About 3 three billion pizzas are sold in America each year — about 350 slices a second. Not counting Italian, Mediterranean, or American restaurants that may have a pizza section on their menus, there are more than 61,000 pizzerias around the U.S., and more than 31,000 of those are chain franchise units.
Pizza chains are some of the biggest and most successful food-service behemoths in the nation. Restaurant Business, a leading trade publication, releases an annual ranking of the nation’s top 250 restaurant chains. The latest edition uses the most recent U.S. sales figures, from 2018, to rank the chains. (The number of units for each chain was computed at the same time, and may have changed since then.) There are seven pizza operations in the Restaurant Business list’s top 100, with the top four all recording U.S. sales of over $2 billion for the year, and in one case more than three times that.
24/7 Tempo delved further into the list, though, to come up with the top 15 pizza chains in America (the farthest down came at No. 153).
These chains are all spread across the country, offering identical or near-identical fare from Maine to California, Washington to Florida, but they all started small and locally. Maybe the same thing will happen to some of these regional pizza chains that really should go national.
Part of the appeal of pizza is that it’s a dish we can, in effect, design ourselves. All the pizza chains, as well as many independents, invite their customers to choose whatever sauces and toppings they wish. A ravenous carnivore can pile six or eight different kinds of meat onto a crust; an abstemious vegan can opt for just tomatoes and bell peppers, with plant-based cheese, please. It’s no wonder that the fourth-most-ordered dish recorded last year by DoorDash, the country’s number one food delivery service, was “make your own pizza.”
Another facet of pizza’s appeal is that it’s a communal dish, something to share with friends and family. It’s the quintessential party food, bringing everyone together around the table, where they can take as little or (assuming that the supply is adequate) as much as they like.
Chain restaurant pizza, of course, isn’t the highest expression of the pizza-maker’s art. It’s not likely to be on the level of what’s served at America’s 25 favorite pizza joints.
All the chains on this list, though, offer dependable, accessible fare with considerable variety of choice. It’s easy to see why they’re so successful.