Consumers are changing their pizzeria

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Consumers continue to eat pizza. Despite a year in which locked-in Americans ordered many more pizza deliveries, they didn’t hesitate to use the product as they ventured out of their homes as the pandemic subsided.

But the way they eat pizza is changing. They visited pizzerias and went to get their pies again.

That is, at least, according to data from Zenreach, which analyzed foot traffic to pizzerias and found that it had increased 49% since the start of the year.

The data measures customers who visit restaurants for on-site dining or take-out. So it doesn’t factor in the delivery that has dominated the pizza landscape for much of the past year. But the numbers should reassure businesses that hope to win back walk-in customers as the economy normalizes.

“People are eager to regain a sense of normalcy,” Megan Wintersteen, Zenreach vice president of marketing, said in an interview. “This is good news for the category.

The pizza category has been hit more by the pandemic than you might imagine. While much of the attention has been focused on strong sales among the larger chains including Domino’s and Papa John’s, as well as smaller chains such as Marco’s and Hungry Howie’s, the subsector as a whole did not perform as well as you might think. .

Sales of quick-serve pizza concepts grew by $ 1.6 billion in 2020, mainly thanks to large pizza delivery chains like Domino’s, Papa John’s, Marco’s and Hungry Howie’s, according to Catering company sister company Technomic.

In effect, remove those four chains alone and the industry lost $ 300 million in total sales last year. In other words, consumers have moved their fast food pizza business to bigger concepts during the pandemic.

Outside of this group, the pizza industry has struggled like just about every other industry. Quick and casual pizza chains, for example, saw sales drop 6.5% last year. Consumers dined much less often in 2020, and such concepts were built on their inner experience.

Italian casual dining chains and pizza chains, meanwhile, experienced the same problems as casual restaurants, with total sales in this sector falling by about $ 2 billion, or 22%.

Data from Zenreach suggests consumers have reverted to some of the smaller, more relaxed, and quicker pizza players they avoided during the pandemic.

Some markets have seen extreme increases as they have opened. California as a whole has seen foot traffic to pizzerias increase by almost 120%. In Chicago, pedestrian traffic has increased 85% and in New York City it has increased 82% since the start of the year.

“There is growing optimism with the rollout of the vaccine,” Wintersteen said. “A lot of the jumps we’ve seen over the past 30 days, in New York City and Los Angeles, are in large part due to the restrictions being lifted.”

The big question for the industry as a whole is whether consumers are getting back to all of their pre-pandemic habits. That hasn’t happened yet – most limited-service restaurant chains in particular have seen a slow return to things like food service, and in general take-out sales have increased this year, even alongside improved catering sales.

Wintersteen believes consumers are sticking to some of their pandemic habits, which means they will continue to order pizza deliveries at high prices even after they return to restaurant pizza.

“Humans are creatures of habit,” she said. “The pandemic has erased all these habits. We have created new habits over the past year.

“With take-out and delivery soaring during 2020, as rates normalize, they will likely remain even higher than they were before the pandemic. It opened up a whole world to customers driving down the street to pick up their pizza. “

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