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U.S. pizza sales, booming in pandemic, start to slow

After a pandemic-fueled boom, U.S. pizza sales appear to be headed back to earth.

Domino’s and Papa John’s pizza chains both said Thursday that their same-store sales lost steam in the fourth quarter compared to the huge increases they saw earlier in 2020. Same-store sales are expected to continue seeing percentage declines well into this year.

Pizza delivery remains popular, but diners’ choices are expanding, with more restaurants now offering delivery. In a survey of 3,500 U.S. restaurant operators last fall, the National Restaurant Association found that 27% had added delivery from a third party like DoorDash, while 17% had added in-house delivery. Pizza could also be pressured as the pandemic eases and dining rooms reopen.

Domino’s CEO Ritch Allison said the lack of federal stimulus checks impacted demand in the quarter, and the resurgent virus hurt carryout orders. But he also acknowledged that many independent restaurants, which weren’t emphasizing delivery before the pandemic, are now stronger competitors.

“They jumped with both feet into delivery to stay alive,” Allison said in a conference call with investors.

Louisville, Kentucky-based Papa John’s said its North American same-store sales rose 13.5% after skyrocketing more than 20% in both the second and third quarters.