Is it just me or does there seem to be an explosion of wannabe Biancos importing WFO's from Naples and opening some variety of artisan pizzeria? Given the costs and skill-level to do this right, will enough of them do it right to sustain their business? And even if they can do it right, will the public pay the higher price in appreciation of their efforts? Is the artisan pizza market already saturated in some markets? Has chain pizza forever imprinted their definition of pizza on the national consciousness? Will there be a bunch of slightly-used WFO's for sale soon?
I would say yes and no to almost all of your questions.
I don't see why the current boom in "artisinal" pizza is any different than the earlier (and ongoing) growth in craft made products in other areas, namely beer, bread, coffee and tea come to mind. Some will prosper and continue and many will not survive for any number of reasons.
It's important to remember most of the members of this forum represent a very small percentage of pizza eaters. Keep in mind that beer, which began a resurgence around the time I started homebrewing back in the early nineties, slowed and contracted due to the economic collapse at the turn of the century/millennium and a wave of mergers, and in an ongoing, renewed surge very much alive today, still only accounts for about 10% or so of all beer sales in the USA.
The chains will keep most of their market share and forge opinions with pizza, just as with other items. But more people, while still a small percentage, will also awaken to the wonders of a better made product...the joys of good food made the way it was before mechanization, factory farming, etc turned food into a volume of nearly unrecognizeable ingredients that are an abomination and an affront to the joys of the dinner table. Some of that small number will become passionate enough to make pizza at home. Some will develop the skills and knowledge which will allow them to sniff out the pretenders among the artisinal pizza craze.
There will also be no small amount of pizzerias that will make an excellent product, but be managed poorly and go out of business. Will the concept of things like "true" Neapolitan pizza be bastardized by some of these newer places? Most certainly.....culture bastardization is something Americans are quite good at. Will blowhards like me get frustrated at pretenders whose only concern is capturing the economic uptick of a popular food movement? Assuredly so.
But at the end of the day after the trend dies somewhat and some shops go out of business or change their food concept completely, we'll still be left with better pizza options than before the boom began...and that ain't such a bad thing.
And I think there will always be room for more places that offer an ernestly made product, given that it is run/managed correctly. While I never doubt the overall propensity of people to be gullible, I also don't doubt people's ability to realize the real deal when they run into it.--K