Mar 10, 2021 - News

How the pandemic changed Des Moines' gas station pizza habit

Illustration of a car's gas guage with a slice of pizza instead of a needle.

Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

We don't hesitate to tell out-of-state visitors they *must* try our gas station pizza.

  • But the pandemic changed how even locals are eating this Midwest delicacy.

Driving the news: Casey’s reported single slice pizza sales were down the last three months in comparison to 2019 in a quarterly call to investors Tuesday.

Yes, but: Whole pizza sales went up by double digits.

State of play: The shift is symbolic of how COVID-19 upended our commute and dining habits.

  • Foot traffic is still down at Casey's stores in comparison to 2019.
  • Prepared food and fountain drink sales dropped 5% November-January of this year in comparison to last year.

A major factor is people working from home, said Frank Beard, retail speaker and a host of a podcast about convenience stores.

  • Fewer people stopping for gas and coffee before work means lower single slice pizza sales.

But when it comes to whole pies, Iowans are willing to drive or order in from a nearby Casey's.

  • In the last quarter, whole pie sales went up 17% in comparison to last year, as Casey’s informed its investors during their quarterly call Tuesday.

This is all to say — yes, COVID-19 bled into all parts of our lives and dining habits.

  • Even our breakfast pizza.

What's next: Casey's is going all-in with delivery and digital sales to continue its whole pizza sales momentum.

  • 700 stores now offer DoorDash delivery and they're launching a pilot program with UberEats starting this summer.
  • The company will continue to incentivize pizza purchases through its digital rewards program.

Darren Rebelez, CEO of Casey's, said they also hope to someday attract pizza slice customers again.

  • "We think that will start to come around, particularly as the vaccine becomes more widely distributed and if people return to a more normal routine," Rebelez said during the call.

This story first appeared in the Axios Des Moines newsletter, designed to help readers get smarter, faster on the most consequential news unfolding in their own backyard.


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