Exploring pizza overseas: part one

Pizza is a part of menus from Norway to Turkey. Originally eaten by poor people, pizza began its triumphal march around the world in the mid-20th century. Now, it is served all over, not only as a convenient, quick and cheap dish, but also in expensive, upmarket variations. Versatility is the main reason for pizza’s enduring success even in times of economic difficulty. In this article, we focus on the motherland of pizza, Italy, as well as on the interesting French, Spanish, Austrian and Swiss markets.

Italy

In 2009, there were about 25,000 pizzeria in Italy, out of a total of roughly 97,000 commercial foodservice outlets. In other words, a little more than one in four restaurants in Italy has pizza as its main food item, though in many instances the menu also includes other food categories; depending on the kind of outlet, these vary from antipasti, pasta, meat and fish courses, salads and desserts to snacks, piadine and similar items. 

During the last four years, the number of pizza outlets has increased (from 23,690 in 2005), whereas the overall number of restaurants has slightly decreased (down from 103,000 in 2005). In other words, pizzerias have weathered the economic downturn better than other types of restaurants—not really surprising, given that the average ticket for a meal is 10 euros and that average pizza prices range from 2.90 euros for a slice from a fast-food operator to 5.90 euros for a whole pizza in a full-service restaurant. In 2009, those 25,000 pizzerias employed 150,000 people, serving something like 35 million pizzas every week (source: Fipe). 

As a rule, most of the pizzerias in Italy are still independently owned, and this is true for fast-food as well as full-service operations. Concept chains are still few. The biggest chain is Spizzico, a fast-food brand owned and developed by Autogrill (autogrill.com), with about 200 outlets in Italy. Pizza is sold by the slice, options are limited (Margherita and two or three pizzas of the day), and other items are of the snack variety. Spizzico is found in service areas along highways and in shopping malls, downtown locations, airports and railway stations. It is seldom found alone, because Autogrill tends to cluster it with other brands from its portfolio. 

In the fast-food category, Spizzico has few chain competitors. One of them is Pizza New (pizzaepastaitaliana.it), with 30 outlets in Italy and nine abroad. Another is Piazza del Sole (piazzadelsole.it), a franchise brand operated by Cir Food (cir-food.it), with eight outlets. 

In the full-service category, the best known chain players are Rossopomodoro (rossopomodoro.com) and Fratelli la Bufala (fratellilabufala.eu). Rossopomodoro was launched in 1997, and at the end of September 2010, there were 65 restaurants in Italy and nine abroad, including Rossopomodoro New York, opened on August 31 inside the Eataly Italian food store. Eataly and Italian-American restaurateurs Mario Batali and Joe Bastianich have agreed to open more units in Manhattan if the first is successful. 

Sebeto Group, which owns and operates Rossopomodoro, runs 30% of Rossopomodoro restaurants directly; 70% are managed by franchisees. Sebeto plans to keep this balance in the future. The company has other brands, such as Anema e Cozze (anemaecozze.com), that also serve pizza, although their focus is more broadly Neapolitan cuisine. Sebeto’s development plan is very ambitious, with 12 to 15 new restaurants per year for 2010 and 2011, seven of them outside Italy. In 2008, Sebeto launched a takeaway concept, Rossosapore (rossosapore.com), which now has 13 outlets selling pizza by the meter (i.e., rectangular slices sold by length), a typical way of baking and selling pizza in Sorrento, a town not far from Naples. This was already a traditional fast-food concept, as it were, even before fast-food became popular. There are pizzas with a range of 14 toppings, as well as other typical local snacks, desserts and panini made to order in front of the customer. The Rossosapore formula does not envisage a delivery service. 

​Fratelli la Bufala closed the 2009 financial year with 91 restaurants, 82 of them in Italy, and a turnover of about 65 million euros. Estimates for the end of 2010 put the turnover at 75 million euros, with 90 restaurants in Italy and 30 in the rest of the world. Fratelli la Bufala hails from Naples, too, and has built its concepts on traditional fare and recipes, and on pizza. Emme Sei, the company that owns and manages the brand (50% directly, 50% franchised), also has ambitious development plans, including acquisitions of other brands (last spring, it announced interest in acquiring chains such as Obikà and Pastarito). Last July saw the launch of a new concept, Vulkania, wholly centered on pizza, and aiming at “bringing the Neapolitan essence to Italy and the world.” The main ingredients (fl our, mozzarella, tomatoes) come from Campania, and lava stone (from Vesuvius, of course) is used to build the pizza ovens. 

A few years ago, Cir Food took over the Pastarito Pizzarito (pastarito.it) full service chain. In the subsequent radical reorganization of the brand, the number of restaurants was reduced from about 80 to 12 in Italy and two abroad; the decor was given a makeover; and the Pizzarito name was dropped from the logo. The pizza menu has remained, however, and it is still possible to customize your own pizza by choosing from a combination of toppings. 

A recent addition to the chain list is Il Pomodorino (ilpomodorino.net), with five units in Milan, two in Naples and two in the rest of Italy. 

Apart from the franchise chains, there are several groups owned by successful independent operators who have constantly added to the number of their restaurants, usually stopping at eight or 10 outlets. In these cases, however, although there may be a common brand name and a common menu, the decor and image of the outlets are not always consistent as a brand. A few examples are Da Willy (dawilly.com), which is developing a franchise operation in Europe, the United States and the Middle East), Brickoven (brickoven.it) in Milan, and Pizza Ciro (ww.pizzaciro.it) in Naples and Rome. 

Takeaway or delivery figures for Italy are difficult to come by. Many full-service pizzerias provide one or both services, and there are a number of small independent delivery-only takeaways (no seating) in the field. Attempts in the 1990s to launch regional and national pizza delivery chains failed. Now there are a few attempts at setting up local delivery networks, such as Pizza and Food (pizzaandfooditalia.it), in the Milan area. It is possible, however, to make an indirect (although not very reliable) estimate of the volume of the takeaway/delivery market from the number of carton packs sold each year: 170 million euros.

France

The French are among the top in Europe when it comes to eating pizza, with an annual 10 kilograms consumed per person. Their consumer habits have changed in recent years, however. Snacking is in, not only with young people, and all over the country it has now become quite common for people to order a pizza for home delivery. This has not only been something of a boost for the three American chains (Speed Rabbit, speedrabbit.com, with 135 outlets; Domino’s, dominos.fr, with 156; and Pizza Hut, pizzahut.fr, with about 100)—together they now have more than 400 outlets, compared to the 250 units in 2005—but has also provided the independent pizzaioli with an especially big impetus. According to Julien Panet, president of the French Association of Pizzerias (AFP), today there are about 15,000 pizzerias (compared to 11,000 in 2005) and 6,000 mobile pizza vans. These are joined by the pizza in supermarkets and bakeries, whose numbers have not been recorded. There are also restaurants such as the Del Arte (delarte.fr) brand, which
is part of the Le Duff Group, and which has 87 restaurants, although it does not specialize in pizza but offers a menu with a broad range of Italian dishes. France’s pizza business weighs in at 3 billion euros, including trade. 

To set itself apart from the American chains, the La Boîte à Pizza company (laboiteapizza.fr) relies on good quality and unusual recipes, offering a total of 20 different pizza varieties at its 140 points of sale. Since the beginning of the year, the company has even been working with celebrity chefs. Under the motto “La Pizza des Grands Chefs,” four-star chefs were hired, each of whom had to devise a luxury recipe to match the season; currently, Ducasse-trained Cédric Béchade is conjuring up pizzas with fl avors of the Basque country. 

This puts the company well in line with the trend, because the French consumer wants evermore tasty pizza varieties and is also prepared to pay a bit over the odds for them. Prices are 7.50 euros for a traditional calzone, and 12.50 euros for the “Pizza des Grands Chef” (medium). The company offers three different sizes and two varieties of dough (thin and crispy, and thicker and more succulent). About 60% to 70% of the outlets’ sales come from the delivery business, which has also now been extended to include the delivery of hot sandwiches. Overall sales were around 45 million euros in 2009 and are likely to reach 50 million euros this year. 

More of a newcomer is the non-typical Le Kiosque à Pizzas (le-kiosque-apizzas.com) chain, launched in 2004 and operating 127 takeaway units and nine boutiques, offering pizzas to eat on the spot. In 2009, overall sales were about 18 million euros. The red-and-white kiosks occupy an area of only 11 square meters but are fully equipped. They have been established in towns with a population of 3,000 to 10,000, in shopping center parking lots or near car washes. The concept is based on the principle of a trademark licence without royalties, without any contributions upfront and without any advertising costs for the operator. There are 30 recipes on offer, and the toppings, like the dough, are freshly prepared every day; each kiosk also sells at least one variety with regional specialities. Board member Hervé Choquel also emphasizes the craftsmanship involved in the concept: “In our kiosks, we knead the dough, chop the vegetables and bake the pizzas before the customers’ very eyes,” he says. So far, the kiosks have established themselves mainly in the Bordeaux region, the North of France and the eastern part of Paris. The aim is to launch 30 to 40 new units every year. 

A regional presence is the characteristic of two other companies, both of which have specialized in takeaway and delivery: Pizza Sprint (pizzasprint.com), with 56 units (up from 24 in 2006) and total sales of 18.2 million euros in 2009, is located mainly in the west of France. In the future, the group will continue to concentrate its expansion strategy on its original regions, adding fi ve to 10 units per year to the number of its pizzerias—each with an area of about 100 square meters—as well as planning additional turnkey kiosks with an area of only 19 square meters for townships numbering less than 5,000 inhabitants. 

Tutti (tutti-pizza.com), with 42 outlets and annual sales of 8 million euros, is located in the Toulouse conurbation and offers more than 30 different recipes. 

For Julien Panet, the French pizza market is currently characterized by three basic tendencies: “First of all, the pizza offering is turning more and more into a snack, which is why convenience packaging is increasingly in demand—for example, pizzas shaped into a cone, or into a sandwich (kiosquito),” he says. “But the new Paris Pezzo outlet, which sells pizza pieces, is also very much in line with the trend. Second, the pizzaioli are responding much more to the wishes of the female population, which is why more organic products, new types of flour and additional vegetarian recipes are the order of the day. Third, quality is improving. Gourmet pizzas are in, and truffle slivers, foie gras or scallops are in demand. Ducasse is working on the topic and is already serving a chocolate pizza in his Spoon restaurant in Hong Kong; here in France, pizzaioli competitions are helping to improve quality.”

Austria

With 24 outlets, Pizza Mann (pizzamann.at) is the largest franchise chain in the Austrian pizza restaurant and delivery market, ringing up sales of 14.2 million euros in 2009. Two more units are scheduled to be opened in 2010/2011. The restaurants seat 20 to 25 on average, have a surface area of 60 to 80 square meters and make 500,000 to 600,000 euros per year. In 2009, they sold 1.2 million pizzas; about 22% of those were ordered over the Internet.

The unique selling point is the Pizza Mann pizza. For 9.49 euros you can have a 33-centimeter pizza and a choice of any five from a total of 28 toppings. Apart from pizzas (accounting for 50% of all the dishes on offer), there are also pasta, fried and grilled dishes (schnitzels, chicken wings, spare ribs, etc.), salads, specials (e.g., wraps, ethnic food), desserts and beverages on the menu. 

The brothers Oliver and Alexander Platzl, who since 2002 have headed the company founded by their father, have made plans for the coming months to extend all of their services around pizza delivery: to date, for example, there is already credit card payment on delivery, SMS info for customers to know the pizza is on its way, an online pizza tracker, a free call-me-back service and guaranteed delivery within 30 minutes (otherwise one pizza is free). They are also active in the field of sport and event sponsoring, as well as event catering. Future plans include SMS quick coupons, social media marketing and smartphone apps.

Spain

Since the end of 2008, the economic crisis that hit Spain so hard has widened into the most serious in recent times, creating an unemployment rate that is well in excess of 10%. One of the major impacts of the crisis has been to force a large number of segments in the country’s foodservice sector to resort to major optimization measures. One example is the reorganization in the pizzeria and pizza chain segment. In past months, the market has become increasingly segmented, with individualists operating at a high, and indeed the highest, level of quality and service on the one hand; and highly
professional system caterers on the other. “Midfield,” there are still a large number of nondescript restaurants with rather uninspired culinary offerings, dishes of fairly average quality and—at prices between 6 to 9 euros for a pizza 36 centimeters in diameter—serving a clientele that has definitely become more pricesensitive. The system caterers comprise a good 20 names, with a total of just 1,000 restaurants. It is a segment with various concepts and distribution channels, with delivery formulas clearly continuing to rank above full-service businesses when it comes to sales. 

The economic crisis has required almost all of the “big players” to rethink their former strategies—with two important effects: The ones that so far made only moderate use, or no use at all, of franchising as a way of expanding, such as the Ginos pizza brand of the Grupo VIPS or the La Alpargatería (la-alpargateria.com) company, are now consolidating their networks by means of “external” operators as well. Others, such as La Mafi a se sienta a la mesa (lamafia.es) and Crapa Pelata (crapapelata.com), are optimizing their merchandise planning and control system and/or are centralizing their production to achieve greater cost efficiency and standardization. One model for success is that of the Restauravia group and its La Tagliatella, a concept that is founded on vertically organized production and franchising, and has a powerful financial partner in Corpfin, and a policy based on larger portions at reasonable prices—perfect for these times. The company also opened its first restaurant in France, in Le Mans, in 2010. 

Big players among the multiconcept operators are the Ginos full-service concept of the Grupo VIPS, with 92 units in 2009; the aforementioned Restauravia group, with 77 La Tagliatella outlets in the full- service manner; the Comess Group, with 31 Pasta City restaurants (likewise with service); and Grupo Zena, with 26 units based on the Il Tempietto full-service formula. Until last year, the group was still operating as the master franchisee of Pizza Hut in Spain; the contract, which was not extended in May 2009, has now expired, and Zena’s portfolio currently accommodates 90 Domino’s Pizza units. Pizza Hut is at present redefining its strategy for the Spanish market; the plan is to issue licenses in the future to various franchisees such as SSP— just like the British PizzaExpress (pizzaexpress.com) represented here with the Pizza Marzano and Pasta Nostra Pizza Nostra brands. Both had a dozen locations at the end of 2009. 

Among the multiplied monoconcept specialists, mention needs to be made of La Honorable Hermandad, currently with 23 units of the La Mafi a se sienta a la mesa full-service brand; O Mamma Mia, with 23 service restaurants under the same name; Pizza Jardín (21 locations); or La Alpargatería, with 14. Among the more recent newcomers are El Racó (elraco.com) in Palamós, Diablito Fun & Music on the Balearic Islands, Crapa Pelata in Valencia, BrunoCaruso (brunocaruso.com) in Alicante or Da Bruno (dabruno.com) in Marbella/Málaga—all keen to act as multipliers. There will be a greater focus on cities and city centers from the new Il Profumo concept of the Coordinadora de Iniciativas de Restauración group, which will be unrolled mainly in the vicinity of commercial conurbations. 

In the delivery segment here, the matador Telepizza (telepizza.es), as well as big international names such as Pizza Hut (pizzahut.es), Pizza Móvil (pizzamovil.es) or Pizza Sapri (sapripizzas.com), a regional player from Catalonia, had to face up to competition from rapidly expanding regional chains such as Voy Volando (voyvolando.com), based in Granada, or Pizzón Pizza (pizzonpizza.com), headquartered in Córdoba. Both chains are targeting a price-conscious clientele that is highly receptive to special-offer campaigns. The former, which was established in 1992, currently has 78 units, 68 of which are managed by franchisees. Pizzón Pizza, launched in 2000, has 14 locations, two of which are outside of Andalucía. 

The arrival of Domino’s Pizza (dominospizza.es) in the country has also created unrest in the market. Zena, the highly experienced foodservice group, is meanwhile managing the U.S. brand in Spain as master franchisee and is stepping up its work on standardization, systematization and staff training. The aim is even greater expansion in 2011—reason enough for market giant Telepizza, which belongs to Foodco Pastries Spain SL, and had 633 units in Spain at the end of 2009, not only to channel its own expansion focus abroad, but also to press on with expansion at home by means of new conceptual formats such as kiosk units at shopping centers or smaller locations for metropolitan areas with a population of up to 30,000. More recently, items that are less typically associated with pizza have also been integrated into the food portfolio by means of attention-grabbing campaigns for burgers and chicken wings. The aim is to become even more attractive to even more customers. 

Among the independents, originally Italian operators and pizza bakers continue to lead the field with their superb product quality. Along with their expertise, customers are convinced by their first-class suppliers’ networks and the use of top-quality ingredients, whether first-class mozzarella or special fl ours for high-quality, tasty dough. Anyone wanting to give them a try should go to Trattoria D’G (trattoriadg.es) in Madrid, run by Andrea Tumbarello; Ignacio Deiás’ La Pizziccheria (grupopizziccheria.com)—also in the capital—or Daviano Neri’s I Buoni Amici (ibuoniamici.es), or Raffaele Iannone’s La Bella Napoli, both in Barcelona. But, when it comes to pizza, the Spaniards have not left the fi ne-dining segment completely to the Tricolori. For years now, Pep Curiel has served handcrafted top-class pizzas in his El Tramonti (tramontipepcuriel.com) in Roses. And in his two restaurants, Marquinetti (marquinetti.com) and Pizza Express in Tomelloso (Ciudad Real), Jesús Marquina also puts his trust in pizzas that have won prizes for their creativity at international championships. 

And then there is the man himself: Fabián Martín (fabian-martin.com), the self-taught pizzaiolo, born in 1968, who in recent years has carried off prizes from Spanish, European and international competitions in the categories of acrobatics and quality. In 2007, he even won the title of World Pizza Champion at the 2007 PMQ New York Pizza Show. 

Since 2004, Martín, who is very much a media presence, has been running a “restaurante-taller” (restaurant workshop) in Llívia, a Spanish enclave in French Cerdanya, and since 2008 the Pizzería de Fabián Martín in Barcelona. The uncompromising search for top-quality, and especially for first-class dough, the effort to provide good service and the feeling for prices in line with the market in economically tense times: voilà, say the experts, the recipe for future success in the Spanish pizza sector.

Switzerland

With 13 delivery outlets and six restaurants, the Dieci (dieci.ch) chain is one of the front-runners in the Swiss pizza market. Harry Rogenmoser and Rocco Delli Colli opened their fi rst restaurant in Rapperswil, a town on Lake Zürich, in 1990, and the first delivery service began as a parallel operation in 1993. The chain has been called Dieci since 1995. Also part of the portfolio are eight Dieci gelaterias, some of them with an integrated cafe. In 2009, the turnover amounted to almost 27 million Swiss francs (net), a good 10 million of which were generated by the delivery service and around 14 million by the restaurants. 

Dieci’s pizza delivery service offers approximately 25 different pizzas in three sizes (24, 30 and 36 centimeters in diameter), with pizza prices ranging from 10 to 30 Swiss francs. Additional items on offer include pasta (three types, 17 Swiss francs) and salads. “Recent months have shown that we are relatively well-positioned with our pizza prices given the high level of consumer uncertainty,” says Rogenmoser. “Despite this, we noticed a slight decrease in the propensity to spend in the first half of 2010.” The company is taking advantage of the financial and business crises to expand the courier side of the system and thus lay the foundation for faster expansion. Thus, a new delivery outlet in Baden will be followed by two more before the end of this year. No changes are planned to the number of restaurants and ice cream parlors. The target turnover for Dieci is 28.2 million Swiss francs (net). Dieci’s competitors in the home delivery segment are Domino’s Pizza (dominos.ch), with 12 outlets, half of them in Francophone Switzerland, the other in the German-speaking region; PizzaBlitz, with 10 locations; plus a host of small, family businesses. Domino’s franchisee Global Brands has undergone a process of restructuring over the last two years and is now set to expand by 20 outlets in the short term. COO Fyl Newington considers 40 to 50 outlets to be feasible within the next fi ve years. Additionally, he is keeping his eyes open for other brands. 

Pizza-Blitz sells finger food, pasta and salads, as well as traditional thin-crust pizzas (11 varieties). The price band stretches from 15.95 to 21.95 Swiss francs for a 29-centimeter pizza, and from 28.95 to 40.95 Swiss francs for the 39-centimeter option. 

Molino (molino.ch), the Italophile, full service concept developed in 1988 by the Jelmoli department store group, which last year was acquired by the Swiss Prime Site property development company, is “numero uno” in the pizza restaurant segment and boasts 17 restaurants at present. The formula primarily serves homemade pasta and pizza, supplemented by a range of typical Italian meat and fish dishes, and a choice of Italian wines. The Mediterranean decor, with a pizza oven as the centerpiece, guarantees a holiday atmosphere. In Zürich, Frascati, a further development of the Molino concept, is distinguished by a wine lounge and more spacious surroundings. Seafood, meat and fish specialities supplement the menu. Another restaurant, Le Lacustre (restaurantlacustre.ch), is located in the most exclusive part of Geneva and serves classic Italian dishes, as well as fine meat and fish specialities. 

Switzerland’s first authentic pizza restaurant was opened in 1965 by Rudi Bindella and named after Naples’ busy harbour district, Santa Lucia. More than 45 years later, this concept of the Bindella Group (bindella.ch; with 32 restaurants and a turnover of around 110 million Swiss francs, Switzerland’s biggest private foodservice company) has 10 outlets with seating for a total of 1,300 guests. On average, these minimalist establishments, with their traditional Italian style and 160 to 260 square meters, generated average annual earnings of 3.3 million Swiss francs in 2009—10% more than five years before. About 20 different pizzas are on offer, with prices ranging from 16 to 24 Swiss francs. Prosciutto is the most popular variety, and pasta, meat and fish are also available. Pizza accounts for 30% of sales. 

The number of Santa Lucia restaurants has been constant for years. Expansion is only in the cards “if a suitable location in Switzerland comes up,” says CEO Daniel Müller. The outlet in Zürich Wiedikon has been closed for modernization since the beginning of the year. 

Part two of three will cover Norway, Sweden, Finland, Russia, Turkey and Poland.

Contributing authors: Italy: Flavia Fresia;
France: Katja Hassenkamp; Spain:
Mario Cañizal Villarino; Switzerland/
Austria: Barbara Mecke