Pizza restaurants continue to be the big cheese and are performing well, despite tough economic conditions. A new report from Mintel shows that pizza restaurants are focusing on “value” in order to draw in patrons and with this strategy expect to see a modest 2.9 percent sales increase in 2012.

“The competitive nature of the pizza industry keeps the leading companies on their toes,” says 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 percent) in the past three years. Restaurants have been making up for it by increasing the price of other menu items, such as vegetables (up 13 percent), desserts (up 12 percent), pasta (up 11 percent), and salad (up 10 percent).

Salad is the fourth-leading item mentioned on pizza menus, garnering the biggest increase (10 percent) in the past three years. Restaurants are making an effort to add a more healthful slant to their menus to counter the unhealthfulness of pizza, as well as bolster sales with a simple add-on. This will also prove helpful when chain restaurants are required to show calorie counts on their menus in the years to come.

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 percent agreement among Mintel respondents who have gotten pizza from a restaurant in the past month. However, having ready-made pizza and/or a pizza buffet is enticing, especially to lower-income patrons and those with children, likely for the added-value proposition.

What’s your upper crust? At 38 percent, 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 percent and 19 percent, respectively). When it comes to toppings, pepperoni is clearly on top at 67 percent, followed by mushrooms, sausage, and onions (53 percent, 53 percent, and 41 percent, respectively). Anchovies prove to be a little too fishy for most taste buds with only 5 percent of pizza patrons wanting them on their pie.

Growth, News, Pizza