The Great Pizza Injustice: Measuring What’s Meaningful
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The Great Pizza Injustice: Measuring What’s Meaningful

October 27, 2015

Connor Van Dyke

The way we measure pizza is all wrong.

As a quantitative researcher, it’s my job not only to collect and analyze data, but also to make it easy for our audience to interpret the information that Kelton ultimately presents. An often overlooked, yet simple way to make the final audience’s job easier, is to focus on what’s meaningful. In a brand health tracker, this could mean selecting a KPI that correlates with sales. But there’s one area that I’ve noticed our society burdens the final audience with unnecessary calculations to get to what’s most meaningful to them– Pizza restaurants.

Think of your favorite pizza place and I can almost guarantee that they measure their pie by diameter. Since it’s a common metric for the size of one of our nation’s most popular cuisines, we’ve become used to sizing up our pizzas this way. But when we ask ourselves what really matters, we might find this practice a bit misguided.

A recent trip to a local pizza restaurant with some colleagues, highlighted for me how significant the decision to measure by diameter can really be. We chose to dine at one of those new pizza places that charges a flat rate for unlimited toppings on an 11.5” crust (prior experience tells us this is a good sized portion). However, as the server removed my pie from the stone oven, I couldn’t help but notice that my pizza looked inadequate – nowhere close to the promised 11.5”.

Dead set on proving myself right, I measured the broadest diameter of the pie at 9.5” when we got back to the office. I proudly shared my findings with my fellow diners, indignant that I’d been denied significantly less pizza than I’d been promised. My colleagues listened to my rant while munching on their similarly meager meals, but all were happy to brush off the missing 2 inches. Not one seemed to care.

Thankfully for pizza restaurants, the majority of their patrons have no interest in crunching numbers. If a customer were to go through the steps of halving, and then squaring the diameter to get to the actual size of the pie, they might be unhappy to learn that a 15% misjudgment in diameter translates to a nearly 50% overstatement in the area of their pizza.

My informal focus group was almost universally content with their purchase, despite the restaurant’s failure to deliver on portion size. As a researcher, this tells me that diameter of a pizza is not the most meaningful metric for a pizza-related business to report to their customers. And while you could make the argument that this finding may not be representative of the views of all pizza eaters, it’s certainly an indication that this industry-wide practice may need a refresh.

In market research, it’s important for us to concentrate on showing metrics that have a direct and meaningful relationship with company performance. This could mean running time series analyses to find the best metric out of an available pool of KPIs when historic data is readily available. Or it could simply mean logically thinking through your choice of metrics. For instance, it’s not effective to measure the number of eyeballs that view a TV ad if they do not link it back to the brand in question, because that metric will have no impact on the public’s perceptions of a company.

So, what do pizza patrons care about most? We could speculate that fresh ingredients, exotic flavors, and general ambiance might be better measurements of guest experience and level of contentment. Regardless of these hypotheses, I think we can all agree that it’s time to stop measuring pizza by its diameter– no one wants a side of geometry with their entrée.

Connor Van Dyke

Manager, Quantitative Research

As a Manager, Connor supports the quantitative team throughout all phases of the research process.  He specifically enjoys using market segmentation to inform the creation of an overall marketing...

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