go-to favorites for many diners, if you’re going to Jet’s, skip the standard menu items and go with the speciality pizza options. See what the pizza delivery person won’t tell you.
14. Papa John’s
Papa John’s—not to be confused with Papa Murphy’s—brings back nostalgic memories of dorm room delivery in college. Somehow this pizza didn’t impress the same way it did at 2 a.m. as a 19-year-old. The tomato sauce had some sweetness to it without any sort of spice or heat. The crust was also softer than we’d prefer. The real kicker was the cheese, which seemed to separate in chunks instead of pulling apart in that gooey way we love. However, we did enjoy the pepperoni—and there’s something so satisfying about dipping the crust in this chain’s signature garlic sauce.
The takeout pepperoni pizza from Rosati’s felt hastily assembled and the crust was lackluster. We enjoyed the flavorful sauce on this pizza, though the toppings didn’t stand out to us. This style of pizza puts the toppings under the cheese, which means no crispy of pepperoni fresh from the oven. It’s always welcome when pizzas are cut into squares rather than wedges—because who’s counting, right?!
12. Pizza Hut
What child of the ’90s didn’t love the personal pan pizza that came along with finishing the BOOK IT! program or a slice of the Big New Yorker? And who wouldn’t be impressed that Pizza Hut also happens to be home to the world’s largest pizza? With that in mind, we eagerly dove into the chain’s classic pan pizza.
Pizza Hut knocked it out of the park when it came to being a beautiful pizza with fantastic toppings. The pepperoni scattered on top had a really great crispy texture. The creamy, melty cheese was pretty exceptional too. However, we had mixed feelings about the crust. It had good flavor but lacked crispness on the bottom and around the edges. This could be a bit of a fluke, so we certainly wouldn’t rule out Pizza Hut in the future. Plus, who doesn’t love those breadsticks?
While Sbarro is a staple of by-the-slice pizza purchases at mall food courts, it’s also possible to order Sbarro for takeout. With roots in Brooklyn, Sbarro offers pizza with a nice char on the crust just as a New York-style pizza should. We also appreciated that the sauce tasted like fresh tomato, rather than overly processed or sweet. The pepperoni slices were wonderful with a nice crispness from the oven. The only complaint? The crust was just a bit too doughy to feel authentically New York.
You can order a whole pizza to share with friends and it will be equally delicious when reheated by the slice.
With any fast-food pizza, we’re always in search of the perfect crust—and Toppers came close. It was chewy without being doughy. The cheese was a standout at this chain that uses 100% real Wisconsin mozzarella on its pizzas. We also appreciated the distribution of toppings. While we enjoyed the flavor of the pepperoni, we wanted just a little bit more of a nice char on the edges.
Toppers has an extensive menu of wild and wonderful pizzas, as well as desserts, wings, breadsticks and an array of dipping sauces. It will be fun to come back to Toppers in the future and try some of the other menu options!
9. Little Caesar’s
As one of the lowest priced pizzas on our list, we weren’t expecting a pizza this good, but Little Caesar’s surprised us. We ordered the chain’s EXTRAMOSTBESTEST (yes, that’s what they call it) pepperoni pizza and fell in love. Each slice was loaded with perfectly crisp slices of pepperoni and the sauce had a great tomato flavor with a subtle kick. Little Caesar’s also nailed the crust component: It was crisp on the outside and fluffy on the inside. Their online portal makes ordering online easy for pickup or delivery and the price just can’t be beat.
Costco always ranks high when it comes to value for the price, and its pizzas are no exception. For around $10, you can take home a freshly baked 18-inch pizza that is ready to serve a big crowd. It’s a huge bonus to be able to sit back and enjoy a family pizza night after a warehouse grocery shopping haul.
The crust is chewy and enjoyable, if a bit on the doughy side. We found the sauce to be flavorful, but not a standout among the pizzas we tested. They certainly don’t skimp on the toppings, but it is unfortunate that the only choices at Costco are plain cheese or pepperoni. However, that simplicity is what helps keep the prices so reasonable. When you need to serve a lot of people for a low price, Costco’s pizza is a winner.
7. Dave & Buster’s
The pizza at Dave & Buster’s is listed on their menu as a flatbread. It arrives in a long rectangle cut into rustic-style wedges. This pizza was a surprise hit since we didn’t expect too much from the food at an entertainment center. The sauce was lovely and the crust was pretty tasty. The biggest surprise was the pepperoni toppings. The flatbread was layered with two different types of pepperoni in two sizes. This offered a unique texture and flavor that we hadn’t seen from other takeout options.
The best part is, you can sneak in a quick round of Skee-Ball while you wait for your order!
The thin crust pizza at Giordano’s was a delicious option from this Chicago-style pizza joint. The crust was crisp and flavorful, with a sauce that was delightfully herbaceous. Our only complaint here was that the pizza was a bit heavy-handed when it came to the cheese. The excess cheese masked some of the more delicious aspects of this pizza.
Mod Pizza is a chain that offers a build-your-own pizza experience with seemingly unlimited options. The thin crust wasn’t too greasy, had a nice chew and arrived with the light char we love in a pie. We ordered a classic pizza with traditional cheese and pepperoni for the toppings. The criteria for our taste test actually felt limiting with so many mouth-watering options available at Mod! While this was a very tasty personal pizza (with enough for leftovers for lunch the next day), it wasn’t the type of pizza you order for a family to share. The online ordering to be easy, and the pickup was efficient. This chain is definitely a go-to for future pizza cravings.
4. Lou Malnati’s
Lou Malnati’s is a Chicago-based chain famous for its deep-dish pizza. Since deep-dish is in a class by itself, we opted for the thin crust in this taste test just as we did for Giordano’s and Rosati’s. The crust was a standout here! There was a developed flavor in the crust of the Lou Malnati’s pizza reminiscent of a deep-dish but without all that heft. It’s also worth noting that this pizza was cut into squares, rather than wedges, which makes it perfect for sharing.
The other outstanding aspect of this pizza was the tomato sauce brimming with herb flavors. Overall this was an enjoyable pizza experience worthy of another takeout order.
3. Papa Murphy’s
Papa Murphy’s occupies a unique space in the takeout pizza world. The business is based on a “take and bake” model where you pick up an uncooked pizza and bake it fresh when you get home. While this might seem like an extra step when you want an easy dinner, Papa Murphy’s makes it as simple as can be. The pizza arrives on a tray that’s ready to pop in the oven. It also comes with an instruction card that makes the process a snap. The result is a pizza fresher than anything you could pick up or get delivered since you get to enjoy it straight from the oven. The crust was phenomenal and the cheese and toppings distribution was spot-on.
We didn’t know what to expect from this take-and-bake pizza joint, but in the end, we were delighted with the delicious results.
Start to finish, Domino’s was one of the best pizzas in this test. Besides tasting great, Domino’s was also the easiest to order. You can even schedule your delivery in advance online—a great way to ensure you get your pizza exactly when the cravings hit. The Pizza Tracker let us track our pizza’s progress on the way to the kitchen table. While other restaurants offer order tracking, Domino’s was the most detailed and simplest to follow.
This pie managed to hit every one of our criteria. The sauce was perfectly flavored with good seasoning. The cheese was so melty and creamy—exactly what we love in a good mozzarella. As for the pepperoni, we were impressed with how many toppings were packed on, and the slices were just a bit crisp on the edges.
The real star of the show, though, was the crust. It supported all those toppings and cheese and was the tastiest by far. This pizza was nice and crispy around the edges and the edge of the crust was brushed with an herb blend. It doesn’t sound like much, but this sprinkling of Italian seasoning is what gave Domino’s a lead in this race. It’s as if after you have finished most of the pizza slice, you end up with a bonus breadstick. This was the best budget-friendly, family-style pizza on our list. However, one more pizza did inch ahead in the top spot.
1. California Pizza Kitchen
While Domino’s is the way to go if you want a lot of pizza to serve a crowd, California Pizza Kitchen is the best pizza if you want to indulge. The pizzas at CPK are larger than a typical individual size, so they can certainly be shared by two people, or you can save a few slices for lunch the next day. The wood-fired oven that bakes all of CPK’s pies is what puts this restaurant in a whole new category.
In the past, we’ve always ordered one of the chain’s more unique specialty pizzas (such as the iconic BBQ Chicken Pizza or Thai Chicken Pizza) but for the sake of this comparison taste test, we ordered the pepperoni. It felt like such a pedestrian choice with so many options available, but after the first bite, we realized that the pepperoni toppings were next level at CPK. The pepperoni was rustic and spicy, and we appreciated the even distribution of toppings. The cheese was in perfect proportion to the crust and toppings, and the sauce was made with just enough garlic and herbs to make it standout as well. The crust arrives with the perfect char and developed flavor, too.
California Pizza Kitchen offers delivery, takeout and take-and-bake options. In addition, they have an app to easily place your order. While the pizza at California Pizza Kitchen comes with a higher price tag than other chains, there’s higher level of quality. This will be our go-to place for pizza from here on out!