Pizza Fans Aren't As Loyal As We Thought

New findings on how people choose pizza have us questioning what we thought we knew about America.

A loyal customer is the greatest treasure any brand could ever hope for, and that's especially the case when it comes to household dining staples like pizza. I personally have my favorite pizza chains, and I tend to stick with those when it comes to takeout or delivery—but my habits aren't as universal as I thought. A new report indicates that a large number of Americans don't demonstrate brand loyalty with pizza joints, preferring to hunt around for the greatest value.

How America chooses its pizza

Market intelligence firm Vericast recently released its 2023 Restaurant TrendWatch report, which measures how diners are reacting to the current marketplace. In its January asurvey of "1,954 consumers across generations and various financial statuses," the report found that 45% of respondents plan on dining out less this year due to tight budgets and increasing costs. Specifically in the pizza category, 69% of those surveyed indicated that "rising prices are making restaurant dining too expensive."

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Diving deeper into the pizza category, Vericast found that, due to inflation, 13% of customers now opt for frozen or other non-restaurant pizza options instead of ordering pizza for dine-in, delivery, or takeout. However, when they do go to a restaurant to eat pizza, 40% of these consumers don't have a preference when picking a place. Instead, it's all about choosing the most reasonably priced option.

The pizza tipping point

Simply put, discounts are now the name of the game. The TrendWatch report says that 47% of customers now won't dine at any fast casual restaurants unless they have some kind of deal on hand, like a coupon or a discount, and 57% would even switch brand loyalties to other chains that are more generous with those offers.

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I usually order from mom-and-pop pizza joints in my area, but when I opt for fast food pizza, I'll go bargain hunting just as these TrendWatch respondents do: trawling through my phone apps, seeing which place has the best deals, and letting that make the decision for me. It's worth the few extra minutes of effort to figure out which spot is going to save me a few extra bucks. And looking at the Vericast data, it would seem I'm not unique in this decision making process.

Frozen pizza stands to win out

If the sales numbers have anything to say, America's preferences are creeping toward frozen pizza. Sales of frozen pies increased by 11% in 2022, and the choices only keep getting more sophisticated.

I recently tried a high-end wood-fired frozen pizza from a brand called Genio Della Pizza (disclosure: they sent samples), and I was somewhat astonished at how well a Neapolitan-style pizza can hold up, even when frozen. While the texture wasn't soft and chewy like a Neapolitan-style pizza that came straight from the wood oven, it still felt and tasted remarkably like takeout.

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Let's say you find a deal on an $8 fast food pizza. Pretty great, but after delivery fees and tip, it can easily cost double that. Depending on where you live and where you shop, high-end frozen pizzas can cost between $8-$12, but without the extra fees, and they still give you that feeling that you've just treated yourself to something nice that you didn't have to cook. Couple that with the fact that retailers are aggressively pushing promotions (a 214% increase over the past two years), and frozen pizza's going to continue taking a slice of the takeout and delivery game.

Economic conditions being what they are, consumers can't always afford brand loyalty. If America's leading pizza chains want to secure our devotion, they're going to have to pony up the discounts, because there have never been more ways to enjoy pizza at the price point of our choosing.

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