5 Ways America Does Pizza Differently

[Caution: grab a phone and a ton a napkins, because this post will make you hungry and desperate to get the nearest pizza delivery man to your doorstep.]

Cross-cultural consumer behavior is all about how people do things differently around the world and how businesses cater to those differences. On the topic of catering, most Americans are surprised when they learn that one of their favorite “classic Italian dishes” isn’t so classic to the Italian way.

A Slice of Pizza History

Considered a peasant’s meal in Italy for centuries we cannot say who invented the very first pizza pie. Food historians agree that many peoples in the Mediterranean, including the Greeks and Egyptians, ate pizza-like dishes. However, modern pizza has been attributed to baker Raffaele Esposito of Naples. In 1889, Esposito who owned a restaurant called the Pizzeria di Pietro baked what he called “pizza” especially for the visit of Italian King Umberto I and Queen Margherita.

Fast-forward to 1905, the first pizzeria in North America was opened by Gennaro Lombardi at 53 1/3 Spring Street in New York City. The first “Pizza Hut” appeared as a chain of pizza restaurants in the United States during the 1930s and Rose Totino invented frozen pizza shortly after.
[Thanks for the history lesson, Mary Bellis]

So what’s the big deal? Isn’t pizza delicious everyone and that’s why everyone loves it? True, but how we eat it is what makes the difference. Here are 5 ways of how Americans do pizza differently:

1. Crust

We can tell you the difference between a New York style thin and a deep-dish Chicago style, but which is the OG version? The answer: neither. New York’s version might be close, but the traditional crust is light, healthy, and excludes oil from its recipe. Italian crusts also prove to be homogenous, with very little variation per region while styles in New York change dramatically from restaurant to restaurant.

When our friend Gennaro Lombardi started the pizza craze in New York, thick crust pizzas also caught momentum. Baking focaccia, or a thick crusted bread, Italian bakeries in New York made focaccias with vegetable or various toppings, making the first thick crust pizzas.

2. Cheese

Less is more, right? Not to Americans. Americans know pizza to be synonymous with cheese but in Italy, they’d think we’ve gone overboard with the dairy. Italy serves pizza with a sprinkling of mozzarella cheese, where you could still see the crust between the melted pieces of cheese; it does not contain as much cheese as in the American pizzas. While we swoon for that magical moment when a string of cheese pulls and hangs from a slice you’ve just taken, the taste of Italy’s pizzas is very light and not heavy like an American pizza.

3. Toppings

Again, less is more? Not in America. Italian pizzas take a minimalist approach: single topping pizzas, often anchovies or vegetables like basil or mushrooms, and little to (dare I say it) no sauce. Take the alternative and you’ve got your classic American take-out pizza: Deluxe toppings, hold the anchovies, extra sauce, and don’t be shy on the cheese.

And here’s a fun statistic: Americans eat approximately 350 slices of pizza per second. And 36 percent of those pizza slices are pepperoni slices, making pepperoni the number one choice among pizza toppings in the United States. If you go to Italy and order a pepperoni pizza, be cautious; you’ll get bell peppers … it’s a language thing.

However, topping profiles vary around the world. While Italians like it simple, and Americans want everything but the kitchen sink, cultures have adapted pizza to their kitchen’s ingredients. In India pickled ginger, minced mutton, and paneer cheese are the favorite toppings for pizza slices. In Japan, Mayo Jaga (a combination of mayonnaise, potato and bacon), eel and squid are the favorites. Green peas rock Brazilian pizza shops and Russians love red herring pizza.

4. Meal Plan

In the States, pizza increased in popularity both as a cheap meal-in-one food during the Great Depression and with the return of US servicemen from Italy at the end of World War II. Today, we order pizzas to share with a group, whether family or friends. In Italy, one size fits all – that is, there’s normally only one size you can get. Italian pizzas are personal sized, made to eat as an entrée and not a finger food. Touching on how pizza isn’t a finger food, Italian pizzas don’t even have slices. Baffling… I know. This pizza comes with a fork and knife, the same set you’d eat a steak with.

5. Fire & Ice

Probably one of the biggest differences between American and Italian pizza is the type of oven it is cooked in. In Italy, it’s not a pizza if it wasn’t cooked in a wood-fire oven. In fact, a pizzeria that makes pizza with anything other than a wood-fire oven in Italy isn’t actually allowed to call itself a pizzeria. In America, of course, it’s a different story. Pizza is cooked in all types of different ovens, even the one that you have in your own kitchen at home. And we still call it a pizza.

And the biggest innovation that baffles Italians is the frozen pizza, credited to Rose Totino. In Italy, every pizza is made to order, with a pizzero, or pizza cheff, kneading dough and placing toppings to request. Leave it the industrialized America to take an adaptable product and standardize it for ready-to-cook, storable alternatives.

One commonality, though, is what makes the pizza most delicious, irrelevant of location: the pizza chef. Thank you Pizzarias, for satisfying appetites around the world.

What do Macau’s High Rollers Want in Entertainment?

Gambling: You’re a winner or a loser, but either way it gives consumers a chance at big winnings.

On opposite sides of the globe, Las Vegas, Nevada, and Macau, China, are the world’s two largest at a race for the winnings.

Sin City

Sin City still remains perched atop the gambling world due to its large volume of glamorous casinos, riveting entertainment and plush resorts. What’s amazing is that this is only a small sample of the casino resorts in Vegas! Other perks of Las Vegas include their world-famous restaurants, critically acclaimed shows, family-oriented attractions and huge outlet malls.


While Las Vegas remains the number one gambling city in the world, Macau is gradually moving towards the top spot. This special administrative region of China is already home to 33 casinos – including the world’s largest casino in the Venetian Macau – and another two-dozen casinos that are currently in the works. Much like Las Vegas, Macau also offers plenty of additional entertainment besides gambling such as shows and fine dining. Last year, Macau actually managed to bring in the more gambling revenue than any other city including Vegas.

While competition is fierce between the two gambling mecha-cities, we’re looking at two different underlying consumer behaviors:

Gambling + x = Entertainment

While Las Vegas entertains its visitors at all angles, China’s sin city is more focused. Success of entertainment and heavy gambling in Las Vegas and Macau, respectively, comes down to their visitors. Las Vegas visitors have several options of high end shopping, a diversity of live shows, and schmoozing by day or night with the city’s acceptance for open alcohol consumption. In contrast, it seems that China’s Macau get’s straight to the point: gamble and win. Generally, gambling in Macau can be divided into three different categories: casino, games, greyhound or horse racing, and sports betting and a number of lotteries.

As Macau continues to grow, will the city ever fold it’s cards and diversify it’s entertainment to the variances of those in Las Vegas?

It depends…

China’s current shift in GDP has economics forecasting China’s change from an exporting country to a country of 1.3 billion consumers. This means that the casino environment could as well adopt various luxury stores. Filmed entertainment is also growing in China; thus, like a gateway drug, live shows or alternative entertainment can make an appearance.

As world travelers visit the two cities, demands can push for Macau to diversify and cover all aspects of entertainment. As a convergence of consumer behavior, global consumers, especially the high rollers, are going to want a bang for their buck.

Is that bang diversity of entertainment, or focus on gambling, though?


Fast Food Fine Dining in China

Are your neighborhood restaurants lacking in service quality? Does their menu bore you with little variety of entrees? Do you want a dining experience that is low cost, healthy, and delicious? Looking for a venue for your special wedding day? Well search no longer – Kentucky Fried Chicken is the restaurant of your dreams.

The average American may find it surprising to ever think of Kentucky Fried Chicken (KFC) as synonymous with”full-service,” “quality,” “healthy,” “special,” and (especially) “wedding,” but the KFC mentioned above describes the dining experience of visitors to the Chinese KFC chain. Furthermore, this same description is also applied to Pizza Hut chains in China. As Sam Su, chairman and CEO of Yum! Brands China Division introduced these classic American fast-food chains to the Chinese market, he crafted a dining experience based on cross-cultural consumer behavior.

What is it that makes these Yum! brands so different there? Let the following list describe how different Yum! brands are in China in comparison to it’s not-so-identical twins in the United States:

Size matters

At 300 to 450 square meters, KFC outlets in China are larger in size than traditional US fast food venues of under 280 square meters. Located in retail and office developments with high foot traffic, rent was higher for Chinese fast food venues. However, to correct the battle of high costs, they spread fixed costs by opening earlier and introducing breakfast items to their menu or by staying open 24/7.


Yum! China fast food venues were more modern than those of the US, equipped with a hostess and dining staff meticulously dressed and groomed. Additionally, the hostess would organize activities for children and guests were encouraged to linger. This positioned KFC to be an inviting place for the family, and even students looking to sit and do homework. Yum! China also developed a mascot for the Chinese brand, “Chicky” who would interact with the children, especially at birthday partied help within the venue, and added a localized figure that locals could understand in comparison to the western “Colonel Sanders” figure.

Localized Menu

Yum! customized its menu to appeal to Chinese tastes by introducing spicier chicken dishes as well as local dishes that included Chinese staple-diet ingredients, such as rice, local vegetables, and seafood. However, spiciness varied by region, so each KFC was conscious of its areas spice-tollerance and customized flavors to that preference. Western dishes such as chicken wings, corn, and burgers were also customized by adding or altering the supplemental ingredients to local taste. Alternatively, coleslaw was eliminated because it did not fit the local preferences despite it’s presence as a complementary side-dish in US KFCs.

Redefining fast food

Americans view fast food restaurants as a place to get food that is usually tasty, mostly unhealthy, priced cheaply, and served promptly. The Chinese understand KFC to be a restaurant with exceptional staff and many dining options. Another Yum! brand, Pizza Hut, positioned itself in China as a 5-star restaurant at a 3-star prices, serving steaks, lamb, and salmon along with its popularized pizza. Additional items included European desserts, savory appetizers, and pasta/pizza toppings customized to local tastes. Furthermore, Pizza Hut in China introduced “afternoon tea” and “business lunch” to appeal to white collar business people’s dining habits. It’s here that numerous couples notoriously organized a wedding ceremony, according to a case study by Harvard Business School.

Learning culture

To make expansion successful, Yum! ensured that each store in China would be a source to train employees. Su’s strategy was to develop talent while building the brand. While in both markets, KFC workers can be considered to be students or entry level workers, employees of the Chinese brand were trained for management and aspired to grow with the company in contrast to those of the US, who are commonly temporary or low skilled workers. Yum! China employees also required heavier training than US employees because of the diversification, complexity, and magnitude of the Chinese-localized menu

Health food consciousness

Yum! China developed an aggressive program for new product development. While US stores introduced 1 or 2 new products a year, the Chinese stores were introducing 85 to 100 new products. New products served localized, customer tastes and were promoted through special programs, where popular products became permanent menu items. However, a major consideration in new product development was the promise of healthy food items. While US KFC items are known to be mostly unhealthy, Su refused to bring the unhealthy image to his China KFC vision. He eliminated the “supersize” tradition and established a model of healthy education. This included activities hosted by the hostess in stores, informational placemats, and inclusion of fruits and vegetables in meals unless requested otherwise. Yum! also held events and campaigns to encourage physical activity for its young customers and families.

Why did Yum! China’s KFC business strategy have to be different?

Cross-cultural consumer behavior drove different buying habits that Yum! China would have to adhere to in order to survive in China. Because the company shaped its heavily Western-inspired menu to localized preferences, Yum! China was able to outperform its US sister- stores by positioning itself as a premium company, with premium products, at a low-cost business model and price.



Can Netflix Eliminate Media Piracy?

In the epic battle of “Pirates vs. Ninjas,” it seems that a stealthier contestant has replaced the Ninjas: Netflix.

If you were on “Team Pirates” before, you can keep your novelty eye patches on… This battle sets sail from our childhood games and into a frontier of legislation and economics. Piracy, otherwise a form of copyright infingement, is an illegal for of distributing unlicensed content such as music, photos, or film (to name a few). To businesses, copyright laws reserve the company’s right to make a profit on content; but the public understands “piracy” in a very different fashion. As defined by Urban Dictionary, “piracy” follows these two popular usages:

Picture 6

“Indication that it will survive” and “In both cases, piracy is awesome” are consumer behaviors that Netflix has sought to challenge, especially in Latin America.

Janko Roettgers of Gigaom explains how Netflix has accomplished such a challenge. South America and the Carribean have been of concentration for piracy, known for piracy organizations and bootleg street vendors. “Piracy has been rampant in much of Latin America, and years of wrangling over international copyright treaties has done little to make the region more profitable for the studios.” Netflix CEO Reed Hastings has long said that his company isn’t primarily competing with cable TV or other paid services but with piracy instead. The reason piracy exists is commonly sourced to high prices for what consumers may think of as “low quality.” So Netflix has fired its canons at Latino media pirates by turning to one of its distinctive competencies: low price subscriptions.

The argument then is that Netflix is combating piracy, a cross-cultural consumer behavior, in Latin America by offering a selection of high quality (hi-definition) options at a low cost. So why would Latin American consumers of piracy be willing to pay for Netflix vs. the friendly neighborhood pirate? Netflix Chief Content Officer stands by the philosophy that, “The best way to combat piracy isn’t legislatively or criminally but by giving good options.” Gigaom and the MPEE share some interesting data on Mexico, a leader in media piracy:


Can quality streaming at a low price than solve the issue of media piracy? Here’s the Roettgers’ value proposition: “Subscribing to Netflix’s streaming-only plan costs U.S. consumers just a tad more than a bootleg DVD on the streets of Los Angeles or New York. People in (Latin America) are asked to pay a little less than they’d pay for three bootleg DVDs and still less than one single legitimate DVD would cost them.” Therefore, Netflix is taking the competitive advantage on quality and price, justly protecting distributor’s licensing rights at the benefit to the consumer.

While piracy is “rampant” in Latin America, it’s also a prevalent issue in the United States. While domestic piracy may not be as bad as that in Latin America, Netflix has also found a way to turn this battle in its favor: listening to the pirates. Business Week covered a story on this stealthy listening tactic, reporting, “When rolling out its service in the Netherlands, the company looked at what content to offer based in part on what shows were popular on piracy websites.” Listening can also be done regionally. Whereas tastes in shows or movies will differ among cultures or regions, listening to what pirates and their scallywag patrons want proposed a model of demand for regional streaming options. As with its plans of entering Latin America, “Netflix takes the view that it can draw people away from a life of video piracy by offering the same content, only with a better user experience and less risk of legal fallout.”

Chinese Growth Spurt in Movie Theaters

The rising film market in China has been a topic of discussion for some time. I have certainly have been interested in this growing market from my own experiences: interning for a distribution office that entirely got laid-off to move operations to its Chinese headquarters; attending the announcement by Jeffrey Katzenberg of the DreamWorks merger to open Oriental DreamWorks in China; and most recently following the acquisition of AMC Theaters by Chinese conglomerate Dalian Wanda Group.

Here are the facts: From 2007 to 2011, the number of theater screens in China has doubled to 6,200 and is expected to double again by 2015. Although this number is far behind the 40,000 screens in the United States, this member of the BRIC nations has plenty of room to grow, averaging 220,000 screens per Chinese Resident (defined by a 2011 Los Angeles Times report). Additionally, MPAA’s 2012 report states that international box office is up 32% over five years ago, driven by growth in various international markets, including China, Russia and Brazil.

International Film Exhibition Landscape

Strict regulations by the Chinese government have limited the number of foreign films that could be imported to China for theater exhibition. Although the World Trade Organization ruled in support of the United States to lift the Chinese government’s monopoly on the distribution of foreign imported entertainment, the ruling was vague on the terms of film import quotas, which remains indefinite today. However, the growth of Chinese movie studios is ramping up cinema construction and “trying to boost the quality of homegrown films to keep patrons filling all those new seats,” as defined by the Los Angeles Times article China is on a Cinema Building Binge.

What is evident, however, is that the film industry is on the rise in China: cinema houses are increasing screen numbers; Chinese companies are acquiring U.S. chains, like Wanda’s purchase AMC theaters, with deals to introduce IMAX to China; and DreamWorks’ Merger with Chinese media leaders to build the Oriental DreamWorks Studio and a Shanghai Entertainment District.

On the theme of cross-cultural consumer behavior, the growth of movie theaters in China can bring to light the differences and similarities in Chinese and American movie-viewing behaviors that have allowed the Chinese market to grow. Remembering that growth is dependant on markets, comparison of these cross-cultural markets can relate to the product lifecycle of theaters in each culture.

A Luxurious Night Out at the Theaters

Los Angeles Times quoted a Chinese farmer named Zhang on his experience in a movie theater, stating it was “very hard to understand, but the cinema was very comfortable.” All-in-all, he found this experience “very luxurious” and assumingly pleasing. This experience by the Chinese lower to middle class has been a valuable part of the Chinese film market growth. State-of-the-art theaters are replacing dilapidated movie houses not only in wealthy urban centers like Beijing and Shanghai but in outposts like Shengzhou in central Zhejiang province, which has grown into a bustling city of about 800,000 (growth rate of .36%).

Grown in the glitz and glamour of Hollywood, theaters in the United States underwent a similar fashion in their growth. Now at levels of saturation, the theater experience is a common activity for the average U.S. citizen. Whereas this everyday option for Americans contrasts from the luxurious outing for the Chinese, consumer behaviors can drive prices, discussed below in “Economies of Boredom,” or by additional features to movie-going like food and beverage types.

Economies of Boredom

This is how the Los Angeles Time describes the Chinese movie-going behavior: “As Chinese workers grow richer and have more leisure time, they’re itching for something to do. The typical ticket costs about $5, slightly less than what many new college graduates earn per day. Still, Chinese movie fans have shown a willingness to pay a premium for better sound, a better picture and swanky venues to hang out with friends.”

A cultural similarity is established in Chinese and American movie-goers: these experiences are often based around socialization. However, while American theater attendance is decreasing because of debatable high movie prices and lacking additional features to movies, the Chinese market is willing to pay the high prices for this new activity of attending “swanky” screenings with their friends. Socialization seems to answer the consumer’s problem in this example of likened cross-cultural behavior.

Powered by Ideology

In China, the Communist government is a major investor in film production, distribution and movie houses. Film is a way to “strengthen state influence at home and export Chinese culture abroad” (Los Angeles Times). Surely, growth of this industry, at the rate China is doing it at least, could not happen without subsidy. Subsidy. As a term, is of course debatable because of China’s communist economy; but the major point is that there is support from the government. The Chinese government is encouraging such projects, trying to strengthen the nation’s media and cultural industries while seeking to satisfy the tastes of its growing middle class.

This is different in the United States, where the only governmental support comes in play by tax breaks to inceptives of employment in less populated towns. Zooming into audience behavior though, Chinese and American expectations of films will differ, similarly to those of a luxurious experience made above. Can the governments control on content inhibit or promote audience attendance in China? Will laissez-faire politics in China inhibit or escalate audiences demand for unrestrained story telling.

China Moving Forward

An interesting opinion is made through the phrase “history repeats itself.” Whereas Hollywood once went through it’s dramatic growth of movie theaters because of glitz and glam, China undergoes a similar model through the audience perceived “luxuriousness” of its theaters. The American market has now become saturated, where growth or decline of deviation is made dramatic by minimal changes in numbers in comparison to the increased numbers in China. Therefore, China must prepare for its own saturation and continue to improve its theaters to address developing audience demands.

However, one similarity in cross-cultural consumer behavior is the activity of movie-going. Audiences seek to socialize and theaters provide the ideal environment. Movies develop discussions, time spent in company, and the experience of learning something new. The growth of this industry in China of course comes from a lacking presence of the environment. As this market develops both the American and Chinese leaders can learn from the cross-cultural consumer behaviors to implement strategies for growth from saturation.