the main reason, i think, for while slice places haven't proliferated is that location is even more important than for other restaurants. Selling a lot of slices depends on foot traffic. Even if you locate on a busy road, slices don't sell.......every place that depended on slices , that Ive seen, is located on a street with lots of foot traffic. You could have a road with 75,000 cars a day.....no walkers, no sales....(of slices that is)
Foot traffic and/or general convenience to labor centers.
I think the term 'foot traffic' can also be modified specifically to include places where you don't or can't just easily get in your car and drive less than a quarter of a mile for lunch (out of either convenience or laziness). In NYC, foot traffic, labor centers, and the innate inability
to travel more than a quarter of a mile independently and quickly are characteristics that all exist in just about every area or neighborhood, so slice joints work beautifully there. Good pizza, particularly slice joints, is part of the culture, too. And if you live there but you're not originally part of the NYC culture, you quickly become part of it because you have to.
In areas like central Ohio (Columbus), the only places you'll really find much foot traffic are malls or downtown. What do you also find at almost every mall? Sbarro. And downtown Columbus rolls up the sidewalks at 6:00, except for the Arena District (sometimes), which I think is mostly a ghost town except when there is something going on at the arena (or Huntington Park during baseball season). And Nationwide Arena will never be anywhere near as busy as Madison Square Garden or the Staples Center (2 NBA teams, 1 NHL team, Grammy awards, concerts and often multiple concert dates for individual artists, special events, etc).
There aren't really any neighborhoods in Columbus (or most cities) that contain: 1) Labor centers, 2) Foot traffic, 3) Dense residential living, 4) Sports/entertainment/nightlife centers, AND 5) Tourism centers. To survive as primarily a slice joint in any city, you'd probably need to be in a location that contains at least three of those five things.
Here are some of the things you might have to deal with if you open a slice joint in the types of neighborhoods that make up Columbus: If you open a slice joint in downtown Columbus, you'll have to close at 6. If you open a slice joint in the Arena District, you'll have to hope you can sell hundreds of slices in the hour or two before every hockey game, concert, and baseball game. (Even though the Arena District is in downtown, it's not convenient to the labor center of downtown, so there is probably no lunch business in the Arena district.) If you open a slice joint in the suburbs (which is pretty much all of metro Columbus), you're just dumb.
So that leaves areas like maybe Georgesville Road & I-270; first of all because there is a reasonably large labor force in the area, like the people who work at the Hatfield Auto Mall (where I used to work), some industrial stuff, the Columbus Dispatch, shopping center workers, and restaurant workers. That's a good chunk of your lunch crowd, which Donatos mostly doesn't (and can't) serve. Then, after work lets out, there is a ton of traffic, consisting of people coming home from their jobs in downtown and other areas; going to different areas occupying land between Grove City and the far west/southwest side of Columbus. In a location like this, slices can be sold at lunch and offered at dinnertime. However, there probably wouldn't be much demand for slices at dinnertime because dinnertime is for a whole different demographic, at least in this area: families and locals.
Good pizza by the slice simply is not part of the culture of Columbus, and it pretty much can't be. It can be fit in, though, under the right circumstances.
I'd imagine this is similar to how it might work in a lot of other cities, because mostly in this country there is no place like New York (and because I have traveled extensively around the United States, and I've paid attention to stuff like this). Also, Columbus has always been test-market central because Columbus is the most average city in the United States
(or something like that).