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Archive for Monday, April 29, 2002

Pizza Hut founder has hectic life, more healthy diet

April 29, 2002

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— Pizzas are a big part of Frank Carney's life, just not of his diet.

Carney, who founded Pizza Hut in 1958 with his brother, left the restaurant chain in 1980. Eight years ago he jumped back into the pizza wars as a franchisee of upstart Papa John's.

But these days Carney's business is shifting from the days of opening a new store every few weeks. Now he's fine-tuning his 130 Papa John's stores in the markets of Wichita, Houston, Kansas City, Hawaii, and Sacramento, Calif.

Carney, 64, said he'll probably wind up with 140 stores. He runs each franchise with managing partners.

Carney's still intense, still busier than any two other people, but his life seems to have taken on a cooler tone.

He suffered some heart pain last year. It's being treated with medicine, and he continues on a self-imposed diet to stay healthy.

He eats a lot of oatmeal, fruits and vegetables. He eats pizza only occasionally, preferring fish. When he does eat pizza, it's with little or no cheese and a low-fat topping. His favorite kind is ham, pineapple and jalapeno pepper.

He said he doesn't see a conflict between selling pizza as a business while not eating much as a person.

"You have a whole lot of choices. That's what's great about this country," he said.

Carney tries to stay fit by running five miles three times a week. He took up golf three years ago. He used to race cars professionally and run triathlons.

Carney imposed his own limits on his business empire.

Several years ago, Papa John's offered him franchises in San Francisco and part of Los Angeles, but he decided against it. He also turned down England and Australia.

Papa John's will probably never eclipse Pizza Hut in the great majority of markets, he said. Papa John's doesn't have sit-down restaurants, only take-out and delivery. Papa John's is the No. 2 chain in Wichita.

"That's fine," he said. "We'll take our No. 2, and we'll do just fine."

But now that he's entering a less-feverish time, won't he get bored?

"It's never boring when you know you're $23 million in debt."

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