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How did your pizzeria do in 2020? Full survey results in

Survey says half of participating pizzerias saw sales up or on par with 2019


image: © mallari / ADOBE STOCK

How were sales at your pizza business in 2020? Canadian Pizza magazine conducted a short national online survey in January to find out how pizzerias in Canada fared in 2020.

As a thank-you to participants, we entered them in a draw for a chance to win a set of Apple AirPods. Congratulations to Domenic Ruggiero of Dante’s Mobile Pizza in Grimsby, Ont., who won the AirPods!

Who participated?
We thank the 61 pizzerias who shared their experiences in the survey. 75 per cent identified themselves as small independents. About 15 per cent were franchises with two or more locations. The remainder described themselves as a large independent or small independent with two locations.

To our question “How were sales at your pizzeria in 2020?” answers were mixed:

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  • Twenty-five per cent reported sales decreasing by more than 10 per cent compared to 2019 sales. 
  • Nearly as many pizzerias (21 per cent) reported sales increasing by more than 10 per cent.
  • For 17 per cent sales decreased slightly.
  • Another 13 per cent of businesses reported sales on par with 2019.
  • For 12 per cent of businesses responding, sales increased slightly.

The 12 per cent – seven pizzerias – who responded “Other” to this question told an interesting tale. Discouragingly, one business reported sales decreased by 45 per cent compared to 2019 and another reported sales were down by about 65 per cent. However, there was also good news: five pizzerias told us they opened in 2020. One response was encouraging for the future independents: “I opened on April 1 and our sales are increased up to 25% on top of the break-even point.”

Where did the majority of sales come from?
Unsurprisingly, considering COVID-19 restrictions, for 60 per cent of pizzerias, most of their sales came from take-out. Just over a quarter of pizzerias saw most of their sales from in-house delivery. A few (seven per cent) saw most of their sales from third-party delivery. Not surprisingly, only about three per cent reported the majority of their sales came from dine-in customers. A couple of pizzerias reported most of their sales came from a combination of dine-in and take-out.

What was your biggest operational challenge in 2020?
One-third of pizzerias said that finding and keeping competent, reliable staff was their biggest operational challenge (see pie chart). One-quarter said managing the flow of orders from different sources (delivery/curbside pickup/walk-in traffic) was keeping them up at night. For almost 20 per cent of pizzerias, managing staff scheduling was a headache. Eight per cent found marketing and reaching new customers a major challenge.

As expected there were several responses outside of the choices given (13 per cent responded “Other”):

  • grocery, products and food cost
  • COVID shutdowns and restrictions
  • shortages/availabilty of mozzarella, increase prices in supply chain, for example, pepperoni produce 
  • keeping staff safe from COVID and informed about changing protocols 
  • dealing with suppliers: shortages and major price increases 
  • finding staff that wasn’t collecting CERB (Canada Emergency Response Benefit) 

How would you describe your delivery capability?
Forty-two per cent of pizzerias described their delivery service as in-house only. Twenty-one per cent don’t deliver and an equal number use third-party service only. Others (14 per cent) offer both in-house delivery and service through a third-party company. One participant reported they launched delivery in January 2021. The result? “So far it’s not as popular, people still prefer to pick up.”

Did your delivery mode change in 2020?
This proved a complicated question, as 37 per cent of pizzerias did not change their delivery mode in 2020. Of those, 21 per cent were not satisfied with third-party services but continue to use them and 16 per cent were satisfied with extra sales from third-party services.

Some pizzerias (18 per cent) changed how they delivered in 2020. Nine per cent we ended their contract with a third-party service. Seven per cent added third-party service in 2020. Two per cent signed on with a delivery co-op.

However, pizzeria operators had more – much more – to say. A quarter of participants answered “Other” to this question. Clearly, the range of choices we gave did not fully describe the experience many of you had. Here is a representative sampling of the comments:

  • “Stayed with in house delivery, no third party” (there were 15 responses to this effect) 
  • “No delivery, didn’t change” (there were a half-dozen responses to this effect)
  • “COVID-19 restrictions, contactless delivery and online payment challenges” 
  • “No, did not change but numbers down 10-15%” 
  • “We do our own delivery using our own staff to maintain their hours and keep costs down”
  • “We focus on building a large delivery team in house to avoid price gouging from third party companies”
  • “We do our own delivery with using our own staff to maintain their hours and keep costs down from using a 3rd party solution”
  • “We are eat-in or pick-up only” 
  • “Did not deliver, pick-up only” 

What changes are you planning for 2021?
Looking ahead, more than 20 per cent planned to increase take-out/curbside/delivery capability. About the same percentage planned to add a new pizza style or major product category. A good number (18 per cent) see 2021 as a good time to renovate or upgrade current location.

Others planned to move operations (just under 10 per cent) to another location or downsize (just under 10 per cent). A few wanted to expand outdoor seating (three per cent) or partner with another business such as a brewery or bakery (three per cent).

A significant percentage of responding pizzerias (14 per cent) had more to say about making changes to their business. Some said multiple changes were in store and others said “none of the above” changes were planned. Some had “No major plans for 2021” other than to “stay afloat and carry on.” One forward-thinking operator planned to add virtual concepts to their kitchen. Another reported starting to sell frozen dough and pizza kits at a grocery store.

It’s clear from our poll that pizza businesses do not all fit into one mold. For every individual business there is an individual circumstance. It’s our goal to recognize and understand those differences, and to provide information and inspiration for all of our readers. Look for online and print coverage of issues uncovered in this national survey.