Student Reninger - studying criminology at Northern Arizona University in Flagstaff, who also works at a dog day-care facility, estimated that she ate pizza only once in every couple of months.

That changed late last summer when she strolled into a Slice and Ice pizza parlor.

''Maybe the warm, gooey cheese is some sort of comfort food for me in the pandemic,'' Ms. Reninger said. ''I go a couple of times a week, maybe three times some weeks, which is kind of embarrassing.''

For many people in the world, pizza has been a perfect pandemic option in the world, a comfort food for a time that is anything but comfortable.

Whether a thin-crust version topped with fresh vegetables or stuffed-crust pie piled high with sausages and pepperoni, pizza has checked many boxes during these strange times, primarily because it travels well and can easily feed - sometimes fairly inexpensively - an entire family.

OVER the first nine months of 2020, the combined revenue of the large chain Domino's and Papa John's grew so much that it was roughly equivalent to their selling 30 million more large cheese pizzas than they had the year before.

In America - In a year when restaurants across the country have struggled to stay afloat, with many unable to cover rent payments and pay employees because of government-mandated shutdowns, those that dished up pizza have generally fared better.

Sales of pizza grew as much as 4 percent. last year, according to Technomic, a food industry research and consulting firm. Pizza and chicken are the only foods categories expected to have grown.

''The pizza category as a whole was a big winner,'' said Sara Senatore, an analyst who covers restaurants at Bernstein. Ms. Senatore noted that it may have become a good go-to meal for families who found themselves on tight budgets because of falling wages or lost jobs.

For chains like Domino's, Pizza Hut, Papa John's and the privately held Little Caesars, the pandemic proved to be a sales boon.

The four controlled 43 percent of the $44 billion U.S. market heading into the pandemic, according to Technomic. Some analysts say the big chains, most of which have not reported the fourth-quarter earnings yet, almost assuredly -

Gained more market share because their size allowed them to better navigate issues like paying rising prices for cheese and other ingredients, hiring additional help or covering rent after particularly lean weeks than independent pizza parlor owners.

For the first nine months of last year, combined revenues at Domino's and Papa John's increased almost 12 percent, or $434 million.

Pizza Hut's revenues for the same period were down a tad from 2019's levels. The chain was in the midst of a turnaround plan when it had to deal with Covid- related restrictions at its dine-in restaurants across the country.

Even frozen pizza performed well during the pandemic, with sales climbing nearly 21 percent to more than $6 billion, according to NielsenIQ.

''Pizza was the perfect food for the pandemic, but I think it's also the perfect food for all time,'' said Ritch Allison, the chief executive of Domino's, which recorded double digit increases in same-store sales in the United States.

Any way you slice it, pizza is a winner. 

The World Students Society thanks author Julie Creswell.


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