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segment spotlight e&s 114 • FOODSERVICE EQUIPMENT & SUPPLIES • APRIL 2017 CREATING A NICHE IN THE PIZZA CROWD In the competitive fast-casual pizza arena, operators look to set their businesses apart. By Lisa White T he pizza segment remains a competitive landscape, with a growing number of fast-casual restaurants continuing to enter the space. Though quick-serve restaurant pizza chains remain domi- nant, fast-casual operations continue to grow at a signifi- cantly greater pace. "There has been somewhat of a boom of build-your- own fast-casual pizza concepts in recent years," says Annika Stensson, director of research communications for the National Restaurant Association, based in Washington, D.C. "This type of concept lends itself well to a wide audience, as there are countless crust-sauce-topping combinations to keep repeat customers engaged as well as bring in new diners." Technomic reports fast-casual operations have grown pizza entree menus by 17 percent since 2013. Millennials continue to drive this growth: 44 percent of those 18 to 34 years of age said they wish there were more fast-casual pizza restaurants offering build-your-own pizzas near them and would order pizza from a location if they could customize their pies.