Pizza Menu Trends and Insights

Pizza is one of the most common and craving dish here in the US.  The Pizza segment showed a 4.28% and 6.42% estimated sales per unit growth in the Top 100 and Top 200, respectively, according to NRN. A number of new and emerging pizza chains have taken center stage recently, like Marco’s Pizza posting a 41% year-over-year sales growth, to Blaze signing Lebron James to an endorsement deal, stealing him away from McDonalds.

US menus

Now let me provide you some insights on pizza trends in US:

  • 32% of menus and 38% of locations across the United States menu pizza. American restaurants comprise over half of all pizza menu mentions in the United States, followed by Italian restaurants, which comprise 24% of menus mentioning pizza.
  • 94% of all pizza menu items are almost always categorized in entree sections of menus. The average pizza entree is priced at $14.81.
  • 40% of all pizza locations across the United States are from QSR restaurants. Another 35% of locations mentioning pizza are from fast casual establishments.

Most Popular Pizza Types

Among specified types of pizza, “barbecued” style pizzas rank among the most popular, at 32% of menus. Margherita pizzas are mentioned in 20% of all pizza menus, and vegetarian pizzas are mentioned on 16% of menus. Interestingly, the argument between thin crust and deep dish pizza appears to favor the popularity of thin crust pizza; 11% of menus that mention pizza describe their pizza as “thin crust”, compared to “deep dish” or “Chicago style (4% and 2%, respectively). Other popular styles of pizza include baked pizzas (13% of menus), supreme pizzas (11% of menus), and stuffed pizzas (10%).

Most Popular Sauces on Pizzas

Pizzas across the United States vary in composition, description, and types of ingredients. Sauces are no different; the most popular type of sauce on pizzas – tomato – is only specified in 23% of menus that mention pizza. Comparatively, barbeque sauce is rank a very close second, at 22% of menus. Other types of sauces reinforce the dish’s Italian origins. Pesto and marinara rank third and fourth in popularity, at 19% and 16% of menus, respectively. Interestingly, cream-based variations prove to be just as popular as some tomato-based leaders – ranch dressing, cream sauce, alfredo sauce, and white sauce, all rank among the most popular sauces found on pizza menus across the United States. QSRs are most likely to mention pizza sauce when describing their pizza offerings. Overall, however, QSRs are far less likely than other restaurant segments to provide details on their pizzas. While fast casual restaurants prefer barbeque sauce over tomato, upscale dining agrees that tomato sauce, pesto, and barbeque rank as their top three sauces.

Most Popular Dairy Ingredients on Pizza

No pizza is complete without some helping of cheese, and among dairy ingredients, mozzarella cheese is king. An overwhelming favorite among menus that mention pizza across the United States, mozzarella cheese is mentioned on almost three-fifths of all menus – twice as more often as any other type of cheese. Ricotta, feta, and parmesan cheese rank among the other types of cheese that are mentioned on more than one-fifth of menus that mention pizza. A more diverse range of cheeses are often mentioned on pizzas, but are typically found in creative twists on the traditional dish, rather than an adaptation of the classic Italian hallmark. Considering the overwhelming popularity of mozzarella on pizza menus across the United States, it is no surprise that mozzarella’s popularity is maintained across all restaurant segments. The same five cheeses rank among the top five across all restaurant segments, with the exception of QSRs, though they vary in rank. Ricotta and parmesan cheese are preferred in upscale dining over feta, while fast casual ranks feta and ricotta similarly. QSRs show little preference beyond mozzarella, but cheddar ranks highest in QSRs compared to other segments.

Most Popular Proteins on Pizza

You can’t have pizza without some meat, and restaurants across America agree. Pepperoni, sausage, and chicken are the three most popular types of proteins that are mentioned alongside pizzas on menus – a rate similar to the ever-popular mozzarella cheese. No other protein type is mentioned on more than half of all menus mentioning pizza across the United States, but bacon and ham round out the top five ranked proteins, offered on 40% and 37% of relevant menus, respectively. Other types of proteins include steak, Italian sausage, and seafood types such as shrimp, anchovy, and clam. Pepperoni and sausage appear to be favored in different restaurant segments; QSRs and fast casual establishments that offer pizza tender to favor the popular salumi over sausage and chicken toppings (fast casual appears to favor all three with only slight differences). Sausage appears to be the preferred meat in casual dine and fine dining establishments. Comparatively, while sausage, chicken and pepperoni are favored with relatively similar frequency in fast casual, casual dine, and fine dining, QSRs appear to favor pepperoni appreciably more than sausage or chicken, by about 10 points higher.

Most popular Vegetables & Seasonings on Pizza

There is less consensus on the popularity of particular vegetables mentioned on pizza menus than there is for other ingredient groups. Though onion, tomato, pepper, and mushroom are the top four ingredients (all four are mentioned on over half of all menus mentioning pizza), the top ten vegetables all appear on over 20% of relevant menus. Though not a vegetable, pineapple is the most popular fruit topping found on menus across the United States that mention pizza. Beyond the toppings, cheeses and sauces, restaurants can innovate upon the ubiquitous dish with different types of herbs, seasonings, and spices.

vegetable toppings

Garlic and basil are the two most popular types of seasoning mentioned on menus that call out pizza, and are the only two that are mentioned on more than one-third of menus. Consistent with its popularity among Italian restaurants, ingredients such as olive oil, oregano, and balsamic vinegar all rank among the more popular seasonings on pizza. Cilantro, however, is an unusual ingredient that is similar to barbeque sauce or ranch dressing in terms of creativity; it is not considered a traditional ingredient but is recognized as an ingredient often found on innovative twists.

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