If you work in the U.S. pizza industry, are thinking of globally expanding your pizza operation, or are opening a pizzeria for the first time, you will be happy to learn that the forecast is shining brightly for the future success of the pizza business.
PMQ Magazine, the ‘think tank’ of the pizza industry, recently published its annual Pizza Power Report where they offer a State-of-the-Industry Analysis highlighting the trends and themes currently dominating the market. According to their 2019 Pizza Power Report, local pizzerias are thriving and global pizza sales are expected to boon with a five-year forecasted growth rate of 10.7%.
Most importantly for you, several consumer demands dominate the report, highlighting what you need to do to stay competitive in 2019. These demands include catering to the youth, investing in modern technology, offering quality ingredients, and providing stress-free delivery.
GenZ and Millennials Love Pizza
If you want to know where to concentrate your marketing efforts, here is the latest buzz in the biz: While an estimated 83% of U.S. consumers eat pizza at least once a month, Technomic reports that the largest pizza-consuming demographics are Gen Zers (aka the iGeneration or Generation Zed) and millennials, who claim that pizza is “the best food in the world.” Not only do GenZers (age 14-22) order pizza most frequently, but most of them have no recollection of a world not dominated by the Internet and in fact do almost everything – including ordering pizza – on their cell phone, mobile device, or computer.
The takeaway for 2019 pizza shop owners? In the words of Papa John’s CEO Steve Richie: “Our focus…is clearly to make certain that we are appealing to younger audiences, which will be the future of the overall business. This brand reputational work is very, very critical to moving the overall comp sales forward while we’re solving for differentiations in messaging and the value perception and the introduction of all the new technology pieces.”
Technology Leading the Way
The message is clear: If you’re not sure what track – or what trend – to follow to succeed in a pizza career today, let technology lead the way! Whether it’s a state-of-the-art commercial oven, the latest restaurant management software, or advanced POS systems, ‘automation’ is the name of the 2019 pizza industry game.
Capturing the news headlines, however, and literally ‘reinventing the wheel’ are the revolutionary advances in pizza delivery. Hailed as ‘the golden child’ of the modern business world, consumer expectations for seamless, fast, and convenient delivery services are booming.
So, what are successful pizza businesses dishing out in this milieu? According to Forbes magazine, all pizza shop owners should take heed of what the moguls are doing, citing the likes of Zume’s oven-on-wheels, Pizza Hut’s Mobile Pizza Factory prototype, Domino’s driverless test with Ford, Pieology’s drone delivery, and Postmates’ autonomous robot Serve.
And while your local pizza shop or small business may not be able to compete with the conglomerates, let’s take a closer look of what the mirror ball has on the menu for the future of pizza delivery.
The Future of Pizza Delivery
As reported in the The Wall Street Journal, California-based startup Zume Pizza recently earned funding to the tune of $375 million for its “cobot” invention, wherein humans and robots work side-by-side in the kitchen. Raising the company’s valuation to an estimated $2.25 billion, Zume uses a robot-enabled assembly line to prepare and par-bake pizzas which are loaded onto huge delivery trucks equipped with fridge units and computerized ovens. En route, human employees pop the pies into the ovens for a finishing bake and deliver them door-to-door, fresh and piping hot, when customer orders roll in.
Following in the footsteps of their pioneering model, Pizza Hut, in collaboration with Toyota, is working on a prototype for the Tundra PIE Pro, which uses a combination of a rebuilt Tundra SR5, par-baked pies stored in mini fridges, a pair of robotic arms, and a conveyor oven. Here is how it works: The first robot arm removes pies from the fridge and places them in the conveyor oven. Once the fully baked pizzas emerge, the second robot arm transfers them to a cutting board, slices them into six, places them in a pizza box, and seals the box. The two companies are also collaborating on a self-driving delivery vehicle, the e-Palette, with a projected debut date of 2020 at the Japan Olympics.
Little Caesars is also forging forward, receiving its own patent for a pizza-making robot. This follows on the heels of its game-changing Pizza Portal, described as “the first heated, self-service mobile-order pickup station in the quick-service restaurant industry.” How does it work? Customers download an app and prepay for their order on their mobile device. After receiving a three-digit PIN or QR code, they go to a Pizza Portal at the store and input their PIN or scan their QR code. This opens up a secure compartment in the portal where they retrieve their pizza hassle-free, line-free, and human-free.
Quality Pizza Ingredients Still Matter
While tech times are barreling ahead, consumer demand for wholesome, natural, healthy ingredients is still very much at the forefront of the business. Upscale pizza restaurants are offering gourmet pies with organic ingredients, while also on the rise are:
- The number of consumers rating “fresh, high-quality ingredients” and “best crust” as deciding factors and stating their preference for establishments that offer “healthier options” and “more authentic” pizzas
- The number of pizza shops boosting their image of authenticity by promoting quality ingredients (i.e. Italian flour)
- The number of educated and health-conscious diners who care about their pizza’s ingredients and about clean label sourcing
- The popularity of sourced ‘regional’ pizza styles, i.e. Detroit, Roman, Neapolitan, Sicilian
- The number of pizzerias offering educational events on how to make dough, how to choose pizza toppings wisely, and more
- The number of international upper-class restaurants and resorts offering gourmet pizza and changing the long-held view of pizza as fast food
- Demand for vegan, vegetarian, gluten-free, wheat-free, and dairy-free options
- The popularity of Keto pizza. As reported by PMQ, one Indiana shop alone is selling a minimum of 100 keto pizzas on Saturdays and having a hard time keeping up with the demand.
If you’re trying to make it in today’s competitive business milieu, pay attention to the expert advice offered by Bruce Irving of SmartPizzaMarketing.com and host of the weekly Smart Pizza Marketing podcast: “People are just much more aware of what they are eating and putting into their bodies. My daughter has an intolerance to gluten. If a pizzeria doesn’t offer some sort of gluten-free option, it’s probably not one we will go to. Do some research and explore new menu items; have at least one or two alternative options so you can accommodate the whole family.”
Moreover, Irving views today’s more sophisticated and youthful consumers as particularly advantageous for independent pizzeria operators who are not set in their ways and “who can mix and match and create new menu options, which is what people want… there’s a great opportunity for independents to dominate their market…They can be nimble. If something doesn’t work, stop doing it. If it is working, do it more!” He also advocates boosting brand popularity by posting photos of pie types on Facebook and Instagram, the sites frequented by the largest consumer demographics.
Pizza for Breakfast
Did you know that pizza for breakfast is the fastest-growing trend in the restaurant industry? as reported by Marla Topliff, chairman of the National Restaurant Association’s Pizzeria Council. Likewise, Technomic reports that 17% ‘super heavy’ pizza lovers enjoy their pies first thing in the morning, while 7-Eleven added breakfast pizza to their food menu last year and it’s one of their best sellers.
It’s also a nutritionally sound choice, according to nutritionist Chelsey Amer: “You may be surprised to find out that an average slice of pizza and a bowl of cereal with whole milk contain nearly the same number of calories. However, pizza packs a much larger protein punch, which will keep you full and boost satiety throughout the morning. Plus, a slice of pizza contains more fat and much less sugar than most cold cereals, so you will not experience a quick sugar crash.”
The Future of the Pizza Industry
In summary, the future state of the pizza industry is looking good! If you increase your focus on upgrading technology, cater to the GenZer’s market of pizza-loving consumers and affinity for all things hi-tech, remember to use healthy, quality ingredients, and provide stress-free delivery options – what you have is a recipe for pizzeria success.
And in the words of Topliff: “Pizza has been one of the staples of the industry for the last hundred years. There have been recessions, but pizza always seems to do well even during those times…” And the trend is not expected to change anytime soon.