Technomic Pizza Consumer Trend Report

Fast Casual and Upscale QSR driving market growth

Poppa Murphy's upscale QSR serves artisan style pizzas
Poppa Murphy's upscale QSR serves artisan style pizzas. Poppa Murphy's

Pizza Trends Occasions grow - Key Sales Drivers are Innovation, Convenience and Versatility

Pizza consumption continues to rise. More than four in 10 (41 percent of) consumers polled say they're now eating pizza once a week, compared to 26 percent just two years ago. Pizza consumption has increased over the past two years as leading players revamp menus and concepts.

I interviewed Technomic Executive Vice President Darren Tristano for his insight into pizza market drivers in Limited Service and Full Service restaurants.

We went behind the top line trends from the Technomic Pizza Consumer Trend Report and looked at some really unique pizza concepts that are segmented into the upscale QSR segment and clearly way beyond the Dominos and Pizza Huts of the world.

"Consumers increasingly view pizza as the 'go-to' food when they don't feel like cooking," says Technomic Executive Vice President Darren Tristano."Operators can emphasize convenience in their marketing message, positioning pizza as an easy, convenient and affordable meal solution that will appeal to an entire group or family. It's a message that resonates with many customers."

Fast Casual Pizza Emerging

"The emergence of fast-casual style pizza is a factor in future pizza market growth" Based in Columbus Ohio, has 6 locations and incorporates a Chipotle style "line" where they take their signature flat bread crust and let the consumer select ingredients to customize the pizza… after which they put it into the oven cooked to order.

There is great "theater" in the restaurant… Piada has chicken, salmon and sausage cooking right in front of you. No doubt the wonderful aromas are stimulus for consumers to order! Daren says that "Piada is emphasizing a street food experience. They are taking a proven service format consumers embrace from the likes of Chipotle and Subway and blending it into an Italian style format".

This is an example of the mashup trend occurring in foods.

Darren sees three brands with clear brand positioning in distinct pizza market segments:

  • Little Caesars - a small footprint and low cost offering at around $5 and focusing on economically challenged communities (PizzaPatron is another brand that focuses in Hispanic Markets).
  • Dominos - delivering a less expensive offering and focusing most recently on an upscale artisan menu offerings.
  • Papa Johns - with a menu offering skewed more expensive and premium.

Take N Bake Segment - Small but Growing

Technomic sees the Take N Bake category driven by more innovative specialty pizzas so I wanted to know what brands are driving this segment.

"Pie Five Pizza located in Dallas has 5 units. They are focusing on custom pizza produced quickly for an individual consumer… these are truly made to order. We have not seen this quick response time in the pizza sector and they are another operator using the Chipotle production model: product prepared and cooked to order in 5 minutes or less. ZPizza at 100 units on the West Coast provides mostly off premise dining, with gourmet and specialty offerings like Gluten Free and Vegan. Home Made Pizza Company and Papa Murphy's are further examples of take and bake pizza operators." According to Daren.

Take N Bake is a pizza that is fully prepared except for the baking… you cook it off at home. Tazinos is another concept, a small upstart in Milwaukee that serves pizza and salad in a bistro format with an affordable price point of $7 lunch and $8 at dinner. Their focus is on high quality, 100% cheese, THE best quality beverages and meals.

Items Beyond Pizza Beyond Traffic

I asked Daren about innovative examples he sees as market drivers? For example I see Heinz Dip N Squeeze as a driver for QSR operators to drive busy moms to those operators that have this… ketchup in the back seat is a mess in the conventional packaging.

Daren said there are three areas to consider:

  • Expanded desserts to build check average.
  • Chains like Dominos that have added sandwiches for lunch occasions and created deliverable sandwiches. This gives consumers more reasons to use the brand.
  • A move toward the artisan pizza segment.

The above strategies increase frequency of meal occasions, provide a broadened menu of salads and desserts and move the menu upscale to get more affluent consumers. It also addresses innovators and early adopters that are the all important brand evangelists with powerful word of mouth.

As increased consumer confidence leads some to trade up within the pizza category, many consumers are still feeling the pinch and are motivated by the special offers and coupons that chains are rolling out as well as generally less expensive, yet high quality, take-N-bake and frozen pizza offerings.

Next - Let's look at Market Drivers in the QSR Pizza Segment and how you can apply this trend thinking toward your own food brand.