People have needed comfort since the start of global pandemic, and one way they have been receiving it is through pizza.
Several local restaurants have seen a dramatic increase in pizza sales through takeout and home delivery since the COVID-19 crisis began last spring.
Patrick DePula, owner of Salvatore’s Tomato Pies in Monona, Sun Prairie and downtown Madison, said pizza has been available at banquets and parties for generations, and people could be using it now to ease the tensions caused by the virus.
“Pizza is always there for us when we have special occasions and it’s very comforting,” he said. “In our case, we specialize in farm to table ingredients that come from local farmers and it’s healthy.”
DePula added that online orders have started to outweigh telephone orders, and this has led to a modification in how his employees perform their duties since his restaurants are limited to only 25% capacity.
“We have more delivery drivers and fewer servers,” he said. “There’s probably been a net increase in employees since the global pandemic began.”
Takeout pizza orders have also been on the upswing at bbJack’s, which has two locations in Cottage Grove and DeForest. The Cottage Grove location, which opened for business in Aug. 2019, has been generating revenue through sales of frozen pizzas and take and bake orders.
“We had to reinvent how we operate. So, we make pizzas on site, pack them and then freeze them,” manager Tyler Albers said.
He added that some days, takeout and home delivery pizza orders make up half their business. Still, bbJack’s is a relatively new operation and getting the word out has been difficult.
“It’s still a struggling situation for restaurants everywhere. It’s tough and hard to get in front of people to make them aware,” Albers said. “We are part of the community and we want to be there for it.”
Meanwhile, Rossi’s Pizza in Monona, which first opened its doors in 1975, has also seen more people place takeout orders. Owner Ross Parisi Jr. said having a video arcade in his store also has its advantages.
“They’ll come in early, play a couple of games, pick up their pizza and leave,” he said. “There is something to do here. In my case, I have a one-two punch. It keeps people in here longer even though they are getting a to-go order for takeout. We have a big consistent following of people and I think they want to get out of the house and pick it up and see the old place.”
Parisi said takeout orders have risen 30% since the start of the pandemic and home deliveries have jumped 10-15%.
National pizza chains have also seen the cash register ring more often since COVID-19. Domino’s reported a 16% increase in the second quarter of 2020, while Papa John’s business has gone up 28%.