Wake Up With ... Pizza?

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Wake Up With ... Pizza?

Folks sick of soggy cereal and bland bagels soon may get a morning pie-in-the-face: breakfast pizza, reported USA Today .

There's no tomato sauce. Toppings are more typically scrambled eggs and bacon, not pepperoni and mushrooms. But they're baked with pizza dough in pizza ovens.

Papa John's is testing Omelet Pizzas at downtown locations in five cities, while Happy Joe's Pizza, a regional chain in Iowa, is about to move breakfast pizzas out of testing and onto permanent menu boards at some stores.

Sales growth is at a crawl in the $30 billion pizza industry and current sales are concentrated in the evenings. About 80 percent of Papa John's sales come after 4 p.m., says spokesman Chris Sternberg. So pizza makers have to invent new ways, and times, to sell.

Success for a morning pizza won't be easy. "Pizza is not in the mind-set of consumers as a breakfast staple," says Dennis Lombardi, executive vice president at WD Partners, a restaurant consulting firm.

Domino's tested morning pizzas about 20 years ago in Dayton and Columbus, Ohio, targeting delivery to homes rather than businesses. "Consumers didn't like someone knocking on their door when they might be in their boxer shorts," says spokesman Tim McIntyre. "It was an idea whose time had not yet come."

Papa John's and Happy Joe's hope that the time is here. They think pizza for breakfast can move beyond the familiar leftover pizza from the fridge.

In February, Papa John's began testing Omelet Pizzas for breakfast at one store in Louisville. Now, it's testing at one store each in Indianapolis, Memphis, Tucson and Wichita. These stores -- mostly in downtown areas -- open at 6 a.m. instead of 10 a.m. and focus on corporate customers. The $3.49 6-inch personal pan pizzas feature scrambled eggs and cheese. Bacon, sausage and ham are optional.

Trying to explain breakfast pizza to some people "has been painstaking," says Joe Whitty, founder of the 63-unit Happy Joe's Pizza & Ice Cream.

He's testing Omelet Pizza in four sizes -- $4.35 to $17.25 -- at several locations. Next week, it will become a permanent item at a new store in Rockford, Ill.

Success will take time, says Whitty. "People don't recognize a pizza place selling breakfast."