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Pizza on every corner
Why New Hampshire has the most pizza places per capita

10/15/15
By Ryan Lessard news@hippopress.com



New Hampshire has a lot of pizza places. So many, in fact, that it has the distinction of having the most pizza places per capita in the country. 

“We do have one on almost every corner, for godsakes,” Pappy’s Pizza co-owner Kasha St. Jean said.
For more than 30 years, Pappy’s has served downtown Manchester. St. Jean can remember when Pizza by Charles was virtually the only pizza place in the city, back about 60 years ago. Now, Sean Morgan, the general manager of Pizza 911, counts about 70 in Manchester alone.
So why do we have so many? 
 
The numbers
Granite Staters love their pizza, and they particularly like their pizza from mom-and-pop operations. 
According to PMQ Magazine’s 2014 Pizza Power industry report, New Hampshire had 512 pizza places, which is 3.87 pizza joints per 10,000 people in the state. That number has held steady since the 2013 report. It was as high as 4.09 in 2012 (with 539 stores). 
Massachusetts was in second place at the time with 3.77 pizza places per 10,000 people. The Bay State has since declined to sixth place. Iowa held second place the past two years with 3.60 in 2014 and 3.64 in 2013.
New Hampshire, like most of the states with above average pizza places per capita, favors the independents. The state has the sixth highest percentage of independent over chain restaurants with 82 percent, which ticked up slightly over the year before.
Most of the independent-favoring states are located in the Northeast. All of the New England states plus New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Ohio are in the top 10. Those same states are in the top 15 for most pizza places per capita, plus a few northern midwestern states.
 
Why pizza?
The science and the stats point to one incontrovertible truth: Humans in America like to eat pizza, particularly in the north.
So, as New Hampshire Lodging and Restaurant Association President Mike Somers suggests, part of this is probably just cultural.
“We all seem to like pizza. Good, bad or indifferent, pizza is still pretty good,” Somers said.
The cost to open a pizza joint probably helps keep numbers up too.
“If you were to open a full-service restaurant, it would be rather expensive to [put in] tables, chairs, the whole bit. Where, you can probably open a pizza joint for a relatively low point of entry, all things being relative,” Somers said.
Morgan said Pizza 911 opened its second location just four years after opening the first.
“It’s definitely pretty cheap. I actually thought about doing it last year, but I couldn’t pull it together,” Morgan said. “With about $50,000, usually, you can get in [business].” 
Plus, Morgan added, even though pizza places often sell steak and cheese subs and other sandwiches, pizza is the main breadwinner.
“It’s a 10 percent profit from pizza, right there. You can start a restaurant and make something out of it. You can franchise it out if it’s great,” Morgan said.
According to PMQ, pizza sales nationwide amounted to more than $37 billion, which is a little more than half a million per restaurant, on average.
But Morgan is aware pizza places and restaurants have a high failure rate.
Kasha St. Jean at Pappy’s has seen a lot of places come and go over the past three decades.
“It’s a lot of work, and they all think they’re going to be rich from it,” St. Jean said.
Morgan says the recipe for a successful pizza place, especially in a market as saturated as New Hampshire’s, is having something that makes you different, good quality food, low prices and good service.
For St. Jean, there’s another downfall owners often fall into: they change their recipes, sometimes to skimp on ingredients.
“We’ve never changed anything. We’ve always kept it the same and that makes a huge difference,” St. Jean said.
Not only has her family-owned restaurant kept its recipes the same since it opened in the early 1980s, its pizza recipe is actually the same old recipe that Pizza by Charles used back in the 1950s. 





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