5 Things the Restaurant Industry Can Learn From the Top Pizza Chains

December 2015


The Pizza industry is on the move. New players are popping up fast and many long-standing original brands are looking to quick innovation to help them differentiate their pizza chain. In fact, it seems that the top pizza chains are forging the path of innovation for the restaurant industry as a whole. There are a number of examples of this and we're here to talk about which chains are moving the needle when it comes to the Pizza Business.

Using pizza to help create a retail "experience"

1. Urban Outfitters and their not so quiet entrance into the Pizza Market:

As if worrying about the local joint down the street wasn't enough, now you need to be on the lookout for retail giants as well. Urban Outfitters and a firehose of well placed PR has let the world know that they will be expanding their shopping locations into "experiences" where food, clothing, art and music are combined to create something you can't get with the click of a mouse. Most recently their partnership with Marc Vetri to expand Pizzeria Vetri has caught the attention of the industry. This decision, which is smart for both pizza and retail chain, makes it even more clear that the pizza segment is a force to be reckoned with. Millennials, who happen to be Urban Outfitter's target customer, also happen to be spending a ton of money on pizza during recent years.

Using their customer's favorite way to communicate to change up the mundane task of ordering

2. Dominos giving you the ability to order delivery by tweeting an emoji...

In May of 2015 Dominos, the #2 top pizza chain in the country, announced they would be enabling the ultra-convenient ordering through emoji/hashtag by way of Twitter. In their first day Dominos saw more than 500 people order through the platform. Even more impressive and arguably more important was the significant media coverage they received. USA Today, Forbes and even comedian Jimmy Fallon all picked up the story, making this a huge PR success. They proved that thinking outside the box when it comes to mundane processes can be a really good thing.

Using Technology to reinvent the concept of "instant"

3. Italy's first "Let's Pizza" Machine.

When you think of instant pizza I'm sure your memory is jogged to times of frozen ingredients being zapped in a microwave for a good, but lackluster meal. Let's Pizza, first created in Italy, is aiming to change that. They have created a high quality ingredient, instant pizza product straight from a vending machine. The entire meal is created and delivered in under 3 minutes. These have been rumored to be in the U.S. for awhile now but there are no signs of them yet! If Let's Pizza can take off and create a high quality product, I could see prepared food vending machines, possibly even branded vending machines from larger companies, getting much more popular.

Innovative Marketing to Solve Customer Needs

4. Pizza Hut's economical triple threat box

This November, Pizza Hut managed to sabotage all of your pre-holiday dieting with their new triple-threat pizza box, featuring 2 medium 1 topping pizzas, a dessert and an appetizer. This was a smart and focused campaign geared towards their adult customers. They know they are looking for a price conscious way to feed their families this season and this $20 box accomplishes just that. It also gets them to eat things they may not have normally tried. Match that with an instagram-worthy gift wrapped box and they have a nice holiday campaign that should help them boost the competitive advantage of Pizza Hut. It's also important to note that they used one of the most popular trends in the retail industry this year, product bundling. This concept supports convenience and increased perceived value of once, stand-alone products.

Using a genuine interest in community service and people to create a following

5. MOD pizza, their MOD squad and their community

While not one of the top chains that normally come to mind, MOD deserves a mention for the strength of their branding. The video alone shows you how MOD pizza has built a very strong brand around their name, their community and their people-first environment. MOD's employees are called the MOD Squad or MODsters and they use the term, spreading MODness meaning, the ripple effect of simply doing the right thing. The community is a huge differentiator for them as well. When they open a new store, every dime goes to a local charity that's chosen by the employees at that store, and this drives a lot of business. They have proved that having a consistent, community driven message pays off big having secured recent funding and opened 80 locations all over the US with plans for 18 more by years end.


With the market becoming more and more competitive, top pizza chains are being forced to innovate a lot faster. In 2014, the market for Pizza in North America was worth 47.2 billion dollars. The Fast Casual pizza boom alone has grown into a $21 billion-per-year industry, according to NPD group, and Technomic is saying that 55% of pizza consumers now purchase fast casual pizza at least once per month. Companies like Pie Five and Chipotle's Pizzeria Locale are on the map for the fast casual push, creating pizzas that cook in under 5 minutes. Meanwhile, casual dining chain California Pizza Kitchen is investing in a new design to win back their "cool" and Costco has been surprising the public by being one of the largest pizza chains in the U.S. right now. Competition is everywhere. These examples are reason enough to keep your finger on the pulse of this industry. How will the pizza industry innovate next?


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