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When the moon hits your eye like a big pizza pie, that’s…

I earned my undergraduate degree at Indiana University, located in Bloomington, Indiana. College is a time for personal growth, learning, and eating lots of inexpensive foods like pizza. My friends and I used to debate whether New York Style or Chicago Deep Dish was the best kind of pizza. We would also argue whether the food should be named “pizza” “pizza pie” or “pie.” The dispute continues, with no clear winner emerging, and no compromise eminent. For the record – New York has the best pizza, and I call the round pizza a pie.

With over 75,000 pizzerias in the United States, and estimates of $40B spend annually, pizza has serious staying power and economic influence. What’s more American than having your go-to local pizzeria? The next time you indulge in your slice of heaven, take a closer look at the size and prices of the pies for sale. Your neighborhood pizzeria owner is much savvier than you give him credit for!

I Dare You

I challenge you to purchase the whole pie you see behind the glass counter. Not the one cooking in the oven or the other one staying warm in a cardboard box on the very top.  Watch the employee’s reaction when you continue to suggest you want only the pie behind the glass. Perhaps reassuring him that you don’t need the pie to be hot, because you’re going to take it home to heat up will help? The employee still won’t budge.

There’s a simple reason for this awkward exchange – the pie on display is larger than the pie you can purchase to take home. Some pizzerias call this a “house pie.” That pie behind the glass won’t even fit into the take-home box!

The Math

The round pie you typically take home is 16 inches in diameter. The round pie sold by the slice in the store is usually 20 inches in diameter.

In New York City, a 16-inch pizza on average costs $18, and each slice ordered in the pizzeria costs about $2.50. I’ve only seen round pies break down into eight slices. Therefore, a pie sold by the slice in the store is worth $20 (8 x $2.50).

The 16-inch pizza equals ~200 square inches and the 20-inch pizza ~315 square inches. If you break that down per slice, the 16-inch slice is roughly 25 square inches and the 20-inch slice 39 square inches.

The Take-Away

What does that all mean? We pay more per square inch for the smaller slice ($18/200 = $0.09 per s.i.) than the large ($20/315 = $0.0635 per s.i.)! It’s less expensive to walk into your neighborhood pizzeria and order eight single slices of pizza rather than a full pie. You’ll receive 55% more pizza for only 33% more cost.

If you are upset that your neighborhood pizzeria is taking advantage of you, think of the other businesses you rely on (hint: personal finance) that are also taking an unfair piece of your pie…


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