Why the So-Called “Pizza Meter” Has Social Media Nervous

“The Pizza Meter is rising. It’s supposed to be a small sign offer soon,” one TikTok user claimed.


May 13 2024, Published 1:26 p.m. ET

A cook preparing a pizza pie
Source: Getty Images

What do pizza deliveries have to do with the threat of war? Allow us to explain to you the very unscientific but no less interesting Pizza Meter theory.

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The Pizza Meter has come up in anxiety-ridden TikTok videos recently amid one Twitter user’s report that a Pentagon-area Papa John’s location was busier than usual during the conflict between Israel and Iran in April 2024.

“The Pizza Meter is rising,” one TikTok user claimed. “It’s supposed to be a small sign of war soon.”

What is the Pizza Meter?

The Pizza Meter — otherwise known as Pentagon Pizza Orders — is a theory that posits that upticks in pizza orders received by restaurants in the Washington D.C. area can predict international conflicts and crises, according to a Know Your Meme submission.

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A delivery person gesturing to a pizza delivery
Source: Getty Images

The trend can be traced to Frank Meeks, who has owned dozens of Domino’s franchises in the D.C. area. “The news media doesn’t always know when something big is going to happen because they’re in bed, but [pizza] deliverers are out there at 2 in the morning,” Meeks told the Los Angeles Times in January 1991, when he had 43 Domino’s outlets in the area. He said that the one-night record for deliveries at the CIA at the time occurred on Aug. 1, 1990, the day before Iraq invaded Kuwait.

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Meeks pointed out another influx in pizza orders the following month, as the Gulf War continued. “At the White House, we used to deliver 50 [pizzas] a day. Now it’s 125,” he told the Chicago Tribune at that time. “The big increase is late at night. We used to deliver nothing [there] after about 9 or 10, but now we’ve had to keep on extra people to handle late night at the White House.”

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Meanwhile, the State Department’s pizza volume doubled and the Pentagon’s went from 50 pizzas per day to around 300, with most ordered late at night, Meeks added.

Meeks’s tallies made headlines again in December 1998, during then-President Bill Clinton’s impeachment hearings and the Kosovo War. “It’s going haywire,” Meeks, then the owner of 59 Domino’s franchises in the Washington area, told The Washington Post at the time.

According to Domino’s data the Post cited at the time, the White House ordered $3,100 of pizza over three days that week, more than it ordered in the three days after the Monica Lewinsky story broke and nearly six times more than a typical three-day period. That same week, Capitol Hill ordered $11,600 of pizza, more than it ordered during a three-day stretch of the November 1995 government shutdown and nearly seven times more than a typical three-day period.

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Domino’s had its own Pizza Meter in the 1990s, and it served a different purpose.

From the early to mid-1990s, Domino’s released an annual report that was also called the Pizza Meter, as Slate reports. That meter wasn’t an indicator of geopolitical upheaval, though. It was a survey of American’s attitudes, as relayed by Domino’s delivery drivers.

Some actual findings from that Pizza Meter:

  • “People who answered the door while listening to rap music were 45 percent more likely to order a meat-topped pizza than non-rap listeners.”
  • “People who answered the door wearing polyester ordered 9 percent more vegetarian pizzas than those sporting natural fibers.”
  • “The number of nude door answerers dropped a little [in 1995].”

It seems like pizza delivery drivers know much more than which house addresses belong to good tippers!

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