Combat declining dinner sales at different times of the day
A funny thing happened on the way to the supper table: It got very, very quiet. Since the onset of the recession in 2007, dinner traffic has been falling, especially at casual-dining restaurants (NPD, CREST). For some, eating at home is a way of controlling spending. For others, the recession has meant that if they’re lucky enough to have a job, long, hectic days at work are par for the course as people are asked to go above and beyond the call of duty. This can mean that lunch is consumed not at noon sharp over a leisurely hour but wolfed down at the desk mid afternoon. In fact, in NPD’s recent report Dinner and Late Night Consumer Trends showed that 71 per cent of consumers skip dinner at least sometimes, citing lack of hunger or eating a late lunch in place of supper. According to the Restaurant Central website, all restaurant categories are seeing a continued decline at supper. This is a concern for pizzerias because it’s during the supper day part that two out of three pizzas are traditionally ordered. Pizza demand has declined by more than 70 million servings since 2009 in part because of the loss of business during the suppertime slot.
However, those of us selling pizza shouldn’t despair. You see, the food eaten at supper hasn’t disappeared entirely – it’s simply shifted elsewhere.
Late afternoon and late night snacks
NPD reports that evening snacking is forecasted to increase 15 per cent by 2020. The Snacking Occasion Consumer Trend Report by Technomic shows that almost half (48 per cent) of the 1,500 respondents polled said they’re now snacking at least twice a day. This is up from 25 per cent who reported snacking twice a day in 2010. The key to successfully tapping into this trend is portion size. A pizza consumed as a snack tends to be an individual purchase whereas dinner pizzas are often shared. To address this trend, be sure you have some personal sized pizzas that are freshly made for between 2 and 5 p.m. and between 9 p.m. and midnight. Promote your “afternoon delight” and “late night” offerings so customers keep you top of mind for when the urge to graze hits them between traditional day part times.
Pizza is still a much beloved food for children, but that love has been waning recently. In 2009, 15 per cent of all meals sourced from restaurants by kids under 13 included pizza. In 2011 that figure dropped to 11 per cent. It’s surmised that parents are less inclined to bring their kids with them to restaurants these days. Dinners out are more special and less frequent so parents make it just the two of them. It’s also cheaper to leave the kids with the in-laws and serve them a frozen pizza instead.
Keep in mind that kids are still very influential so if you can think of ways to get them to try your pizza they’ll likely ask for it. Make the pizzas buzz worthy with the younger set with fun names and designs. Heart-shaped pizzas and cat faces with black olive eyes will have the under 13 crowd clamouring for your pies over the grocery store offering. Just use a little creativity and grab your share of this demographic.
The most important pie
According to a 2010 study by Technomic, breakfast pizza topped the list of the 10 hottest menu items for the morning meal. This declaration was based on the growth of mentions on restaurant menus in the second half of 2010. What’s impressive about this jump is that pizza didn’t even make the list in 2009. Technomic also reports that more people are eating breakfast out during the week. In February 2012, they reported that 18 per cent of consumers are purchasing breakfast away from home more often than they were a year ago. If you’re open in the morning, look at a personal pizza topped with a sunny side up fried egg. Scrambled egg calzones are a perfect handheld breakfast pizza too.
It’s probable that the factors driving us away from the “three square meal” model and towards the “grazing” model are here to stay. However, necessity is the mother of invention and when any source of supply dries up, the obvious next step is to find a new supply. In the case of pizza, it’s about looking for those opportunities to meet the consumer with delicious, freshly baked pies on their terms and at their time of choosing. Increasingly, this means any time but the traditional dinner hour. So think small in terms of portions but large in terms of when, where and what you offer. If you can’t take the customer to the pizza, then take the pizza to the customer.
Michelle Brisebois is a marketing professional with experience in the food, pharmaceutical, financial services and wine industries. She specializes in retail brand strategies.