The Evolving Pizza Occasion

As we reported a couple of years ago when we published our last Pizza Consumer Trend Report, the pizza landscape was evolving — and this still holds true.  We highlighted the growth of fast-casual pizza, and this continues to be one of the biggest stories in both pizza and across the foodservice industry as a whole. Full-service pizza players like Anthony’s Coal Fired Pizza and Mellow Mushroom are also doing notably well. Those ubiquitous QSR pizza players certainly didn’t drop the ball, though; they grew sales 2.8% overall in 2015. But with the growth of these fast-casual and full-service pizza concepts comes a continually changing pizza category.

Pizza occasions are generally social, of course —a go-to for groups in need of a meal to feed the pack —but a slight shift is revealed in our data from the 2016 Pizza Consumer Trend Report; pizza dining parties are maturing. More consumers now than in 2014 say that they generally order pizza when they are with their spouse (up from 48% to 55%) or adult family (up from 26% to 31%). Pizza as an option for friends has held steady at 29% of consumers saying they often order pizza in this context.

In terms of what format of pizza these dining parties are ordering, dine-in saw the largest increase in the percentage of those ordering at least monthly. Carryout and delivery saw gains, too, albeit more modest ones.

Chart showing pizza sales.

The growth of dine-in visits and even the maturing of dining parties likely relates to these emerging full-service and fast-casual pizza concepts. And when we think about what’s next for pizza, we expect that we’ll be reporting on the growth of midday pizza occasions soon enough, as the fresh and better-for-you yet convenient positioning of fast-casual pizza thrives. It remains to be seen whether or not this will have an impact on dinner occasions, though. Again, QSR, fast-casual and full-service pizza players are all succeeding, and pizza consumption is trending at its highest level in four years. But will the pizza pie continue to expand? Will consumers grab lunch from a fast-casual pizza restaurant on Thursday, order a QSR pizza for delivery on Friday evening and take a date to a full-service pizza joint for dinner on Saturday? Time will tell.

Ultimately, pizza players who can find their niche customer and adapt to consumers’ evolving demands for unique, high-quality and better-for-you pizza —all while maintaining a high value proposition that pizza requires — will be those most likely to stay ahead in the increasingly competitive pizza market.

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Deanna Jordan

Deanna Jordan is Manager of Consumer Insights at Technomic Inc. in Chicago. She works on the firm’s Consumer Trend Reports, a series of annual studies that provides operators and suppliers with a comprehensive guide to the menu and consumer trends impacting various restaurant segments and menu categories in the U.S., Canada and U.K. She also contributes to the Consumer Food Trends newsletter, which explores the latest in foodservice and consumer trends.

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