Whole pie or by the slice, pizza remains a foodservice favorite, and it continues to trend upward.
According to Datassential’s 2021 Pizza Keynote report, 88% of consumers were eating more or the same amount of pizza as the previous year, and 95% of restaurant, retail and on-site operators believed their pizza sales would increase or stay the same in 2022.
Richmond, Va.-based GPM Investments, a wholly owned subsidiary of ARKO Corp., recently announced that it’s expanding its pizza offerings, selling both slices and whole pizzas in 200 store locations across 15 states and in several of its c-store brands, including Apple Market, Cash’s, E-Z Mart, fas mart, fastmarket, Jiffi Stop, Roadrunner, Scotchman, shore stop and Village Pantry.
“Over time, as GPM has acquired stores, we have acquired made-to-order, proprietary, and wholesaler programs,” said Ray Zeiher, senior foodservice category manager for GPM. “Our goal was to consolidate the numerous offers and to have a consistent offer that could be replicated in our store network.”
Select stores will now offer both slices and whole pies made from 100% California vine-ripened tomatoes, 100% real mozzarella cheese, homemade crust and numerous toppings. Offers will include two pizza slices for $4.49 and whole pizzas for $13.99 each. Members of fas mart’s rewards program can purchase two slices for $3.49 or a whole pizza for $12.99.
“We have also added 622 freezers across our stores with frozen pizza brands such as DiGiorno and Jack’s in an effort to stay relevant for our customers and their shopping needs,” noted Zeiher.
It’s no wonder pizza’s such a go-to for customers; frozen or fresh, hot or cold, pizza is “the perfect comfort food,” said Zeiher.
“It’s a food that continues to evolve and works with multiple flavor combinations,” he added. “It’s also an adaptable food; not only does it come with multiple flavor combinations, but it can be enjoyed as a slice, a whole pie or even hand-held pizza cones.”
Overall, Zeiher expects whole pies to continue to do well, especially considering GPM’s expanded partnership with DoorDash to offer delivery in more than 600 stores. Still, he said, slices enable snacking and offer added convenience.
“Today, sliced pizza sales far outpace whole pie sales,” he noted, “and although whole pie sales will increase, it’s expected that customers will continue to trend more to slices when purchasing pizza in convenience stores.”
GPM plans to expand its pizza offerings to several new stores over the next year. It’s also partnering with Sbarro to launch new restaurants inside four Village Pantry stores in Indiana.
“We have been looking for a foodservice partner that we can grow with in the long term and decided to partner with Sbarro because of their strong brand recognition, quality products, growth strategy and leadership team,” said Zeiher.
Sbarro’s New York-style, extra-large pizza slices are handmade every day, with freshly prepared and stretched dough, hand-shredded 100% whole-milk mozzarella cheese and San Marzano-style tomatoes, with a variety of toppings, stromboli, bread sticks, chicken wings, whole pizzas and chicken tenders.
“Currently, we plan to add Sbarro to three more stores as we evaluate the combined convenience store/Sbarro business model,” Zeiher said. “While it’s early, we are very excited about the preliminary results.”
Chad Ellis, division head of retail for North Dakota-based Horizon Resources, which operates five Cenex-branded sites in North Dakota and Montana, also recognizes the benefits of working with a pizza partner; two of his sites currently offer Hunt Brothers Pizza, and the chain has plans to expand the program to additional stores.
Ellis said the program works well at Horizon’s stores because, for starters, it’s good, high-quality pizza. Plus, he said, the supportive nature of a partner program is super helpful, too: “They’re here every week,” he said. “They keep us stocked.”
In the mornings, the breakfast pizza is a “huge” seller. Later in the day, the pepperoni and the Lotsa Meat Pizza — topped with Italian sausage, beef, bacon and pepperoni — are also popular, as well as the limited-time offers (LTOs).
“The Buffalo Chicken (LTO) is probably the top-seller at our stores,” Ellis said, adding that the Chicken Bacon Ranch and the Alfredo pizzas do well, too.
As far as formats, slices and Hunks (fourth-pie) are popular, but in areas where food options are more limited, whole pies do especially well, he said. “It’s helpful for people in that community to have that food option.”
GPM’s stores, too, may function as one of the only food or restaurant options in some communities, Zeiher noted: “Many of our stores are located in rural areas with limited access to quality dining options,” he said, “and we’re proud to serve our customers with the same level of quality they have come to expect from their pizza purveyors.”