Diners throughout the world enjoy pizza.
Americans alone consume more than three billion pizzas a year by one estimate, averaging a little under 30 million slices each day.
With the wide variety of locally inspired toppings available and ever-increasing consumer interest, pizza consumption has mushroomed throughout the world.
To meet growing demand, pizzerias and restaurants have paid higher prices to get the supplies necessary to create their signature pies.
As their costs have grown, they have passed them along to the rest of us.
Here are 10 reasons that pizzas are so expensive.
Why Is Pizza So Expensive? (Top 10 Reasons)
1. Cheese Quality
Most pizzas have cheese as a key ingredient.
With more than a thousand cheeses available, there are many options to place on a pie.
The best pizzas use higher-quality cheeses rather than their cheaper alternatives.
Common cheeses placed atop a pie include mozzarella, provolone, and gouda.
Specialty pizzas may also have goat cheese, cheddar cheese, or nacho cheese sauce.
Depending on the other toppings added to a pizza, cheese may represent up to 40% of the cost of raw ingredients on a pie.
To save money, some pizza makers search for lower-cost alternatives, pre-shredded cheese products made in distant factories that have preservatives, allowing for longer shelf life.
Since 2020, cheese costs have increased across the board.
Even cheaper brands have experienced price increases as production slowdowns and supply chain concerns have led to scarcity in some markets.
Another cheese usually added to an already-baked pie has also become more expensive.
Authentic Parmesan cheese, a popular grated topping, has increased in price due to the costs and time involved in production.
True Parmesan requires at least one year to age.
Many restaurants offer cheaper alternatives to Parmesan.
Some restaurants have tried to absorb these price increases, but that has become increasingly difficult for them to do.
2. Quality Of Toppings
Most people want more than cheese and sauce on top of their pies.
As businesses closed in early 2020 to respond to the coronavirus pandemic, traditional business practices changed.
Restaurants closed their dining rooms out of concern for safety and in response to local mandates.
Factories that provide many of the ingredients used in commercial kitchens also scaled back production.
These interruptions have forever changed the restaurant industry, even after a better understanding of coronavirus and enhanced safety measures allowed businesses to reopen.
Many buffets and high-touch restaurants have closed or reopened only on a limited basis.
Some of these closures are the result of health concerns, but many are also due to shortages in necessary ingredients.
Pizza restaurants, an always-popular take-out option, have suffered profoundly from the difficulty of getting toppings to place on their pies.
The price increases pizzerias pay to wholesalers and distributors have been passed along to their customers.
Certain ingredients have experienced unusually high price increases.
Pepperoni and other meats have been the most expensive culprits due to production slowdowns at plants beginning in 2020.
In some cases, once-reliable vendors have had difficulty securing high-quality pepperoni, sausage, and other meat selections that pizzerias and their customers have come to expect.
As pizza makers scramble to find other suppliers, they have paid an additional 5% to 50%—and sometimes more than that—for the toppings that seemed abundant a few years ago.
Specialty toppings popular in certain areas carry an even higher cost for those who like curried chicken, beer-battered fried calamari, or sriracha-infused shrimp on their pizzas.
Even non-meat toppings—such as mushrooms, onions, black olives, and green peppers—have increased in price at an inflationary pace.
Some non-pizza restaurants have found alternatives to help combat the increase in prices.
When potatoes are cheap, throwing more fast-food fries on the plate offers a less expensive yet very filling alternative.
Aside from bread sticks and marinara sauce, pizza joints do not offer many cheap side dishes for low-budget customers.
Those pizza places that offer wings, for example, have had to face similar hefty price increases to offer those menu options.
Pizza chain prices have anticipated an 8%–10% jump in food costs for 2022, though inflation factors may revise those numbers.
Despite these increased costs, pizzas remain profitable for well-managed pizzerias.
A pie with lots of meat that costs $1.90 to make may sell for over $14, a handsome markup of more than 630%, though labor and other costs cut into that margin.
3. Building The Foundation
The cheese and ingredients need to rest on a foundation to make their tasty mixture a pizza rather than some other dish.
Along with the increasing cost of cheese, tomatoes for sauce, and the ingredients customers love, the wheat that is the basis for the pizza dough has also hit excessively high prices.
Consumers should expect to dish out more bread from their wallets in order to get a pizza, whether they prefer a thin crust or a chewy, deep-dish alternative.
A good dough takes time to prepare.
A machine or novice pizza maker cannot compete with a dough-rolling expert who gets each flour-based foundation to a consistent texture.
The proof is in the proofing.
An expert pizza maker knows the difference between dough that has proofed and is ready for toppings and the oven and dough that has not had the proper time to ferment or has spent too much time waiting for its moment in the heat.
Having an expert baker who understands these doughy intricacies costs the shop owner money, but that is a wise investment to prevent a novice baker from tearing the crust and delaying the pie’s production.
Olive oil often becomes part of the dough-making process.
As olive oil prices have increased, this cost must also be absorbed by the pizzeria or passed along to the consumer.
It is difficult to cut corners on a good dough foundation for a pizza.
Attempting to do so leaves the customer with a less-than-spectacular pie.
4. Type Of Pizza And Its Source
Pizzas become more expensive based upon the location where a person buys the pie and the type of pie selected.
The most expensive pizzas are usually found at high-end restaurants in high-rent urban districts, created and baked by a highly-regarded pizzaiolo.
Pricy pies rise and bake in wood-fired ovens rather than along conveyor belt cooking machines.
Locally-owned pizzerias may cost more than franchises, but they add a unique touch to every pizza they bake.
National chains usually deliver less ambiance than their stand-alone pizzeria counterparts, but they try to offer a consistent taste from Idaho to Massachusetts.
Frozen pies from discount grocers tend to cost less than take-and-bake pizzas from the same location.
Mass-produced pizzas made at large factories often have cheaper ingredients that last a long time in the freezer but leave fewer lasting memories of gastronomic fulfillment.
Those with the inclination can also save money by making pizza from scratch, using the pre-packaged dough available at many grocers.
Even these budget-friendly alternatives have experienced increasing prices due to inflation and supply chain issues.
An important factor in determining how expensive a pizza will be is the array of ingredients the customer selects.
A simple cheese or pepperoni pizza from a supermarket’s frozen foods section offers an economical alternative.
Those with a sense of adventure and a love of truffles or lobster will pay a much higher price.
5. Location Where Purchased
Among pizzerias, the location they occupy and the proximity of their neighbors influence their menu prices.
A pizza restaurant close to other pizza places tends to lower prices to stay in competition.
This is generally true even for more exclusive venues.
Many Italian restaurants that offer a full menu of pasta, seafood, steak, and meat dishes include pizzas as part of their menu.
These Italian eateries recognize that many diners who enjoy Italian food occasionally crave a take-out pie rather than a sit-down antipasto salad, linguine with shrimp scampi, and spumoni for dessert.
Small-town and neighborhood-based pizza restaurants often have loyal patrons.
Similar to debates over the best place to get a Philly cheesesteak, neighbors will engage in spirited debates over which pizzeria serves the best pie.
Despite the increasing price to buy pizza today, cost-conscious consumers regularly scour the web and their coupon collections for deals and specials.
They may purchase a whole pizza rather than a couple of slices, knowing the per-piece price is better and that a cold pizza in the morning or a reheated slice in the microwave or toaster oven tastes better when it keeps more money in their pocket.
The cheapest location to eat a pizza is usually at home, with a store-bought pie you just baked in your oven.
6. Transportation Costs
Many suppliers ship products to wholesalers and restaurants on large trucks that use diesel fuel.
The soaring cost of diesel has had an impact on food prices for grocers, restaurants, and pizzerias.
Petroleum products play a role in many stages of the food production process, from the cost of utilities to create the raw materials and the expense of shipping them to the restaurant to the financial costs to purchase these ingredients, cook them into pizzas, and have them ready for purchase.
The shipping costs hit the pizza shop proprietor in many ways long before the delivery truck arrives.
When regular sources for their ingredients fail to deliver, pizzeria operators cannot simply put pepperoni and cheese on the “86 board” and expect to stay in business.
They must dispatch one of their dishwashers or junior crew members to the nearest grocery store and pay for higher-priced replacements that may have a different quality than customers expect.
Fuel prices plummeted during the early months of the pandemic, and at the same time, many businesses found themselves forced to close temporarily.
Since that time, supply-and-demand pressures have allowed the cost of fuel to soar into overdrive.
Beyond the transportation costs necessary to get supplies into the restaurant, there are also the costs incurred by delivery drivers who take the finished product to a satisfied customer’s front door.
This will be addressed now.
7. Delivery Costs
Low-cost pizza delivery has been a tradition for decades.
For many years, many young adults who loved the new freedom they had behind the steering wheel chose to deliver pizzas when they had their first restaurant job.
In recent years, the average age of pizza delivery drivers has grown much older.
Today, the average driver has surpassed 48 years of age.
These drivers offered reliable service, even when other restaurants shut down and dining options were limited.
Recent spikes in gas prices and continued interest in pies delivered to homes have placed new pressures on the wallets of pizzeria owners and their drivers.
Delivery costs have increased, and some pizza businesses have even offered monetary incentives to customers who choose pick-up rather than delivery.
Some pizza companies have thought seriously about pizza delivery drones.
Perhaps that would help, assuming that the supply chain disruptions and inflation did not make drones economically unfeasible.
8. Apps And Breaks In The Supply Chain
People often praise technology for making processes easier and things cheaper.
One might think that online delivery apps would revolutionize the pizza industry and stuff the pockets of pizza shop owners.
After all, digital platforms have encouraged customers to spend more as they submit online orders that save workers from answering phones and populate web pages with valuable consumer data that provides a marketing bonanza.
Delivery apps have complicated the situation, however.
Although pizza delivery has existed since the first pie was placed inside the first jalopy, new companies have entered the game by promising to redefine food delivery from restaurants to residences across America.
Similar to the burger joint down the street, pizza companies joined the delivery app craze to stay competitive.
By doing this, pizzerias had to redefine their business models and provide a commission to the companies whose drivers work for the app.
Delivery apps and the buckets of money they bring to corporate investors who own them come at a high price for the restaurant operators who pay these commissions and the customers who have to pay higher prices for their supposed convenience.
Similar to disruptions in food supplies and higher food prices, the breakdowns caused by the contracts binding restaurants and delivery app companies are part of a larger imbalance in the supply chain.
New ingredients on the pizza landscape have raised prices much more than the consumer could have budgeted for.
Take the cost of your favorite pie baked by the pizza place you love the best.
Add one heaping dose of unfilled supply orders and ever-increasing costs to have the ingredients reach the restaurant.
Turn the temperature up at a time when a hot pizza has a sizzling high demand.
Raise the price of the gas that fills the trucks, heats the ovens, and gets the delivery person to the house with a warm pie in hand.
Deduct a substantial commission from the restaurant owner’s pocket to make up for the delivery that the app promised, even as this proprietor had staff also available to make the deliveries.
The delivery app becomes the latest defective link in an already frustrating supply chain.
9. Rent And Building Costs
In years past, large restaurants attracted a steady clientele.
A sit-down dinner at a pizzeria or Italian restaurant was a meal to remember.
Some restaurant owners saw the value of installing pizza buffets for lunch or dinner as a way to allow customers to sample different slices.
The dining landscape began to change long before the coronavirus closed many dine-in restaurants in 2020.
In 2019, one large national chain reported that 90% of its customers preferred take-out over dine-in, a trend illustrated when many former restaurants began transforming some or all of their dining areas into expanded kitchens.
The coronavirus accelerated a trend that had already started.
Many restaurants with large dining spaces have difficulty filling them with customers.
This underutilized square footage continues to cost them money on their leases, as well as the utilities and upkeep expenses to maintain the space.
To make up for these costs, many owners have had to raise the prices of the pizzas they sell.
If this trend continues, the price of pizzas will continue to escalate and the traditional meal at a pizza parlor will become a thing of the past.
10. Labor Costs
As you labor through digesting these pricey pizza facts, you must remember that the tastiest pizza needs more than fine ingredients and a great facility to bake them.
The skills of the cooks and bakers at the restaurant bring everything together in a most delicious way.
Labor market shortages have taken a profound toll on many pizzerias, from stand-alone establishments to national franchises.
While that pizza may look glamorous on the plate of a person with a growling belly, there is nothing glamorous about working in a hot restaurant kitchen.
Pizza makers and bakers do not command the salary or prestige of a sous-chef.
They endure hours of repetitive work, swirling sauce and blanketing cheese atop the dough, then carefully rotating the pies in the oven so they can bake to the perfect consistency.
They have watched their wages stagnate while their bosses demand longer hours to make up for the vacancies that have not been filled.
Most pizza establishments have raised prices, making their signature dish more expensive for their customers.
To deal with staffing challenges, many also have shortened hours, tightened their menus, and reduced promotions.
These changes have required customers to pay more for their favorite pizza or to go elsewhere when their preferred restaurant has closed on certain days after adjusting its hours.
The days of teenagers and college students flocking to pizzerias for their first job and newfound pocket change have gone the way of the pizza buffet.
The gap between the supply of pizza workers willing to work in the present job market and the demand for staff to fill the positions remains wide and untenable.
Pizzas will remain expensive for the foreseeable future.
Until more people apply for restaurant jobs that generally require long hours for poor pay and benefits, this situation will persist.