More Ask Me Anything! 2009 answers ahead! Beware!
A reader dropped into my December 2008 post on working at Pizza Hut, and asks why the one that closed in Olean, the one near Wal-Mart, stopped its delivery business in the mid-90s. He wonders if this was because of prank orders placed by students at nearby St. Bonaventure University, but my recollection is that there weren't too many prank orders. In fact, we didn't get pranked too much at either location. There was one kid who would, for a while, faithfully call the other Pizza Hut in Olean, the one where I worked the bulk of my PH tenure, once every other week or so with an order for fifteen large pepperoni pizzas. I just played along, gave him a price, told him we'd be there in 45 minutes or whatever, and then delete the order and ignore the whole thing. Nobody ever called to complain, so I know I wasn't scotching a real order; I wonder if that kid really thought there was a PH driver wandering around town with his fifteen pizzas sent to a fake address. But who cared, really.
Another funny delivery story: I had a woman call once to order pizzas for the nurses at some department in Olean General Hospital. She made it sound like she was sending them pizza to thank them for their treatment of her, but I'm not so sure, because she was very insistent on the toppings: two larges, topped with black olives and achovies. I didn't know what to make of that, but her credit card payment went through, so we went with it.
We also had lots of entertaining discussions (read: annoying discussions) with customers who refused to understand the difference between the city limits that denoted the boundary of where we would deliver and the town limits. The refrain was automatic, every time: "My mail comes to Olean, NY! How can you tell me you won't deliver to me!" "Because you don't live within the city limits, sir." "But my mail comes to Olean, NY!" Lather, rinse, repeat.
But anyway, back to the original query. Delivery was stopped at the other Olean location (commonly called the Allegany location, even though it was located within the Olean town limits but not the Olean city limits – there we go again!) not because of prank orders but because there just weren't enough orders on a consistent basis to make delivery worth the effort. Now, it's hard for me to recall, since it's nearly fifteen years since I worked there and since even when I was there, it was just as a cook so I wasn't paying attention to numbers, but I do recall entire weekday evenings passing by where we might get two or three delivery orders total. That wasn't nearly enough delivery business to justify having those extra employees around. As far as St. Bonaventure went, orders for delivery to SBU constituted a small portion of our already-small delivery business. Our deliveries went more to the Village of Allegany than the University, by a significant margin. SBU was just not a business driver for that PH location.
Why was this? I don't know. I suspect that first of all, PH's prices tend to be higher than most college students are probably willing to pay for pizza. Second, in terms of location, that PH was farther from campus than a number of other local pizza joints, as well as the local Domino's outlet. More SBU students probably got pizza either from Domino's (which is literally across the street from SBU) or from the two or three pizza joints in the village of Allegany, which is where all the bars are. There weren't any bars near PH, so it wasn't really possible to include PH in one's plans if said plans involved college-student levels of drinking.
One night I very much remember was a night when our main delivery driver came bursting in from one of his delivery runs to inform us that OJ Simpson was on the run in a white Bronco, and the cops were chasing him on the LA freeways. He kept coming back with updates every time he went out with another run. That was pretty hilarious.
On the general subject of Olean and pizza, I always felt like something of an outsider because I never much liked either of the two beloved Olean pizza joints: Tasta Pizza and Renna's Pizza. Renna's is basically a local version of Sbarro, and Tasta was, as I recall, terribly lame. Their pizza was square (no big deal) but the pepperoni pizza came with one slice of pepperoni per slice. A slice of pepperoni pizza there was basically a square of cheese pizza with a single pepperoni slice in the exact middle. I don't know if that's still how they do it, but wow, was that lame. Our preferred pizza there was a place called A&J's.
In an odd postscript to all this, it turns out that now both Pizza Huts in Olean are now closed. After the Allegany one closed due to poor business, apparently an electrical fire did sufficient damage to the other one, the larger one I worked at for three-and-a-half years, to force its closing. I have not seen any indication that it has re-opened, so I assume it's still sitting there. Now, I have no real insight here, but I do recall that PH had a tendency to do things, shall we say, "on the cheap", so it wouldn't surprise me one whit if that fire was seen by the local PH brass as a blessing in disguise: another opportunity to save money by shuttering a location. This is just pure speculation on my part, mind you.