New Year's weekend provides rush for restaurants

The pizza segment is ready for primetime. While February's Super Bowl is expected to yet again be the heaviest business day for pizza deliveries, two of the top five occasions fall within the same weekend.

New Year's Eve is the second highest delivery day for pizza, and New Year's Day is No. 5 (Halloween is third, followed by Thanksgiving). The trend can be attributable to a number of factors, including the cooler weather, football parties, group gatherings or post-Christmas tight budgets.

Whatever the reason, one thing is certain: pizza players deliver a lot of pies to New Year's revelers. Domino's, for example, estimates it sold approximately 2.3 million pizzas for the occasion last year.

"New Year's Eve and New Year's Day are dates we circle on our calendars to prepare for every year," said Chris Brandon, Domino's Pizza spokesperson. "The holiday will be especially busy because it falls on a weekend, and our team members love working on these busy days."

Online business will be a driver for success

This year, the online ordering component of the pizza business will add an element of convenience for customers. The concept has grown exponentially since 2011 rang in. For example, Domino's now does about 30 percent of its business through online orders, and set a record of more than 1 million orders from online and mobile devices for its Thanksgiving rush, from Nov. 28 through Dec. 4.

Not to be outdone, Papa John's claimed it was the first pizza company to reach the $2 billion mark for online ordering, having long since surpassed that. (Papa John's might also be able to leverage its NFL sponsorship for New Year's, which falls on the last regular season weekend before playoffs).

Pizza Hut claims it was the first pizza chain to launch iPhone ordering in 2009, and has since recently added to its robust digital portfolio with iPad and Android apps.

Rush expected industry-wide

New Year's weekend should provide a boon for more than just pizza concepts. The National Restaurant Association estimates that 100 million Americans plan to celebrate the New Year by going out to a restaurant or bar, or by ordering takeout or delivery.

"New Year's is traditionally one of the most popular times of the year to dine out," said Hudson Riehle, senior vice president of the Research and Knowledge Group for the NRA. "This year, we expect to see a welcomed bump in customer traffic both on- and off-premises as we ring in the new year."

The survey shows that one in five consumers (20 percent) plan to go out to a restaurant or bar on New Year's Eve, and 22 percent say they plan to order restaurant takeout or delivery on that day. On New Year's Day, 12 percent plan to dine out and 16 percent say they plan to order takeout or delivery from a restaurant.

The NRA's new research also shows that half of American adults plan to dine out with family or friends over the next few weeks to celebrate the holidays: 10 percent of consumers say they plan to dine out on Christmas Eve, 8 percent plan to dine out on Christmas Day and 4 percent plan to do so on the start of Hanukkah (Dec. 20).

Read more about trends and statistics.

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