BBC08152016

Pizza: It’s arguably America’s favorite food and has proven itself to be one of the leading growth drivers in the fast casual industry. In fact, in 2016, three of the five fastest-growing brands in the restaurant industry were pizza chains, according to Technomic. How can this tried and true classic food experience a huge boom in the midst of the millennial takeover (and the slow decline of traditional fast food restaurants)? Let’s take a look:

The Menu

Let’s face it. Your customers are ultimately driven by what you offer on your menu. As pizza chains adapt their menus to fit what consumers are looking for, they’re seeing exponential growth.

One major way chains are tapping into their guests’ preferences is through creativity and customization of their product. Trends show that consumers are looking for more and more creativity when it comes to menus—but not just from staff. Consumers increasingly want more say in their food. What better way to give customers a creative outlet than to let them customize their own pizza? Technomic research shows that 76 percent of consumers prefer to build their own pizza—and new chains are giving customers exactly what they want. With artisanal dough, fresh ingredients and dedication to finding the next best topping, chains are tapping into this budding customer creativity. Brands like MOD Pizza are dedicated to serving the customer by letting them choose their own pizza—from the crust to the toppings and everything in between.

Authenticity and variety

In the new wave of fast casual pizza chains, there’s a slice of pizza for everyone. With more chains adding gluten-free crusts and vegan ingredients to their menu items, pizza is proving itself to be a versatile choice for all eaters. But it doesn’t stop there: innovation in the way pizza is made, and the ingredients used to customize pizza are propelling growth as well. Additionally, amidst consumer demands to remove additives and artificial flavors from their ingredients, more pizza chains have adopted “clean,” additive-free and-all natural ingredients.

The culture

Enjoying a pizza has always been a communal experience. However, some of the top chains have taken that community to the next level by creating an emotional connection between staff, chefs and guests. In turn, there has been a 24 percent increase in proportion of dine in customers since the pizza boom began.

Blaze Pizza, for example, has created strong connections with their guests highlighted by modern décor and design, which invites guests to be comfortable in their restaurants. Through elevated service and tuning into ambiance, fast casual pizza chains are thinking outside the box of standard fast casuals and attracting more millennials.

One major way that fast casual pizza chains have shifted their ambiance? Allowing guests to see behind the scenes of how their pizza is made. Many fast casual pizza chains prominently feature their ovens in their restaurant and dining space. This type of engagement allows guests to see the before and after of their pizza creation, adding a layer of transparency that today’s consumers crave.

The promising future

With seemingly endless ways to customize, innovate and create a niche, what does the future hold for fast casual pizza chains? Continued creativity, for one, and making sure your concept stands out in the crowd. Specialization, authenticity and a reinvigorated focus on service and hospitality are all trends that could launch your pizza parlor into success. But being tuned into your customer base and offering menu items, ambiance and ideas that appeal to them will make sure that your chain is firing on all cylinders—wood firing, that is.

Sources:
Forbes – The Continued Rise of Fast-Casual Pizza
Fast Casual – Who’s Winning the Fast Casual Pizza Game?
QSR – Pizza’s Arms Race
Foodservice Director – 3 DIY Pizza Brands Going to College
QSR – MOD Pizza Cofounders Honored as EY Entrepreneurs of 2016
Technomic – Cashing in on Fast-Casual Pizza Trends