Foodservice Equipment & Supplies

APR 2017

Foodservice Equipment & Supplies magazines is an industry resource connecting foodservice operators, equipment and supplies manufacturers and dealers, and facility design consultants.

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APRIL 2017 • FOODSERVICE EQUIPMENT & SUPPLIES • 115 e&s segment spotlight "Current food trends lean toward wider concepts and ideas more than single-ingredient-based items these days," says Stensson. "It stands to reason that this also applies to pizza, including locally sourced items, eco-friendly food and nutrition- and diet-conscious items." According to Chicago-based Technomic Inc.'s 2016 Pizza Consumer Trend Report, sales among the top 500 QSR pizza chains totaled $21.5 billion between 2013 and 2014 com- pared with for $4 million fast-casual chains. However, QSRs' year-over-year growth rate was slightly less than 3 percent compared with fast-casual's 11.8 percent. The fast-casual pizza segment grew sales 22 percent and store count grew 27 percent in 2014 — more than any other category. Healthy sides are a leading area of interest for those visit- ing pizza restaurants, in addition to preservative-free ingredi- ents, whole grain pizza crust and organic ingredients. Along with variety, convenient dining options remain a driving force in the popularity of this segment. Close to half of consumers surveyed are more likely to call the restaurant and pick up the pizza, according to Mintel. That compares to 42 percent who would order online through the restaurant's website and 41 percent who would dine in. "Off-premise options are the largest growth area for the restaurant industry overall, and about three-quarters of restaurant traffic is now off-premise," says Stensson. "This is especially true in the limited-service restaurant segment." A Concept Evolves When Pizza Ranch opened its doors in northwest Iowa back in 1981, the concept was quintessential pizza. However, 35 years and 200 locations later, Pizza Ranch has evolved into a buffet restaurant that also offers chicken. With locations in 13 states from Montana to Michigan, and more on the way, it's the variety that makes Pizza Ranch attractive to its core customer base of families, says Justin Point, the brand's vice president of marketing. Also, pickup and delivery services have been advantageous to its growth. In addition to pizza and chicken, the menu's core includes a variety of potato incarnations, vegetables, a salad bar, soup, ice cream and dessert pizza. In January, the chain launched a new pepperoni pizza that includes two unique pepperoni types, riding the coattails of its most popular topping. "We have restaurants in communities with 1,000 people and in regions with more than 150,000, so each site has a unique approach due to the mar- ket," says Point. Sites in stand-alone locations, strip malls and those attached to other businesses average between 4,300 and 6,600 square feet and seat as few as 5 to more than 100. Pizza Ranch also unveiled a new prototype in Sterling, Ill., that incorporates a new flow both in the front of the house, specifically looking at a better approach to how cus- tomers order and pay, and the back of the house to improve efficiencies. The protoype also includes an update to decor. "We're taking a leaner design approach to give guests a more convenient experience getting in and out of the restaurant," says Point. "Our goal was to create a warm, invit- ing environment for everyone from Millennials to seniors, changing our neutral color scheme to a more vibrant hue." Kitchens also have been part of the updates. The 1,500-square-foot back of the house includes pizza ovens, pressure fryers, make lines, coolers and freezers. "Moving forward, we're looking at a [leaner] kitchen design that incorporates different technology that can help streamline our process," says Point. "We're currently evaluat- ing what we have and what we'd like to have." The salad bar is part of Pizza Ranch's extensive buffet offerings. A diverse pizza buffet selection helps set Pizza Ranch apart.

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