Segment Performance: Fast-Casual Pizza Chains

While the overall limited-service pizza segment fared decently in 2011 with a 1.5 percent increase in sales, pizza chains within the Top 150 Fast-Casual Chain Restaurants ranking did not perform well. Sales for chains in the Top 150 decreased by 8.3 percent to $527 million. This is coupled with a 10.5 percent decline in unit numbers. Three-fourths of the pizza chains in the Top 150 ranking saw sales drops this in 2011.

Donatos Pizza held the highest rank despite its -9 percent drop in sales. The chain ended the year with $166 million in total sales, compared to $182.5 million in 2010. Number two chain Wolfgang Puck Express fared even worse, as sales plummeted -21.7 percent to $63 million. Wolfgang Puck Express also closed five of its units, an -11.6 percent decline in unit count. ZPizza opened two new units during the period, a 2.3 percent increase, but the chain’s sales still fell -1.8 percent to $54.5 million for the year.

Despite declining sales and an overall net unit decline, several chains still opened new units during the period. Both Straw Hat Pizza and ZPizza planned to open sites in California. Wolfgang Puck Express opened a unit in a medical center in Cleveland.

*Technomic estimate
Source: Technomic Top 150 Fast-Casual Chain Restaurant Report

Concept to Watch: Brixx Wood Fired Pizza

Brixx Wood Fired Pizza is a fast-casual chain specializing in handcrafted pizzas prepared in wood-burning brick ovens. However, customers visit Brixx for more than just pizza—its extensive list of wines, microbrews and dozens of beers on tap make each location a viable destination for adults seeking a fun and relaxed atmosphere. Brixx Franchise Systems LLC is the parent company.

With 2011 sales of $35.5 million, the Belmont, NC-based chain saw an increase of 9 percent over the prior year; it also increased its unit count to 21 from 19 stores.

Brixx units range from 3,200 to 3,400 square feet with seating for approximately 45 guests. The company is selective about its sites, and generally seeks busy downtown areas or locations in proximity to high-traffic retail centers and sporting venues. Older interiors tend to resemble a cozy, homey neighborhood bar, while newer units are a bit more upscale.

Eric Horsley, Barbara Bodford-Morgan and Jeff Van Dyke opened the first Brixx in 1998 in the historic Dilworth neighborhood of Charlotte, NC.

Click here for a one-page profile including sales and unit data, competitive set, growth plans and more.



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