SLICE OF THE PIE: Pizza competition still blazing throughout region

Pizza restaurants have entered 2017 duking it out even more intensely for market share.

The first quarter of the new year has already brought new developments in southwest Ohio’s pizza slugfest, as the Dayton area’s oldest pizza chain and some of the Miami Valley’s most recent upstarts gear up to open new restaurants.

Here’s a taste of some of the most recent developments:

• Cassano's Pizza King— Dayton's oldest pizza chain that operates 33 pizza shops and restaurants across the region — is preparing to open its newest restaurant at 4029 N. Main St. in Harrison Twp. Plans call for closing an existing Cassano's five blocks north of the new Cassano's when it opens in mid-February.

>> RELATED: Dayton pizza business still going strong more than 60 years later

>> PHOTOS: Cassano’s Pizza: the early years

>> VIDEO: How Cassano's got its start

Rapid Fired Pizza — the fast-growing Kettering-based chain that launched its first restaurant in September 2015 in Washington Twp. — has now opened several more in rapid succession in Greenvillle, Fairborn, Sugarcreek Twp., Huber Heights, Kettering, Springfield, Middletown, Lima and Montgomery in northern Cincinnati. Additional locations are in various stages of development in Troy, Englewood, Beavercreek, Oxford, Sandusky, Bowling Green, Westerville, Hilliard, Union Twp. and Florence, Ky.

>> RELATED: New Eastgate location expands Rapid Fired Pizza’s footprint 

>> RELATED: Rapid Fired Pizza fuels expansion with 2nd Columbus-area restaurant

• Progress has come more slowly than expected, but MOD Pizza is moving closer to opening its first Dayton-area location in Englewood in an outlot to the Meijer store there. Craig Hanson, spokesman for MOD Pizza's franchisee for the Dayton area, said the restaurant will likely open at the end of March. And a second local MOD restaurant is already in the works at the Cornerstone of Centerville development. The chain is based in Seattle.

>> RELATED: MOD Pizza confirms 1st Dayton-area restaurant will open in Englewood 

>> RELATED: Your guide to the best Dayton-area pizza

The Dayton region’s pizza market has long been dominated by venerable hometown chains such as the aforementioned Cassano’s Pizza King and Marion’s Piazza; by national chains such as Pizza Hut, Domino’s, Little Caesars and Papa John’s; and by the dozens of smaller chains and single-store independents that set up shop in the Miami Valley.

In recent years, however, other smaller, mostly regional chains have invaded those established players’ turf. LaRosa’s, Godfather’s, Marco’s, Dewey’s and Jet’s pizza chains, among others, have entered the greater Dayton market.

The fast-casual sector of the pizza market isn't limited to Rapid Fired and MOD Pizza. Cleveland-based PizzaFire opened its first Dayton-area restaurant in Kettering in August 2016. The chain's director of business development has said PizzaFire would like to add three or four more restaurants in the Dayton area.

Meanwhile, Charlotte, N.C.-based Brixx Wood Fired Pizza late last year opened a restaurant at Governor's Pointe in Deerfield Twp., just north of Interstate 71's Mason-Montgomery Road exit, and is looking to expand in southwest Ohio. Two other fast-casual pizza chains, Blaze Pizza and Pizzeria Locale, also have opened restaurants in the Mason area, and they too say they're looking to expand their southwest Ohio footprint.

>> RELATED: Brixx Wood Fired Pizza open in Deerfield Twp.

Other pizza chains that do not yet have a foothold in the Dayton area don’t seem to be deterred by the explosion in competition. At least three other pizza chains — California-based Pieology, Wisconsin-based Toppers Pizza, and most recently, Colorado-based Old Chicago Pizza & Taproom — have told this news outlet they’re seeking franchisees or otherwise looking to enter the Dayton-area pizza market.

>> RELATED: Old Chicago Pizza & Taproom eyes SW Ohio for expansion

Established national chains aren’t backing down from the increasing competiton. The Pizza Hut at 337 E. National Road (U.S. 40) in Vandalia — built more than four decades ago — reopened in December after an extensive makeover. The “full remodel” transformed the restaurant using Pizza Hut’s new prototype design, and incorporated the brand’s “WingStreet” wings brand. Pizza Hut recently completed a similar redesign at its restaurant in West Carrollton and will complete another early this year in Bellefontaine.

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