Global Pizza Chains Deliver Strong Results

The three largest pizza chains report positive first-quarter performance that’s expected to continue. 

May 21, 2021

Pepperoni Pizza

ALEXANDRIA, Va.—Three of the top global pizza chains—Domino’s, Papa John’s and Little Caesars—recently announced first-quarter financial results. Not surprisingly, sales during the pandemic were positive thanks in large part to delivery and contactless pickup.

If there were any expectations that performance may slow as more states ease pandemic restrictions and more people are vaccinated, that doesn’t seem to be the case.

“We’ve had a solid April,” Papa John’s CEO Rob Lynch told Restaurant Business. “We feel great about the start of Q2.” So great, in fact, that the company has now forecast “flat to slightly positive” same-store sales this quarter.

Papa John’s International's first quarter ended March 28, and the company reported that total revenue increased 24.9% to $511.7 million, compared with the year-ago first quarter.

“The strategy we put in place more than 18 months ago—focused on innovation, development, operational improvements and building a culture that values diversity, inclusivity and winning—has provided the strong foundation that underscores Papa John’s industry outperformance and positive long-term outlook,” said Lynch.

Domino’s Pizza, the No. 1 pizza chain in the world based on global retail sales, also posted strong first- quarter results, with same-store sales growth of 11.8% during the quarter. The company had first- quarter global net store growth of 175 stores, comprised of 36 net U.S. store openings and 139 net international store openings.

The first quarter marked the 109th consecutive quarter of international same-store sales growth for Domino’s and the 40th consecutive quarter of U.S. same-store sales growth. “It was a strong first quarter for the Domino’s brand, with balanced growth across all areas of our global business,” said Ritch Allison, CEO of Domino’s. 

NACS member Yum! Brands reported that its Pizza Hut Division opened 172 gross new restaurants in 33 countries. In the U.S., Pizza Hut recently launched The Hut Lane, a dedicated pickup window available at more than 1,500 locations for customers who pre-order digitally.

Little Caesars Pizza, also a NACS member, said it’s now the third-largest pizza chain in the world with stores in 27 countries and territories. The company has increased its international presence in the past few years by entering new markets in Asia Pacific, Europe, the Caribbean and Latin America.

Throughout the pandemic, Little Caesars Pizza’s Hot-N-Ready model allows customers to be in and out of the store with a fresh pizza in 30 seconds or less. Recent innovations that streamline how retailers can bring Little Caesar’s Pizza to their customers rely on technology. Little Caesars recently introduced contactless options for both delivery and carryout through the Little Caesars app.

“We’ve prioritized technology in order to really create a seamless experience, but who would have known we’d find ourselves in a world in which consumers are primarily ordering online and looking for contactless experiences,” said Brett Larrabee, director of international development at Little Caesars.

Casey’s Delivers

Founded more than 50 years ago, Ankeny, Iowa-based Casey’s is the fifth largest pizza chain in the United States. One of the biggest decisions made by the convenience retailer was to incorporate a pizza program in the early 1980s.

Pizza is unequivocally the crown jewel of the chain’s overall prepared foods program. Same-store unit sales of whole pizzas were up 17% over the three-month period ended January 31, 2021, compared with the third quarter of 2020.

Casey’s is slated to report results for its fiscal fourth quarter on June 8. Casey’s operates more than 2,300 convenience stores and this week finalized its $580 million acquisition of Buchanan Energy and 94 Bucky’s Convenience Stores in the Midwest.

Convenience retailers in the market for a turnkey pizza solution at their stores can find what they’re looking for at this year’s NACS Show, taking place October 5-8 in Chicago.

NACS Magazine profiled Casey’s and its growth strategy in the May 2021 issue.

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