Two Minute Tips

Business story ideas: The pizza economy

January 2, 2018

Share this article:

Pizza is a $44 billion dollar industry with plenty of business story angles. ("Pizza" by andersbknudsen via Flickr, CC BY 2.0)
Pizza is a $44 billion dollar industry with plenty of business story angles. ("Pizza" by andersbknudsen via Flickr, CC BY 2.0)

$44 billion. That’s how much Americans will spend on pizza in 2017, according to the PMQ Pizza Magazine’s 2017 Pizza Power Report. It is greater than the combined budgets of the legislative and judicial branches of the U.S. government, NASA, the Environmental Protection Agency and the National Science Foundation.

Just about every community in America has a pizza restaurant, which means there’s a vast pizza economy to report on. Here’s how to slice the pizza pie in a way that will appeal to local readers.

Delivery drivers

According to Domino’s, the busiest days for pizza delivery are (in descending order), New Year’s Eve, New Year’s Day, Super Bowl Sunday, the day before Thanksgiving and Halloween. On Super Bowl Sunday, Domino’s drivers log almost 4 million miles. Business reporters can try to embed with a delivery driver on one of those days—harrowing stories need to be told.

Business models

A Pizza Hut franchise has a different business model than a sit-down upscale pizza restaurant, which has a different model than a family-run counter joint that’s been serving slices for 35 years. And none of them compare to something like a Chuck E. Cheese’s entertainment center. Is there a reason a particular type of restaurant is located in a particular neighborhood? Which business model is most profitable in your community? Are similar style establishments clustered close together?

Boxes & ancillaries

Pizza leaving the restaurant needs a transport device. That’s where the cardboard box comes in. According to pizza.com, the average pizzeria uses 55 boxes a day. You can drill into pizzeria economics by investigating how much of each order goes to paying for the box. Or the little plastic tripod that keeps the top of the box from sagging down onto the pie. What other ancillary expenses—like the packets of crushed red pepper and parmesan that you might not use—go into your pizza? Are they used more by the big national chains (which benefit from economies of scale) or mom-and-pop indie stores? 

Piece or the pie?

A 19-inch pepperoni and sausage pizza at one restaurant in Phoenix costs $20 (including tax) and is served in eight slices; that works out to $2.50 per slice. But sold separately, those slices are $3.25 apiece—and chances are they’ve been sitting under a heat lamp for a while. Where does a pizzeria’s profit come from,  slices or whole pies? If a restaurant chooses only to serve whole pies, what is their reasoning? 

Topping culture

Pizza is all about toppings, and they play a big role in a restaurant’s bottom line. Anchovies might sit in a fridge for months, while pepperoni and sausage might only last a few hours. Some restaurants distinguish themselves based on toppings. Grimaldi’s, a New York style pizza restaurant chain based in Scottsdale, Ariz., for example, doesn’t serve pineapples. They claim that authentic New York pizzerias don’t do tropical fruit.

Delivery fees

Delivery fees don’t usually go to the delivery driver. But that doesn’t mean most customers add a tip. Companies argue that the fees go to reimburse drivers for wear and tear on their cars, but it might be worth asking drivers how they view that system. Would earning more tips outweigh the cost of vehicle upkeep? Drivers, if asked for their honest opinion, are probably very insightful.

More Like This...

The businesses behind fear

Fear is one of life’s constants. We’re all going to feel it at some point, with varying reasons why. Humans have no problem identifying fear in our lives, says Ralph

Two Minute Tips

Sign up now.
Get one Tuesday.

Every Tuesday we send out a quick-read email with tips for business journalism.

Subscribers also get access to the Tip archive.

Get Two Minute Tips For Business Journalism Delivered To Your Email Every Tuesday

Two Minute Tips

Every Tuesday we send out a quick-read email with tips for business journalism. Sign up now and get one Tuesday.

Our New Look
The Reynolds Center for Business Journalism is starting 2023 with a new look that we hope better illustrates our core mission to provide accurate and authoritative resources about business journalism, in order to help both reporters and news consumers understand the importance of business news and to demystify the sometimes arcane topics it covers.
Businesses, markets, and economies move in cycles – ups and downs – which is why our new logo contains a “candlestick” chart representing increases as well as downturns, and serves as a reminder that volatility is an unavoidable attribute of modern life. But it’s also possible to prepare for volatility by being well informed, and informing the general public to help level the information playing field is the primary goal of business journalism. The Reynolds Center is committed to supporting that goal, which is why the candlestick pattern in our logo merges directly into the name of our founding sponsor, Donald W. Reynolds.
Our new logo comes with a shorter name. Business is borderless, and understanding the global links in supply chains, trade, and flows of funds and people is essential to make sense of our fast-paced, globalized world. So we’re dropping the word “National” from our name and will aim to provide content that is applicable to business news globally.
We hope you like the new look. Best wishes for 2023!