The future of pizza
By Laura Aiken
October is National Pizza Month, a celebration with American roots that is also embraced in Canada.
October is National Pizza Month, a celebration with American roots that is also embraced in Canada. The industry enjoys a delicious cap to its national month with Halloween as a superstar sales day, and we at Canadian Pizza celebrate in our own networking way with the Canadian Pizza Show on Oct. 29.
Most food holidays seem confined to a single day. The fact that pizza gets a whole month is a testament to its popularity in North America. Despite its fan base, pizza consumption in Canada contracted by 70 million servings from 2009 to 2011, reported Linda Strachan, a restaurant analyst with the NPD Group in an article for www.restaurantcentral.ca. Pizza is ordered often, but not as often as it used to be. What will the future of pizza look like?
I believe pizza will remain a force to be reckoned with for delivery, a preferred Canadian choice for take-out, a fun family meal and a sophisticated choice for a date or outing with friends. Pizza will still be all things to all occasions, but the trends we see now will be amplified.
Chains have sunk their teeth into technology. Their combination of price prowess and R&D investment in digital platforms such as apps will attract next-generations for years to come. A recent report by iStock Analyst hailed Domino’s 80 per cent share boost as one of the greatest turnaround stories for a brand. What does this mean for the independent pizzeria? Dig your heels in and consider whether you really want to compete on either of these fronts. Do what independents have always done in the face of chain competition, and that is the one thing that chains aren’t designed to do: dare to be different.
But what will different look like in the future? Quite possibly, it will look like the past. With every push into modernity, we feel nostalgia. New things harken for old comforts, but the tolerance for poor service is waning. There are simply too many options for people today, and will be even more tomorrow, with the best of the pack continuing to prune the pack, refine the rules and set new expectations. The future for independent pizzerias lies in much the same place where it resides right now: guest experience.
I would love to see more stories come to life, more action. I could imagine this looking like mascots who visit kids at tables, dine-in movie nights, pizza spinners on the floor, delivery drivers outfitted in the unexpected (think blazers or shirts and ties), and local musician showcases (even better if it happens to be one of your staff who plays in a band). You already know that the pizza places with personality get lots of buzz, and this will be amplified in the future. The ante is being raised as we speak. How will you deliver nostalgia with a splash? People will pay more for experience, and that is true for take-out and dine-in alike.
The pizza place of tomorrow will need to focus on recruiting and training the staff who can deliver the kind of customer service that will keep it competitive, because at some point there is going to be an end to the tolerance for poor hospitality. The door is open now that customers can write up their displeasure and publish it in real time.
As a food, pizza is delicious. It’s darn near perfect. Pizza’s taste is its strength, not its weakness. But having the best pizza in town won’t always be enough, if it even is today. As you think about National Pizza Month, consider what the pizza scene will be and what you will do to succeed there.