Feb 9, 2024 - Business

New career on the rise: Pizza influencer

Illustration of a ring light shining on a pizza with pepperoni slices forming a smiley face.

Illustration: Shoshana Gordon/Axios

It's National Pizza Day! Time to glimpse inside the growing world of pizza influencers, who have huge followings and can make or break your local slice joint.

Why it matters: Pizza is big business, and this is the week that more pizza is sold in the U.S. than any other week — in part because of the Super Bowl and Valentine's Day.

Driving the news: The world of online pizza creators and influencers is flourishing, due to the food's popularity (so convenient!) and photogenic possibilities (drippy cheese pulls!).

  • There are now published lists of the top pizza influencers, who include Monica Wojnilo of Boston (a.k.a. @PizzaBlonde, with 33,000 followers on Instagram), celebrity pizza chef Tony Gemignani (@capopizza, 107,000) and Chicago pizza tour operator Steve Dolinsky (@pizzacityusa, 38,000).

Where it stands: Pizza influencing — promoting pizzas and pizza-making on social platforms and blogs — has become an actual career path.

  • Slice, an online ordering platform, recently advertised a job opening for a "pizza influencer" at a salary of up to $110,000 a year (plus a weekly pizza stipend).
  • Dave Portnoy — founder of the sports and entertainment platform Barstool Sports — has a separate pizza-reviewing operation (on YouTube and TikTok, with 1.2 million subscribers and 3.4 million followers, respectively).
  • One magazine dubbed Portnoy — who has battled accusations of sexual misconduct — "the controversial pizza influencer who can destroy a restaurant with a single review."

The intrigue: My partner's son, Aydan Fabian — who uses his first and middle name professionally — is a pizza influencer with a whopping 358,000 followers for his Instagram channel, @pizzofart. (That's Pizz-of-Art — a bit of a naughty joke.)

  • "There's a whole community of us, and we all know each other and comment on each other's stuff," says Aydan, who has done collabs with Eamonn Murphy (@themayorofpizza, 47,000 followers).
A man hoists a slice of pizza, standing in front of a table with the rest of the pie.
Aydan Fabian, an Instagram pizza influencer who goes by the name Pizzofart, in his home kitchen in Los Angeles. Photo: Courtesy of Aydan Fabian

🍕Fun fact: Aydan's signature contribution to the world of pizza is the "daddy slice" — a whole pie cut into a single oversized slice, which he tends to hoist and sample at the end of his videos.

The "daddy slice" of pizza -- a whole pie cut into a single triangular slice.
The "daddy slice." Photo: Courtesy of Aydan Fabian

Zoom in: Since Aydan started his Instagram channel in April of 2022, he has racked up millions of views and comments on his videos, which show him making pizza from scratch in his small kitchen in Los Angeles.

  • He's sponsored by companies that make pizza cutters, pizza "peels" (metal paddles for transferring pies to the oven) and baking equipment — and gets free product from a flour company and other ingredient makers.
  • His subscription channel, which offers pizza-making tutorials and recipes, has drawn a fast-growing number of paying viewers, including one household-name actress.
  • "There's a couple of companies that want to send me pizza ovens, but I had to turn them down because I can't have wood, fire or gas at my apartment," says Aydan (who refers to himself as a "pizzatarian").

What they're saying: The secret to being a successful pizza influencer is "making the food look as appealing as possible," Aydan says.

  • That includes good lighting "and cutting the video with a pacing that has the right flow, to keep someone's attention."
  • The quality of the pizza is important too — the bubbles on the crust, the char marks on the bottom.
  • "If I make a mediocre pizza, it doesn't really matter how well I light it," he says. "It's just not going to perform the same as one that just jumps off the screen like, 'Wow, that's the best pizza I've ever seen.'"

Zoom out: On National Pizza Day, national pizza chains run all kinds of discounts and promotions — the better to sell more pies during peak "pizza week."

  • "Papa Johns actually considers National Pizza Day, the Super Bowl and Valentine's Day as the 'trifecta,'" a chain spokeswoman tells Axios.
  • From Feb. 7-14, Papa Johns sells a heart-shaped pizza, which comes unsliced.
  • Pizza Hut and California Pizza Kitchen are among the chains offering National Pizza Day specials.
A heart-shaped pizza in a pizza box surrounded by the trappings of a candlelight dinner.
Breath freshener optional: Papa Johns heart-shaped pizza for Valentine's Day. Photo: Courtesy of Papa Johns

Details: Estimates of how much pizza the average American consumes a year vary widely — one poll by Amazon Fresh came in at about 180 slices a year —  but there is unanimous agreement that the most popular topping is pepperoni.

  • That's followed by sausage, mushroom, extra cheese and — breaking into the top five for the first time in 2024 — bacon, according to Pizza Today, a trade publication.

What's next: Pizza influencers will converge on Las Vegas next month for the International Pizza Expo, the industry's largest event.

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