Pizza Wars? Competition heats up in Australian market

Posted by Daniel Palmer on 24th February 2009

Australia’s leading pizza chains are upping marketing spend and altering menus as the fight for the fast-food dollar intensifies.

With the much-publicised ‘trading down’ from restaurants, a number of fast-food restaurants have recorded strong sales growth despite the economic concerns. Among them have been Australia’s most prominent pizza makers and they are keen to ensure that their momentum continues with marketing spend on the rise.

Crust Pizza

Crust Gourmet Pizza Bars, one of Australia’s fastest growing franchises, is heading in the opposite direction to many in the food industry in general by introducing a new range of premium pizzas. And Domino’s, Eagle Boys and Pizza Hut have all embarked on their own menu transformations.

“In this financial climate, people are looking for affordable luxuries,” Crust’s Creative Chef Peter Augoustis, a former International Pizza Champion, explained. “Everyone is cutting back, but they still want top quality, and that’s where Upper Crust fits in. The pizzas are of a quality you’d expect from a top-class restaurant but they are served as takeaway.”

The range boasts the kind of ingredients you would be more likely to expect to see on a restaurant menu, such as slow cooked braised lamb and caramelised figs stuffed with mascarpone.

Domino’s, Australia’s largest pizza chain, has also sought to add fresher and more ‘premium’ ingredients to their pizzas. CEO Don Meij said the new menu launch last week was a direct response to an increased customer desire for convenience, freshness, choice and value for money. “Our new menu range uses only the freshest premium quality ingredients including vine-ripened grape tomatoes, fresh baby spinach leaves, chicken breast meat and al dente penne pasta,” he reported.

The new pasta range alluded to by Mr Meij appears a direct response to Pizza Hut’s attempt to reinvent itself by testing the Pasta Hut brand. Pizza Hut saw their market leadership position fall into the hands of Domino’s soon after the turn of the century and it would appear that Domino’s is unwilling to take the chance of Pizza Hut gaining traction through a more varied menu.

Similarly, Australia’s third largest pizza maker Eagle Boys Pizza is ensuring it won’t be left behind, having recently undergone one of the most significant changes in its 22 year history. The change involves launching a $7 million, year-long campaign to revitalise its pink logo and unveil a new range of pizzas.

The cornerstone of the new campaign is a revamped menu, including a new range of eleven ‘premium’ pizzas. Developed by Eagle Boys’ dedicated chef, the new menu uses fresher, better quality ingredients to create contemporary flavours such as Zesty Lemon Prawn and, Mediterranean, the company suggests.

“In these uncertain economic times, pizza lovers need to know they are getting a genuine large pizza with plenty of toppings for a great value price,” Eagle Boys National Marketing Manager Scott Hamilton noted.

Pasta and gourmet ingredients appear to be the base in bids for a greater slice of the market, with the intense battle expected to provide a boost to the pizza market in general. And it will place further pressure on restaurants in the wake of moves by other fast-food chains and supermarkets to try and capitalise on the convenience and eat-at-home trends that are placing stress on some restaurant operators in the current environment.