How much pizza can one college town handle?
Americans devour on average 6,000 slices of pizza in their lifetime. This number does not come as a surprise, considering that in 2014 alone the pizza industry sold over $38 billion worth of pizzas.
As interesting as this statistic is, it may be explained by the fact that East Lansing is a college town, and it’s fair to say college students have a very close relationship with pizza.
A 2014 U.S. Department of Agriculture study found that 13 percent of the population in the college age group eats pizza on any given day.
In the state of Michigan, there are slightly more than two pizza stores for every 10,000 people. East Lansing surpasses that line with 16 pizza restaurants in the city alone. That's more than one pizza restaurant for every square mile in the city of East Lansing.
Given the demand and competition in East Lansing, is it feasible for all these restaurants to survive?
With the closure of GoombaS Pizza in May, some might wonder if the pizza market in East Lansing is saturated. Even though the reported reason for GoombaS’ closure had nothing to do with business, the number of pizza stores in East Lansing has definitely increased in the past three years. But has this impacted the amount of business individual restaurants do?
Jenny Brousseau has been a manager at Blaze Fast-Fire’d Pizza for over a year.
Despite only being open since March, Blaze has already built a decent following among the MSU community.
“You can definitely tell that business has picked up since the new students have come on back,” Brousseau said.
With business doing well, Brousseau is not worried about competition. She believes that their pizza is what makes people want to come back.
“We don’t charge you for toppings, it is not like an unnamed source down the road where they charge you after five toppings on a build your own,” she said.
Demand is also something that doesn’t scare Brousseau.
She believes that demand is present, but not just because East Lansing is a college town. She believes that there is demand for pizza everywhere.
“I really honestly think that no matter where you go, there is always a high demand for pizza,” Brousseau said.
As new pizza restaurants open, one can only think of how East Lansing’s staple pizza shops are reacting.
Bell’s Greek Pizza has been around for 18 years, owner Habib Jarwan said. Jarwan admits that business has been growing despite many other competing pizza places.
Jarwan attributes this growth to one principle: customer service.
“Of course we treat costumers good, we serve good food, we keep our name out there,” Jarwan said. “This is how we do it.”
As someone who has been in the business for almost two decades, Jarwan has his focus set on longevity. He still works on the phones to ensure that customers know his voice and treats his employees like family, he said.
As far as competition, Jarwan is not too concerned.
“No, I don’t worry about the competition, I worry about what I do,” Jarwan said. “I like the competition to succeed too.”
Marty Seshul is the co-manager of the Grand River Avenue location of Little Caesar’s Pizza. He has spent the past five years with this location and has seen changes happening around the city.
Despite new openings, Seshul says business is still going strong.
“It’s definitely increased over the past few years,” he said.
As a store that has been around longer than some others, Little Caesar’s Pizza has added updates to keep with recent times.
“We are putting some new systems in place so it’s kind of a new electronic system here that we have as far as tracking our orders,” Seshul said.
Seshul believes that the demand for pizza has increased in past few years and that their customer loyalty has made a big difference.
When explaining why people choose Little Caesar’s, he said the store offers the lowest price in the area for the best quality.
With college students being the second-highest age category for pizza consumption, it is safe to say the East Lansing’s pizza scene will not disappear anytime soon.