Trend Watch: The Rise of Fast-Casual Pizza

Categories: Trend Watch

A pair of stories today illustrate the next trend in fast-casual dining: pizza. Denver's Westword got the scoop that Chipotle is a major investor in the town's seven-month-old pizza spot, Pizzeria Locale. Like the burrito chain, customers can customize their own meal by mixing-and-matching toppings that include the traditional (pepperoni, sausage, mushrooms) and the more adventurous (corn, broccolini, prosciutto). The thin-crust pizzas are cooked in two minutes in a 1,000-degree oven. Chipotle founder Steve Ells consulted on the project as well as backed it with the intention of growing it into a national brand.

And then Subway is also getting into the pizza game? At least the sandwich chain is opening its second Subway Pizza Express on the campus of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, according to the school's newspaper. It's apparently the second location in the United States, the other being near the campus of Texas A&M University. And other companies have fast-casual pizza concepts in the works, according to Entrepreneur , including California Pizza Kitchen.

It's hard to know if such a trend will make inroads into San Francisco, a town notoriously skittish about chains. But then again, pizza is one of the most popular foods in the country. 75 percent of Americans have eaten pizza in the past two weeks, according to a recent survey by the NBD group quoted in the WSJ, up from 68 percent in 2003. Pizza delivery in 30 minutes or less has been the industry standard for a while now, but it's hard to believe that it's taken this long for the food to catch on as a fast-casual concept (Sbarro's bland, rubbery mall offerings nonwithstanding).

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