U.S. pizza sales, booming in pandemic, start to slow

ANN ARBOR, Mich. — After a pandemic-fueled boom, U.S. pizza sales appear to be headed back to earth.

Domino’s and Papa John’s pizza chains both said today that their same-store sales lost steam in the fourth quarter compared to the huge increases they saw earlier in 2020. Same-store sales are expected to continue seeing percentage declines well into this year.

Pizza delivery remains popular, but diners’ choices are expanding, with more restaurants offering delivery. In a survey of 3,500 U.S. restaurant operators last fall, the National Restaurant Association found that 27% had added delivery from a third party like DoorDash, while 17% had added in-house delivery. Pizza also could be pressured as the pandemic eases and dining rooms reopen.

Ann Arbor-based Domino’s said its same-store sales —— or sales at stores open at least a year —— were up 11% in the October-December period. That was short of Wall Street’s forecasts, and below the 17.5% growth the company saw in the third quarter and the 16% growth it saw in the second quarter.

Domino’s CEO Ritch Allison said the lack of federal stimulus checks impacted demand in the quarter, and the resurgent virus hurt carryout orders. But he also acknowledged that many independent restaurants, which weren’t emphasizing delivery before the pandemic, are stronger competitors.

“They jumped with both feet into delivery to stay alive,” Allison said in a conference call with investors.

Louisville, Ky.-based Papa John’s said its North American same-store sales rose 13.5% after skyrocketing more than 20% in both the second and third quarters.