2009 December: Commentary

Well, another year has come and nearly gone. 2009 was an interesting one, to say the least. After American voters cried for change in our country’s leadership in 2008, America’s first black president took office this year. Since then, we’ve been working to dial down our military efforts in Iraq while still figuring out how to handle the conundrum in Afghanistan. Healthcare, much like 17 years ago, is a much debated political topic. The economy, badly battered during the previous eight years, may have hit bottom. Though no one seems to know for sure where things are heading and the traditional indicators continue to give conflicting signs, there’s at least some hope now of an economic recovery.

How does that carry over to the pizza industry? Again, signals are mixed. Same-store sales increases, at least in a sustained fashion, are hard to come by. Overall sales growth isn’t occurring, but pizza continues to show its resiliency through unit growth. Profi ts are up in a few operations, down in most.

One would think such uncertainty would cast a pall over the industry, but it hasn’t. Back in the spring, International Pizza Expo had a nearrecord- breaking year and the attendees were as serious as I’ve ever seen them. We recognized that and tried to match their intensity with our “09.09.09” issue in September. Though it may be a little forward, I’m not shy about saying that, frankly, we hit a home run and are proud of the contribution that issue made to the industry.

Then again, that’s why we’re here: to serve as a guiding light to the industry’s operators regardless of what’s going on in the outside world. Politics change. Confl icts in foreign lands come and go. Administrations turn over. But pizza continues. It’s an American staple, after all, and that isn’t going to change.

So don’t turn the calendar to 2010 with a pessimistic hand. The economy may or may not have bottomed out and we’ll probably continue seeing mixed signals for a while yet, but I’m seeing a lot of positives in the pizza industry. From the artisan renaissance to social networking, these trying times have sparked some creativity. I have little doubt it will pay off one day sooner rather than later.

Best,

Jeremy White, editor-in-chief

jwhite@pizzatoday.com