The first time I ate pizza, I knew it had something...

PUBLISHED: 16:44 10 November 2017 | UPDATED: 17:09 10 November 2017

Pizza and Beer. Photo: Getty Images/iStockphoto

Pizza and Beer. Photo: Getty Images/iStockphoto


Strictly and pizza: the perfect combination for investors?

This column is brought to you in association with Almary Green. Photo: Almary GreenThis column is brought to you in association with Almary Green. Photo: Almary Green

I first visited the USA as a student in 1978 to work as a ‘soccer’ coach on a summer camp in upstate New York. The camp fronted onto Schroon Lake, a beautiful, crystal-clear stretch of water where, with the children myself and other ‘counsellors’ were employed to oversee, we spent most of the summer swimming, sailing and water-skiing under cobalt blue skies.

Most counsellors were American, augmented by perhaps half a dozen Brits. We were fed and watered but we didn’t earn much, relying on parental tips.

We only had one day off per week, but that presented a golden opportunity to head north as far as Montreal, or south to New York City, both of which were just about do-able in a day if you were hitching, then a perfectly acceptable mode of travel for poor students. A month into camp, a few of us opted to forego our day off in order to enjoy the benefits of a two-day break the following week when we hired a car and drove up to Niagara Falls. I can still hear the almighty noise of the water, audible a mile or more away, before clapping eyes on one of the most wondrous sights I’ve ever seen.

It was at Niagara that I first ate pizza, a food unheard of in the UK at the time. It was sold in huge individual slices for around 40 cents apiece. Such was the weight of each slice’s topping, you had to hold it with both hands to eat it.

Forty years on and we Brits have fallen in love with ‘Italian cheese on toast’ to such a degree that companies like Dominos and Pizza Hut continue to expand. Indeed, it could be argued that our seemingly insatiable appetite for pizza and the companies that make them reflect, at least in part, our attitudes towards so much else, offering a snapshot of modern-day Britain.

Peter SharkeyPeter Sharkey

Take Dominos, for example, which recently published its third quarter results. Doomsters (and we’ve heard plenty of late) predicted another subdued quarter for the doyen of pizza makers, anticipating quarterly growth of 3.5 percent. Domino’s actually delivered the commercial equivalent of extra chorizo and pepperoni toppings – for free – reporting growth of 8.1 percent.

Then there’s the ‘Strictly’ factor. Well, it appears to influence most things in Britain, doesn’t it?

Dominos’ ‘The Food of Everything’ marketing campaign generated a staggering 200,000 online orders – 140 a minute – on the final Saturday in September as thousands of families shared one of their pizzas while watching the sequinned extravaganza.

As for expansion, Dominos opened another 19 outlets during the latest quarter, including its 1,000th UK store; a further 90 are scheduled over the next year, while one analyst said the company has an ‘encouraging pipeline’ of additional proposed openings for 2019.

Dominos also enjoyed success in Switzerland, Iceland and northern Europe where like-for-like sales grew by 20 percent.

Following publication of its trading update, Dominos shares soared by almost 14 percent, although for every positive headline we Brits almost insist on a negative one. Predictably, there were plenty.

One broker maintained that the figures were boosted by recent adverse weather conditions (which causes people to stay in and order a takeaway), while another firm of analysts pointed out that whereas the growth in sales during the six month period to June 2016 had reached a heady 13 percent, sales growth during the same period this year had slowed to 2.4 percent.

Even Dominos chief executive struck a cautious tone when suggesting that UK consumers continued to focus on ‘value’, even though they always have. We’ve never been a profligate nation. Sure, some of our politicians revel in spending other people’s money (ours), but very few people throw their own away. Nonetheless, the comment served to highlight one of the main attitudinal differences between how business is conducted in the States and how it is here.

I suspect we’ll continue to consume mountains of pizza precisely because it remains a decent value meal option and companies that serve up good value pizza are likely to continue to do well. Dominos should remain pretty close to the top of this list, despite what doomsters say.

The week in numbers4%

Forecast fall in the number of letters sent via Royal Mail by 2019-20. Why? The over-65s have become internet savvy, meaning your Nan is just as likely to send you an email as she is a birthday card containing a £10 note.


Euros Estimated cost to budget airline Ryanair of additional pilot’s pay over the course of the rest of the financial year and next. The airline had to ground 25 planes for five months after new regulations forced it to fit nine months of pilots’ annual leave into a nine-month period.

26.2 m

Number of UK orders handled by online takeaway ordering firm Just Eat over the three month period to September.


The percentage of workers without jobs in the Eurozone according to the EU’s databank, Eurostat. The rate is almost double the UK’s.


Number of affordable homes the housing charity Shelter say were not built between 2015-16 because builders claimed it would make their developments economically unviable.

1.5 m

Estimated sum you will have to pay to buy Sir Paul McCartney’s old Aston Martin from the Beatles era when it goes up for auction. Insurance company AXA found that classic cars remain a top-ranking alternative investment following ten-year sector growth of 192%.

Peter Sharkey read economics at the University of Bristol. He worked as an accountant on three continents and has been a company director and investor for more than 30 years, building and selling three different companies.

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