Pizza restaurants in the US focus on value, new Mintel research reveals

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A new report from Mintel shows pizza restaurants in the US are focusing on value in order to draw in customers and expect to see a modest 2.9% sales increase in 2012 as a result.

“The competitive nature of the pizza industry keeps the leading companies on their toes,” said Eric Giandelone, foodservice director at Mintel.

“Menu innovation, thoughtful pricing and national promotions aimed at value have been driving sales in the past several years and are expected to continue in the future.”

In order to remain competitive, the average pizza price has remained fairly flat (up only 1%) in the past three years, reports Mintel. Restaurants have been making up for it by increasing the price of other menu items, such as vegetables (up 13%), desserts (up 12%), pasta (up 11%) and salad (up 10%).

Salad is the fourth-leading item mentioned on pizza menus, garnering the biggest increase (10%) in the past three years, according to researchers.

Restaurants are making an effort to add a more healthful slant to their menus to counter the unhealthy image of pizza, as well as bolster sales with a simple add-on, said Mintel. This will also prove helpful when chain restaurants are required to show calorie counts on their menus in the years to come, it said.

Convenient location, price, speed of service and pizza variety are the four most important factors in determining the choice of a particular pizza restaurant, each with more than 80% agreement among Mintel respondents who have bought pizza from a restaurant in the past month.

However, having ready-made pizza and/or a pizza buffet is enticing, especially to lower-income customers and those with children looking for the added-value proposition.

At 38%, thin crust is the most-preferred crust among pizza restaurant-goers. Pan-style and thick crust are nearly even as the second favorite crust types (20% and 19%, respectively). When it comes to toppings, pepperoni is top at 67%, followed by mushrooms, sausage and onions (53%, 53% and 41%, respectively). Anchovies prove to be a little too fishy for most taste buds with only 5% of pizza patrons wanting them on their pizza.