Sales from takeaway and delivery channels are not making up for the slump in footfall in restaurants
Globally, pizza has been the food of the pandemic, as home-stuck consumers turned to the savoury dish of Italian origin, the comfort food of choice in much of the Western world.
So much that sales from the takeaway and delivery channels are making up for the slump in footfall in restaurants as people cut back on non-essential trips out of their homes to flatten the curve on coronavirus.
But over in Bangladesh, which was just entering into the golden age of pizza before the pandemic hit -- with new establishments popping up every other day focusing on takeaways and delivery given the big profit margins to be had -- sales growth has largely been cold.
“Pizza is an expensive item and is mostly enjoyed by the well-off,” said Jayed Bin Amin, operation manager of Pizza Guy, which has four outposts in Dhaka.
Due to health and safety concerns, people are just not coming to the restaurant.
University students are the biggest consumers of the dish, which in its basic form is a flatbread topped with tomato and cheese and baked in an oven. Given that all educations institutions have been shut since March 17, that demographic is gone.
“They are no longer hanging out with friends in pizza places,” said Amin, also a partner of Pizza Guy, which started out in 2012 as a small home-based pizzeria.
After students, families were the next biggest group and they too are staying away for fearing of contracting the novel virus, which has claimed 6,524 lives in Bangladesh until Thursday.
As a result, Pizza Guy’s sales came down to 50 per cent of what it was before coronavirus arrived, badly bruising the business of restaurants.
Dine-in customers are very few but takeaways and delivery have seen an uptick, which is helping Pizza Guy to survive the pandemic.
Pizza Hut, whose entry to Bangladesh in 2003 introduced the dish on a mass scale, saw its sales crash as much as 40 per cent.
“We have witnessed a 70 per cent decline in dine-in sales,” said Momen Uddin Ahmed, a senior manager of Transcom Foods, which owns the Pizza Hut franchise in Bangladesh.
With the view to drawing in customers following the withdrawal of movement control order on May 30, Transcom Foods has taken all kinds of measures to ensure health and safety in its five restaurants in Dhaka, one in Chittagong and one in Sylhet, such as repositioning of seating arrangements to ensure social distancing, providing hand sanitisers and checking the temperature at the entry point.
And yet, customers are largely staying away from the Pizza Hut eateries.
On the other hand, its takeaway and delivery business saw an increase in orders by 50 to 60 per cent.
Pizza Hut has seven delivery outposts in Dhaka and one in Cox’s Bazar.
For delivery, Pizza Hut has put in place contactless delivery and digital payment.
“This helped us to survive the pandemic,” Ahmed said, adding that Pizza Hut is incurring operational losses for want of dine-in customers.
Domino’s Pizza, the world’s largest pizza company by sales, is going through a similar phase.
“The pandemic has indeed shifted consumer behaviour and the same is getting reflected in businesses across. For instance, Bangladeshi consumers loved to go out and have a dine-in experience earlier. However, during the pandemic we have seen a decline in dine-in,” said Jubilant FoodWorks, the master franchise holder of Domino’s Pizza in India, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Nepal.
Jubilant FoodWorks entered into a joint venture with Golden Harvest to bring the Domino’s Pizza brand to Bangladesh. The first Domino's Pizza restaurant opened its doors to customers in March last year and in the first week alone witnessed a record number of orders. The order volume was the highest for the brand across its network in 85 countries.
Since then, Domino’s Pizza has gone on to open three more dine-in facilities in Dhaka.
“Sales were definitely impacted due to the lockdown, but business is improving now.”
Domino’s Pizza, which prides itself on its 30-minute delivery to consumers’ doorsteps and was the first to introduce “zero contact delivery” in the middle of March, saw a significant increase in orders from that segment during the pandemic.