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Pizza chains in NYC/NJ metro area

Why would anyone go to Domino's, Pizza Hut, Papa John's, etc., if you lived in the NYC/NJ metro area? And why do these chains exist in these areas? There is basically a decent pizzeria every 5 blocks or so in the metro area. Even a so-so pizza from a pizzeria is far better than a "pizza" from a chain. I'm always amazed that these chains do so well in this area.

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  1. As a transplant to the NY/NJ area, I don't think that pizza up here is all that, not saying that pizza down south is, it's not something I grew up eating. I've not tried much in NYC, but nothing in Hoboken impresses me so much that I crave it. I did order Domino's once up here, as my wife was curious since she had the same question as you, and she didn't think it was bad, she liked it better than Bennie Tudino's and 7 Star.
    I like the pie from Torna's, well done so the crust is nice and crunchy.
    I ate a lot of Domino's in college, but not much in the 20 plus years since. I tend to make mine at home more than order or go out for pizza.

    1 Reply
    1. re: roro1831

      "I did order Domino's once up here, as my wife was curious since she had the same question as you, and she didn't think it was bad, she liked it better than Bennie Tudino's and 7 Star."

      Yikes! I guess having been born and raised in JC, I think of a Benny Tudino's-type of pizza as "real" pizza. Domino's always reminds me of something one would make in a Easy Bake oven. lol :)

    2. Same reasons why people go to McDonald's.....convenience and predictable quality,,,,,plus the brainwashing of the younger generations on television. Whether you or I agree or not, there is a large segment of the population that makes food purchasing decisions solely based on the cost of items, i.e., a certain price they are willing to spend for a pizza. If not mistaken, currently, Domino's is running a $5.99 deal for pizza with toppings. The local pizzerias (Mom & Pops) in my town charge $10-12 for something comparable. Recently, I was out of my area and offered to bring a pizza to my nephew's home, as I had planned to stop by for a visit. I called the local favorite for a large plain cheese pie.....when I arrived to pick it up, it was just under $14. Now, I know flour was high, but the prices have stabilized, and there is no reason for the pizza be quite so high here in Northern New Jersey.....especially for take-out. In my town, there's a place that sells two pies for just a couple of dollars over the $14, and they have been doing so for more than a couple of decades....in fact, their pizzas are larger and there is no loss of cheese on each pie. If they can do two for $18, why does one cost $14? Both places have been around for decades in the same location, so presuambly their overhead is consistent over the years.

      On the subject of toppings, M & P's are very inconsistent in serving size and placement of the toppings. I know many times I feel I have been shortchanged in this subject, evidence by only a mere few pieces on each slice of pie. Places such as Domino's and Pizza Hut have strict standards as to the amount of toppings placed on every order and they also have strict standards as to the placement and appearance of each item on the pizzas as well.....While this does not affect the taste in most cases.....if measuring the consistency of the product, this is where the M & P's fall short.

      Last, the chains market their promotions so you can order pies customized for individual tastes. Think of three pizzas, $5 each with toppings. Makes for a lot less fights at the table if you have kids.

      12 Replies
      1. re: fourunder

        Nice observations; thanks fourunder.

        I'll still take the imperfections of a pizzeria pizza over a chain pizza any day. I guess a lot of it has to do with what you ate growing up.

        1. re: ttoommyy

          Jersey native living in nyc: I totally agree with OP. I haven't had chain pizza in ages. When we were litte, we got delivery from the local mom and pop places, except for the few times me or my older brother got sedced by some promotion from the chain gang.

          http://underemployedinnyc.blogspot.com/

        2. re: fourunder

          Our local grocery store's prepared food department makes made to order pizzas and on Friday nights you can get a large cheese pizza and 4 sodas for $10. And when I say made to order, I mean they actually pull out a ball of dough and start making the pizza when you order it. None of the standard pizza places around here do that. They all have stacks of pies sitting around for who knows how long and then they just throw it in to the oven to heat it up once it's ordered.

          My husband and I have been getting that $10 pizza pretty much every Friday night for over 10 years. In fact, I think it was $7 when we first started getting it. I'm sure we could go to one of the hyped pizza places around here, but I honestly don't think it will really be that much better, once you factor in the wait time (some places have 2-hour waits on Friday nights) and the total expense.

          I think people sometimes romanticize these well-known pizza places (not chains, but the old school pizza places that everybody seems to flock to) because they feel like they have to like them.

          1. re: punkin712

            There certainly is an element of keeping up with the Jones' when it comes to dining and food purchases. the only thing I care about is if I enjoy the food....or the establishment.

            1. re: punkin712

              "None of the standard pizza places around here do that. They all have stacks of pies sitting around for who knows how long and then they just throw it in to the oven to heat it up once it's ordered."

              What do you mean by "standard pizza places"? I've never seen the practice you note at any independent pizzeria in NY/NJ. Is it a chain thing?

              As to the OP, I wholeheartedly agree. I'll pay more and eat less so long as I get to eat better. I don't care so much for predictable quality when it means predictably mediocre. Hence, I avoid all chains. Perhaps I have a romanticized notion of the value of an owner or stakeholder in the kitchen, but there is nothing I like better in any restaurant - pizza places, in particular.

              Then again, what do I know, I'm the guy who can't not bet "green" when they spin the wheel.

              1. re: MGZ

                Going to AC today; will bet green in you honor when i'm riding the wheel tonight. :)

                I think @punkin712 was referring to the numerous places you see in NYC that have all kinds of pizzas in a showcase, for want of a better word, and throw the slices in the oven when you order. We even have a couple of those places here in Hoboken.

                1. re: ttoommyy

                  Slice pizza sure. I guess I read it wrong as I thought the reference was to whole pies.

                  Good luck in AC. You gotta love the zeros!

                2. re: MGZ

                  I meant not the DeLorenzo's or Nomad types of places. Just a regular independent pizza place.

                  There are at least 10 independent pizzerias within a 3-mile radius of my house and every single one has pre-made pies in rolling racks ready to throw in the oven when someone places an order. I've never seen anyone at any of them make a pizza from the ball of dough stage. I'm sure they started out that way at some point, but having them sitting around for hours on a pan in a rolling rack doesn't do much for them.

                  It's also quite rare to have an owner or stakeholder in the kitchen. They might be out front or visible to the customer in some other way, but they most likely are not the people making your food.

                  1. re: punkin712

                    There are nine or ten places* that make pizza in my little Jersey Shore town. Other than the Dominos and one bar that makes pies and is owned by a small group of partners, there is a stakeholder who spends time in the kitchen. Most have personally made me pizzas. I cannot speak for the Dominos, as I don't know their practices, but every one of the other places makes pies to order from balls of dough they made that morning. A premade pizza is unheard of around here.

                    *There used to be a dozen, but the economy and Sandy changed the landscape.

                    1. re: punkin712

                      Punkin,
                      I don't know where you live, but in my area of South central Connecticut, the only independent pizza places that don't punch out a new ball of dough for each pizza, are the Greek owned (or Greek Style) pizza places who use a electric sheeter to roll out the dough ball, stretch the dough in an oiled pan, sauce and place the sauced dough in the pan in the cooler to await dressing and baking.
                      The traditional Italian style pizza places roll out each pie by hand, when ordered, dress and bake.

                      And in family owned single location pizza reastaurants it is very common for a family member to be working in the kitchen and/or manning the oven. You may see a family member in the dining room, while another is in the back making dough or sauce or manning the oven.

                      I worked in a pizza restaurant while in college years ago and the owner's wife ran the dining room, while he ran the kitchen. 40+ years later and a grandson is making the dough and pizza and his wife is at the cash register.
                      I am a regular at Sally's on Wooster Street in New Haven, until his death Sal Consiglio worked the kitchen everyday, His widow Flo continued to command the kitchen until she passed away, not that long ago. Now the kitchen is run by other family members. This is not to say that there are not non-family employees as well. At the original Pepe's also on Wooster Street, there are third generation family members running the kitchen. When it's got your family name on it, you are not going to let your reputaion be risked by having only non-family members in the kitchen.

                      1. re: bagelman01

                        "The traditional Italian style pizza places roll out each pie by hand, when ordered, dress and bake."

                        If only it was that way around here.

                        The pizza places are family owned (Italian and Italian-American families), but it almost seems like a weird kind of collusion among these establishments that they all started making the pies in advance and stashing them in rolling racks near the pizza ovens. If someone orders toppings, they just throw them on before it goes in the oven. I stopped going to any of them as soon as this practice became the norm.

                        it's also rare to see any family members, or even anyone of Italian ancestry, in the kitchen.

              2. Man you are correct! Growing up in Brooklyn during the 1970's it didn't matter where you went, it was all that good but a few have stood out over the years, Tortono's in Coney Island, Goodfella's in Bay Ridge and Staten Island, Lombardi's in Harlem, Patsy's in Williamsburg, Spumoni Gardens in Bensonhurst and my neighborhood guy Frank's in Brooklyn. The thing you love about all these wonderful places is that it was fresh and the life blood of the pizzamen not a part time job to earn some extra cash. Fresh ingredients, care and Italians were what made these places the greatest pizza in the world! www.brickovensforsale.com

                 
                1. It was explained to me, that why they are popular is because they will deliver to unsavory (trying to be nice) areas.

                  1. Same reason Famous Dave's does well in KC. I don't know what that reason is however.

                    1. There is one state in the US without a Red Lobster: Maine. (My Mainer friends speak with pride of driving the chain out.)

                      I wish the same were true of pizza in Brooklyn.

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: hambone

                        Nice job, Maine! Similar to the no Starbucks in Italy situation.

                      2. I don't live in NY/NJ, but in a smaller town with four very respectable mom & pop pizza joints. In my opinion all 4 make pizza far above and beyond the chains that also exist here (Dominos, Pizza Hut, Papa John's, Casey's, Papa Murphy's and Little Ceasars). Why do we need chains when we have these excellent alternatives that use fabulous ingredients and offer so much variety? Sometimes it is convenience. Only one of the independents offers delivery. If you've had friends over for a few drinks, then suddenly decide you want pizza, much easier to have it delivered than take a taxi. Sometimes it is price. My absolute favorite independent isn't even close to the price point of the chains. It is fabulous pizza, fresh made, great ingredients, wonderful ambiance at the place which requires reservations, but a large is easily $30 with minimal toppings. Have picky eaters? I can get two larges with any toppings/specialty for $20 at the chain. Sometimes it is hours. My two favorite independents have weird hours. One is only open for lunch and dinner Thursdays and Fridays and dinners on Saturday. The other is very similar with a few more lunch days. If I want a pizza on a Monday night, that won't happen. Even on the nights they serve pizza, if I want pizza after 10 p.m. it will have to be a chain. All four independents are far and away better than the chains, but for the above reasons I may find myself choosing the chain. One independent has priced itself to the point where it is very much a "night out treat" dinner by the time drinks are involved.

                        1. The answer to this question is actually the same as my reputation in college;

                          Cheap and Easy, nuff said

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: jrvedivici

                            "The answer to this question is actually the same as my reputation in college;

                            Cheap and Easy, nuff said"

                            But so lacking in quality. ;)

                          2. Why do they succede? Advertising mainly.

                            And perhaps they get a bigger share of out of towners who have lower standards that a local would.