A new report on the popularity of burgers and sandwiches during the recession illuminates the pizza industry's need to continue relevant innovations in this department.
Sandwiches and burgers were the only broad food category to post servings growth at both quick service restaurants and full service restaurants in 2009, according to The NPD Group, a leading market research company.
In a year when restaurant traffic experienced consecutive quarterly declines, NPD foodservice market research found that U.S. restaurant consumers gobbled-up more than 22 billion sandwiches, burgers and wraps.
"Sandwiches, burgers and wraps were the most resilient food category in this economic downturn," said Bonnie Riggs, NPD's restaurant industry analyst. "The reason is it's one of the few categories that has mass appeal. Sandwiches, burgers and wraps are accessible, customizable, affordable, portable, and can be dressed up, gourmet-style, or dressed down."
Pizza companies that continue to offer pizza-themed or oriented sandwiches can profit by capitalizing on this trend. Some may already have, said NPD's Kim McLynn.
"As for pizza-like sandwich categories â€¦ calzone servings are up over +20 percent in 2009 compared to 2008," McLynn said. "I also looked at sandwich/burger servings at QSR pizza outlets and servings were up +11 percent in 2009 compared to last year."
According to NPD's CREST service, which continually tracks consumer usage of commercial and non-commercial foodservice, the total servings of deli/other, chicken, and wraps servings in 2009 were 12 billion, an increase of 1 billion servings since 2005. Total servings of burgers in 2009 were 9.3 billion, an increase of 800,000 servings since 2005.
All dayparts contributed to sandwich gains last year, but lunch contributed 48 percent of the growth in 2009, according to NPD's CREST. Six out of ten sandwiches and burgers moved out of quick service restaurants.
"Moving forward we're likely to see more operators and chains jump on the sandwich, burger and wraps band wagon, capitalizing on the growth of this category," Riggs said. "Considering how well-established the category is, it's amazing to me to see that there still is room for more growth."