May 15, 2014 |

Throwback Thursday: The supersize rage in October 1999

By Mandy Wolf Detwiler

oct99Does size matter? We pondered that question in our October 1999 issue.

Around that time, fast-food chains attempted to capture their markets by increasing portion sizes. Jumbo fries, 32-ounce sodas, larger sandwiches … the move attempted to appeal to customers’ awareness of value for their money.

How did this affect the pizza industry? Pizza chains began capitalizing on the trend, too, with Pizza Hut leading the charge with its manhole-cover-sized Big New Yorker. At the time, restaurant consulting firm Technomic reported that super-sized meals were second in sales only to bundled value meals. Consumers, it seemed, were become increasingly conscious of where their money was going  –– and what it got them in return. While a NRA survey found that adults 45 and older didn’t necessarily agree that bigger was better, younger consumers liked big portions.

In the article, we interviewed industry consultant Dave Ostrander, who at the time was also the owner of a Michigan-based pizzeria. Dave advised that consumers in 1999 were into super-sizing, but if operators didn’t have a good handle on portion control, going big wasn’t going to get the operator anywhere. That’s a tenet he still advises while speaking at International Pizza Expo every year. And not just eyeballing a handful of toppings –– if you’re not weighing and measuring with portioned cups and scales, you might as well be pouring money down the sink.

McDonald’s began phasing out super-sizing by March 2004, citing slow sales and growing consumer interest in healthier lifestyles –– a concern the chain still battles today.

Today, we still see plenty of super-sized pizzas on menus, but they’re more novelty items. Pizzerias who advertise these big pies (think 20 inches or bigger) usually menu them as “family-sized” under the guise that it takes just one to feed a family. And some pizzerias go even larger and make those advertising tools by creating eating challenges for guts and glory. (Check out our story on how pizzerias are cashing in on this fun trend.)

Do you menu a big pizza? We want to hear about it. Drop me a line at We’re hoping big IS better for your sales.