Watch out Pizza Hut -- Domino's is out to eat your lunch

Domino's, the nation's largest home delivery chain, on Monday will jump big-time into the $6.4 billion pan pizza category. Pan pizzas -- thicker than conventional pizzas and cooked in special pans -- will be sold at Domino's nearly 5,000 U.S. stores beginning Monday.

The move comes at a time Domino's is feeling its pepperonis, nearly two years after the wild success of its revamped pizza recipe. It's also a time that the $36 billion U.S. restaurant pizza industry is finally on the grow. The industry got smacked hard by the double-whammy of the economic downturn and the growth of frozen, rising crust pizza sales, but it has expanded in the past two years.

In food lingo, it might be the industry equivalent of Burger King rolling out a Big Mac clone, or McDonald's rolling out its own version of The Whopper. Among the big chains, Pizza Hut all but owns the pan pizza market, which accounts for a fat slice of its business.

Clearly, consumers like pan pizza, which is very similar to deep dish, but typically, not as lavish. It accounts for roughly 20% of the nation's pizza sales. Some 52% of consumers say they sometimes order deep dish, in a recent consumer survey from Technomic, the restaurant research firm. Pan pizza's popularity is only a few percentage points behind top-ranked hand-tossed pizza.

Who craves pan pizza? Mostly men age 35 to 44, says Technomic. And it's preferred by folks living in the Midwest and Northeastern U.S. Read More