A Year On, Pizza Rat's Imprint on the Pizza Industry Is Undeniable

September 21, 2016

Well, here's something to "gnaw" on: It's been a year to the day since we first saw this video below of Pizza Rat. Don't you remember that little sneak of a rodent, descending the stairs as if he's Cinderella, a dollar slice dressed in cheese between his teeth?

Some may say he's just a stupid meme, a possible hoax even, and I bristle at the suggestions—what a way to reduce his cultural import. Others may grasp for larger conclusions about how he embodies the gestalt of our era, inching toward a theory of our viral rats. Enough! No need for a thinkpiece. The hard facts suffice.

Indeed, obscured in these Pizza Rat musings is the fact that the past year's seen a ton of pizza innovations, and if you distort your vision, you'll realize that the thematic artery connecting them all is Pizza Rat. His imprint upon the larger pizza industry is at once undeniable and remarkably under-examined. I'm not quite sure how this happened, but I'm here to rectify that. Here we go:

  • Wow! Pizza Rat apparently prodded Cincinnati's Xavier University to open up a pizza ATM, the first of its ilk in America. The ATM is meant to satisfy the late-night cravings of students on the verge of collapsing from hunger. Pay no mind the fact that these very students may soon find themselves spiraling into student debt; the university has expended gobs of capital upon the creation of this great pizza makin' machine. There's no doubt that the ethos of Pizza Rat directly led to the creation of this ATM, because—hm. I lost it. Damn. Want reasons? Don't ask me!

Anyone know the pizza rat? By @jango_jim 🍕🐀

A photo posted by YEDS (@yedscollective) on

  • Actually, now that we're talking about universities, it's pretty crazy how Pizza Hut decided to partner with Manchester Metropolitan University over in the United Kingdom this past December to develop an apprenticeship because of Pizza Rat. The "programme," as they say, is said to "equip candidates with skills for life, not just for working in a restaurant." It'll train them in skills ranging from food production to restaurant management, and students will split time between lecture halls and actual Pizza Huts.
  • Pizza Hut—that reminds me! Just two days ago, Pizza Hut unveiled its healthy snack of a Grilled Cheese Stuffed Crust Pizza. It's on par with the chain's previous crust-stuffing developments. Spitballing here, but if Pizza Rat "symbolized" the gluttony of our times, then it follows that corporate pizza business decisions would reflect this gluttony. So there's some through line here. Stay with me.
  • You still there? Thank you. Sylvester Stallone is back at it after losing an Oscar for Creed, because reports claim he will be producing a TV show called Pizza Guy based in Beverly Hills. Though the storyline has nothing to do explicitly with Pizza Rat, that little rascal's stamp is there, because this show's got an urban setting, much like its imagistic predecessor, the Pizza Rat video. Phew! Did I do okay? That was a tough one but I think I pulled it off.
  • And then in April, Vinnie's Pizzeria introduced the Pizza Box, an invention of such necessity and urgency that's apparently disgusting, much like the Pizza Rat. I guess? The Pizza Rat is disgusting, like the Pizza Box. Yes, that's it.

So there it is. I'm sure that if you really reach for it, Pizza Rat assumes some weighty, symbolic truth that takes it beyond what we see in that fourteen-second video. Have any pizza innovations attributed to Pizza Rat to add? Tell me in the comments—in the name of his first year anniversary.

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Mayukh Sen is a James Beard Award-winning food and culture writer in New York. His writing has appeared in the New York Times, the New Yorker, Bon Appetit, and elsewhere. He won a 2018 James Beard Award in Journalism for his profile of Princess Pamela published on Food52.


I U. September 25, 2016
It's Ben, he just switched careers.
Moshee September 22, 2016
I love pizza rat. He is everything.