U.S. pizza deliveries could provide gauge of COVID-19 concerns

U.S. pizza deliveries could provide gauge of COVID-19 concerns
Pizza makers are busier than ever during the COVID-19 pandemic. (Michael McDonald/Bloomberg)

For those looking for a way to gauge virus concerns in the U.S., pizza takeout and delivery may offer a glimpse into consumers’ psyche.

Domino’s Pizza Inc. and Papa John’s International Inc. are both still logging accelerated sales growth, according to mid-quarter business updates, as Americans wary of COVID-19 remain hesitant to venture out into public places.

Pizza chains like Papa John’s International Inc. are seeing a bigger piece of the sales pie as the COVID-19 pandemic has led to more deliveries and takeout. (Luke Sharrett/Bloomberg)

Papa John’s said Wednesday that its North American restaurants’ preliminary comparable sales growth was almost 34% from April 27 through May 24 and that it will continue to provide monthly sales updates. Domino’s said Tuesday that U.S. comparable store sales were up 21% from April 20 through May 17, though the company said it is unsure how long the trend will last.

Slowing sales would likely be an early signal that consumers are warming up to other dining options as states lift measures to contain the virus, said Bloomberg Intelligence restaurant analyst Michael Halen.

“Some of these gains in May should subside in June because dining rooms are reopening and people are starting to venture out a little more,” Halen said.

Of course, higher pizza sales may continue for a while, he added, depending on conditions. A second surge of COVID-19 could extend pizza’s success, which is aided by the entrenched delivery model and the ease of contact-free transactions. At some point, however, they’ll inevitably decline from the quarantine numbers.

“We could see another outbreak in the fall and winter, and that would obviously be a boon for sales again,” Halen said.

(Contact the reporter at [email protected].)

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