Demand for convenience calls for fast casual pizza offerings.
Sales at U.S. pizza restaurants reached $41 billion in 2014, up 3% from 2013. Pizza is ranked as the second most popular cuisine at quick-service restaurants in the U.S., according to “Pizza Market in the U.S.: Foodservice and Retail, 2nd Edition,” a report by market research publisher Packaged Facts. This holds true for both mainstream chains and restaurants that specialize in pizza. Pizza also holds the top position at full-service pizza restaurants. As for 2015, Packaged Facts predicts that the restaurant pizza segment will have sales approaching $43 billion at years end.
The pizza industry is being buoyed by an improving economy that gives consumers more reason to dine out—and to trade out of frozen pizza and into restaurant pizza. Pizza restaurants, especially the major chains, are also capitalizing on digital ordering, creating a simple and convenient sales path allowing consumers to order anytime/anywhere. Roughly 50% of Domino’s and Papa John’s sales come from the online/mobile channel, and half of Pizza Hut’s online ordering is performed via mobile. And in the face of broader fast casual restaurant competition, many pizza restaurant players are ratcheting up the quality of their offerings. Over the past several years, Domino’s has moved aggressively to improve its food quality, and Pizza Hut has undergone a brand overhaul that delivers more-trend forward variety and better quality.
Restaurant pizza has succeeded by leveraging the take-out/delivery meal option. As a way to compete with quick service and fast casual restaurants that offer quick and affordable dining options, Little Caesars offers its $5 Hot-and-Ready one-topping pizzas for $5 as well as lunch combs; meanwhile, the market for take-and-bake pizzas has grown in recent years with players like Papa Murphy’s, Noble Roman’s and ZPizza catering to this niche via quality positioning and freshness underscored by convenience.
Still, convenience remains an unwavering need. This has prompted growth for fast casual pizza specialists that cater to customization and individual servings while touting a healthy halo through quality, sourced ingredients—a trend that will keep the industry on its toes. Fast casual trailblazer Chipotle backs Pizzeria Locale, but chains such as MOD Pizza, Pieology, Project Pie, PizzaRev, 800 Degrees and Live Basil are all growing quickly. More recent competitors in the market also include Uncle Maddio’s Pizza, Blaze Fast-Fire’d Pizza and Pizza Studio and Custom Fuel Pizza.