Pizza — yes, that pizza, the greatest food there is — is a ‘stagnant’ business

It may be the culinary world’s finest genre, but pizza is now also its slowest-growing one.

Have you ever dipped your toes in flowing lava? Have you ever fallen off a ladder into a pile of fire ants? Really hope not on both counts, but only then would you understand the excruciating pain we feel in relaying this news…

A shrugging person’s torso with a whole pizza as its head. The pizza’s pepperoni makes eyes and a frowning face.

Pizza, beloved like a family member in these circles, has been called “a slow-growth market,” per Nation’s Restaurant News.

Say it ain’t so…

Alas, the world’s favorite saucy circles have come down from their pandemic-fueled bonanza period:

  • Pizza sellers saw the slowest sales growth among all restaurant segments included in Technomic’s annual restaurant report.
  • Last year, ‘za scored only a 3% gain, less than half the 7.1% industry average.

That sluggishness was reflected in the sales growth of America’s four biggest pizza chains — Domino’s, Pizza Hut, Little Caesars, and Papa Johns — which all landed in the low single digits last year.

  • For Papa Johns and Pizza Hut, Q1 2024 didn’t move in a better direction, with 2% and 6% drops in same-store sales, respectively.
  • It’s not all bad: Domino’s, ever upping its delivery game, has been the most impervious to these challenges (its same-store sales grew 5.6% in Q1).

OK, but pizza is still delicious, so… why the stagnancy?

The most simple explanation is that other restaurants caught up in convenience, loosening pizza’s once-total grip on food delivery and takeaway orders.

Drive-thru orders now constitute two-thirds of all fast-food purchases, per The New York Times, and that’s got leading chains moving faster, adding pickup lanes, and expanding digital ordering options. (Some can even get their Wendy’s fix via drone delivery.)

Pizza has always won by being fast and easy, but now they’re competing with the likes of Taco Bell on speed — the chain’s drive-thru service, America’s fastest, clocks an average of 278.84 seconds.

Our tip for the pizza biz: Just get TikTok all worked up about Biloxi, Mississippi’s pizza topping of choice — French dressing — and everyone under age 25 will be ordering Biloxi-style pies left and right.

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