Throwback Thursday: Grocery competition gets heavy in September 1997

September 1997 coverIn September 1997, we noticed a consumer trend that had begun to threaten our industry –– fresh pizzas in supermarkets. No longer were pizzerias the go-to place pick up a fresh pie after a day of shopping. Grocery stores were offering fresh pizzas that could be paid for with groceries and baked at home. It was even better than frozen pizza –– and consumers seemed to be eating it up.

Today, of course, pizza can be found not only in grocery stores but also in big-box warehouse clubs like Costco and Sam’s Club (heck, both even sell baked slices in their concession stands) and some chains have co-located, such as fast-food Pizza Hut stores found in Target stores. If anything, competition has only gotten fiercer in the last 15 years with the addition of national take-and-bake chains like Papa Murphy’s and Nick-N-Willy’s Pizza.

Are you aware of your competition? Not just the full-service pizzeria down the street, but also the co-branded unit located in your nearest convenience store, the deli

counter at Whole Foods Market and the $5 carryout deal from local chains. Saying ‘Oh, those guys don’t compete with me. I’m so much better!’ no longer flies. Consumers are more time-crunched than ever, and if that means filling up their car with gas and grabbing dinner for the family, they’re going to do what saves them cash and time.

Look around you. Are you competitively priced? You might have upscale toppings, but is that what your customers want? How about your concept. Do prospective clients get it? If not, it could be the equivalent of putting a fine-dining establishment in the middle of the worst part of town. You’re not going to get customers in –– and that means you’re not going to retain them.

Competition is part of doing business. Keeping ahead of it should be a top priority.