If 2020 proved anything, it’s that Americans simply can’t get enough hot chicken and pizza and pandemic lockdowns only strengthen the country’s demand for the two delivery staples.
With many consumers preferring to eat at home for fear of contracting the coronavirus, delivery platforms have thrived. Delivery platform DoorDash handled nearly 543 million orders between January and September, representing a three-fold increase from usual figures.
“Consumers who had never ordered from delivery platforms have adopted the convenience,” said a spokesperson from ghost-kitchen operator Nextbite, in a recent interview with Global Times.
And, in 2020, restaurants serving chicken and pizza were prime beneficiaries of the pandemic’s restrictions.
THE WING’S THE THING
Even though the COVID-19 pandemic brought periodic halts to in-restaurant dining, restaurants specializing in chicken thrived in 2020, led by chain Wingstop, which saw sales rise 32.8% in the third quarter. Even chains without a track record for selling hot wings turned a larger focus to selling the menu item; Domino’s, for example, redesigned their wings to improve their taste and texture, and expanded its sauce options.
Casual-dining chains like Applebee’s are getting in on the hot-wing craze as well, as it’s testing a “Neighborhood Wings” concept in 700 units.
Meanwhile, spicy chicken sandwiches were the most-ordered item of the year according to delivery platform GrubHub, reported Restaurant Business. All told, fried chicken sandwich sales grew 318%, year over year.
Factors such as the fact fried chicken sandwiches are fairly easy to execute have touched off a fierce competition among fast-food chains. Chick-fil-A is currently testing a Honey Pimento Chicken Sandwich, and competitors like KFC, Church’s and Zaxby’s all expanded their sandwich offerings in recent months.
Most chains’ sandwiches include similar elements: a crispy chicken fillet, pickles, and a premium bun. And with many fast-food competitors joining the chicken sandwich competition – including the likes of BurgerFi and Golden Chick – the battle appears destined to continue into the new year.
PIZZA CHAINS PUSH ON
Few restaurants were as well-equipped to withstand the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic as pizza chains. And, as a result, companies like Domino’s and Papa John’s enjoyed a surge in business (which no doubt factored in to those chains doling out employee bonuses that added up to $9.6 million and $2.5 million, respectively, according to Louisville Business First).
To get in on consumers’ increasing demand for pizza in recent months, some fast-casual brands, like Panera Bread, began offering the popular menu item for the first time.
Other more established pizza restaurants altered their offerings to adapt to increased demand for delivery. Blaze Pizza, for instance, added a version with a thicker crust, which aids heat retention. The impetus behind the decision: Blaze aimed to secure a larger portion of dinner business from those sheltering at home.