Everyone likes to talk about buying local, favouring artisanal and supporting small businesses. Yet, in the booming US pizza industry, the figures paint a different picture. A 2017 PMQ estimate put the national US spend on pizza last year at an incredible $45 billion; but the top 50 pizza chains take the lion’s share of that market, a strong 58.1%. The independent pizzeria share maintained at 41%, but it’s clear from shifting buying trends that the little guy will need to box clever to stay relevant.
So how do you stay in the game without a multinational’s budget? Here are some serving suggestions for the corner pizzeria’s success.
In a competitive market, quick, accurate and efficient delivery is a great way to ensure you remain the pizzeria of choice in your area. Direct delivery from oven to door, as opposed to through a third-party delivery service, will give you full control over both speed and quality. Many consumers also note their aversion to the extra cost of intermediary delivery services; if your team can streamline its routing and efficiency, you may already have one up on your bigger competitors. Small can mean agile: keep your delivery in-house, fast and personal.
The pizza industry is an odd mix of stubborn tradition and fast-paced innovation. Some time-honored parts of the craft of pizza remain: wood-fired will always beat out the conveyor oven; hand-spun bases will always taste better than dough churned out of a press. At the same time, unexpected new toppings are becoming increasingly popular. Gone are the days when your menu needed just ten familiar options; now consumers will ask for gluten-free bases, entirely plant-based options and dessert pizzas. Our advice? Play to your strengths: find some local specialities you can tailor for pizza baking, experiment with your own gluten-free recipe, and offer a few unexpected topping options that will get you hashtagged on your regular clients’ Instagram stories. Customization is another area where the small pizzeria can edge ahead of its bigger competitors.
For the first part of the 2000s, pizza’s big players could own the tech efficiencies in the business. But, in 2018, the deluge of available POS solutions, online apps and smart ordering systems means the neighbourhood pizza place can still look homespun, while packing serious digital capability. Belforno suggests using tech you can easily grasp and master: loyalty programs that track your customer’s purchasing patterns and advertise to them just before their regular buying times; smartphone-based ordering apps (PMQ states that some independents that resisted online ordering have found that eventually embracing it has given their revenue immediate and substantial boosts); and advertising that takes advantage of social media’s cheap rates and broad reach.
Rolling with the punches in a market dominated by major players may be simpler than you think. Strategize around the particular threats to your pizzeria, sure, but also remember why you got into the pizza business in the first place: to share your love of pizza. Focus on what makes your team, your recipes and your product great, and build your approach around that.
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