(last updated July 2019)
What has been happening in the pizza delivery business
The 1990s and 2000s saw the fast food and takeaway industries benefit from plenty of demand as people became more and more used to snacking on the move. Pizza restaurants and takeaways shared in the success, along with businesses like burger and sandwich bars.
Pizza delivery has become a very popular takeaway meal option, particularly with students and young people. New technology has made ordering a pizza easier than ever - many delivery businesses accept orders (and payment) online and by mobile app. A number of specialist websites exist, such as Just Eat and Deliveroo, through which diners can choose, order and pay for a take-away from participating outlets in their area. Technology and the web have affected the catering industry in other ways too - a good feedback profile and rating on TripAdvisor is now more or less essential for most catering businesses.
Although people are more and more concerned about a healthy diet - and about obesity - pizza is still very popular as a treat and is seen by many as being a bit more healthy that 'fatty' foods like burgers and chips.
One aspect of the business that can cause problems is the need to innovate and be different from the competition. One pizza can be very much like another, so enterprising chefs have invented new toppings and alternative menu options to keep their menus looking fresh and imaginative. Many pizza outlets now offer gluten-free, low fat or vegetarian options too.
After more than a decade of growth, the economy suffered a sharp downturn in the late 2000s. This had a real effect on the catering industry as people cut back on their spending and looked for ways to economise. Restaurants and takeaways were forced to keep their prices competitive and introduce attractive deals to keep people spending. Even so, pizza was still very popular and businesses that could offer a good product at a competitive price generally managed to do reasonably well despite everything. The mid 2010s saw the economy start to show signs of picking up at last, although diners continue to seek out good value for money.
Consumer spending started to weaken in 2016 and weakened further during 2017 and into 2018. No change is forecast for the foreseeable future. Food costs have risen because of the fall in the value of sterling following the Brexit vote in 2016 and rising inflation has hit household budgets. The food service sector has also begun to suffer from skills shortages - particularly of chefs and delivery drivers - and this is expected to become worse once the UK has left the EU.
Nevertheless, the pizza delivery market is one of the most resilient sectors during a recession and demand for take-away pizzas is expected to remain strong. However, the independent outlet is not likely to do quite as well as the big pizza delivery chains.
Keeping up to date with developments
Joining a trade association is an excellent way of staying up to date. The Pizza, Pasta and Italian Food Association (PAPA) website contains lots of information of interest to those working in the pizza sector, including latest news and details of specialist suppliers.
The British Hospitality Association (BHA) is one of several trade bodies that represent the catering industry as a whole. You can find out more about the BHA on their website. The Nationwide Caterers Association (NCASS) represents a wide range of different types of catering business, including pizza delivery specialists.
Subscribing to a trade journal is another good way of keeping in touch with industry developments. The Caterer is aimed at the whole of the catering industry and regularly features articles that are of interest to businesses like pizza delivery specialists. You can find out more and take out a subscription on their website.
PizzaToday is an American online resource for the pizza catering sector but it contains useful ideas for menus and dishes that are of interest to pizza outlets anywhere.
You can get a lot of useful information by visiting a trade show for the fast food sector. You will be able to meet manufacturers, suppliers and distributors and plan your future stock buying. The Exhibitions website has more information on forthcoming exhibitions.