The Pizza Insider: April 2013

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Monday, April 29, 2013

10 Useful Small Business Apps

There are more than a million apps available for download to your iPhone, iPad and Android, including everything from games to calorie counters to apps that find other apps. But as a small business owner, which apps are most useful to you?

I came across an infographic recently, designed by Salesforce Desk (, that lists some of the apps that allow you to run your business from almost anywhere. While I'm not suggesting that you camp out on a sandy beach and rely on your phone to run the pizzeria, it's nice to know that you can still feel connected when you do need to get away.

Some of the suggested business apps include:

Quickbooks: Handle a variety of financial tasks and record sales. View your bank balances and transactions while the app sorts and updates all of your financial info.

Office Time: Easily manage timesheets, spreadsheets and projects.

Box and Dropbox: Two apps that both allow you to manage and store documents, making it possible to access files from anywhere.

Evernote: Syncs to the Cloud and lets you edit documents before sharing.

Skype: Send and receive voice, video and chat, with the option to call abroad when away from your computer.

Webex: Schedule, host and attend meetings from anywhere in the world.

Square: A free card reader lets you turn your phone or iPad into a cash register.

Google Wallet: Leave your wallet at home and pay for all of your purchases using your phone by saving your credit/debit info on this app.

Friday, April 26, 2013

5 Money Making Menu Design Tips

In March, we held a live chat in the PMQ Think Tank forum about Menu Design with Josh Davis from Mail Shark. Attendees asked questions about item placement, pricing, etc. Here I'll share five of the main tips to help you assess your most profitable menu items.

5 Tips For Profitable Menu Design from Mail Shark's Josh Davis

1. Traditionally, appetizers typically start out a menu from left and then move to the right. However, it should not be a one size fits all strategy. Because consumers don’t read a menu like a novel, they scan through it. Use proven eye scanning patterns to strategically place your highest grossing items and other key items.

2. Add mouth-watering descriptions to key items instead of just listing the ingredients. Use photos sparingly; less is more.

3. Remove the $ signs from the menu. This has some evidence behind it. Menus that have $ sign symbols will yield lower spending than those that do not.

4. The way prices are listed is very important. Many pizza menus that we see still list all of the prices from lowest to highest and aligned to the right of the column leading with “……..” This allows the customer to scan right down the column and find the cheapest item. It also puts too much emphasis on price. By discreetly moving the price of an item, it allows guests to purchase what they want instead of purchasing based on price. Have prices discreetly tagged on at the end of each item's description with two spaces in between the period in the description and the price.

5. Where an item is placed in a category does matter. Consider placing the three items you want to sell most first, second and last within each category. Place the lower profit items in the middle or center positions. This is known as the serial positions effect. Studies show that when presented with a list of words you tend to remember the first few words (the primacy effect) and the last few words (the recency effect). The only exception is with kids menus. Kids always remember the last thing you tell them, so place the highest profit kids item last in the category.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Marketing with QR Codes

Have you ever used QR codes in your marketing? Where do they usually lead customers? To your website or social media pages? Maybe to your menu? Let's review some tips that will help you get the most benefit from QR codes. We'll also hear what The Pizza Insider Blog Advisory Board has to say about them.

1. Make People Want to Scan Them. Is there a promise of a discount, exclusive information or insider details? Customers won't necessarily want to scan a QR code if it's just leading to a generic website or information they already know. Make it worth their while to scan the code. If you can lead them down the road to purchasing something, all the better!

2. Keep Them Mobile-Based. Be sure that wherever you're leading customers is a mobile-friendly site. After all, they're using their mobile phones to scan the code, so it wouldn't make sense to lead them to a site that doesn't display well on a mobile phone.

3. When in Doubt, Size Up. The smallest a QR code can be to be readable is about 1 square inch. If users will be further away (think bus bench, subway poster, etc.) the code will need to be larger to be scannable from a distance.

4. Consider a Custom Design QR Code. Instead of a black bar code, custom QR codes integrate the look of your logo or other design to make your QR code stand out from others.

5. Test and Track It. Always, always, always test your QR code before printing it out on all of your marketing materials. And create a custom (shortened) URL that can gather analytics to see how your QR code is working out in the real world.

6. Consider Using Them for Post-Purchase Info/Feedback. Have you tried using a QR code to lead customers to pizza reheating instructions or a customer feedback form? Think outside the box on different ways to use the codes to inspire a scan.

An interesting statistic to note is that while about 10% of mobile users scan QR codes while in a restaurant, a whopping 60% scan them at home! I'm thinking that those pizza boxes are sounding like prime real estate for some high-quality QR codes. What do you think?

Here's what The Pizza Insider Blog Advisory Board had to say about some of the ways they've seen pizzerias using QR codes.

"I've seen them on T-shirts, decals on doors and coupons." --Jon Porter, Chicago Pizza Tours

"We are using QR codes as part of a Guest Reward program that replaces paper cards. The server swipes the guest i-phone and they are credited for their visit and purchase." --John Arena, Metro Pizza

"You can put QR codes on your menu, receipts, pizza boxes, etc. and link people to you website, menu and online ordering." --Jay Siff, Moving Targets

"In marketing and branding materials that drive to the pizzeria website; treat the QR codes as another touch point that drives traffic to your website." --Mike Rasmussen, Rasmussen Tax Group

"The QR code novelty factor has not worn off as quickly as some predicted and we are now seeing them used on advertising from some of the biggest brands in the world, right down to family-run businesses. Expect to see a lot more QR codes in 2013. They are great for launching a loyalty program or offering something for a limited time (with a start and end date) to track results." Linda Duke, Duke Marketing

"I rarely see people using them at all but it would be smart if folks used them to direct customers to online-only promotions or social media sites." --Scott Wiener, Scott's Pizza Tours

Friday, April 19, 2013

Keeping Up with Menu Trends

Monitoring popular menu trends is important when you're trying to stay ahead of the competition. So I asked some of The Pizza Insider's Blog Advisory Board members what trends they're currently seeing in pizzerias and here's what they had to say.

"We're seeing increased consumer demand for multi-grain crusts, and words on the menu like “natural”, “organic”, “locally grown”. There is also something of a consumer shift towards the thinner, artisan-type crusts, too." --Tom "The Dough Doctor" Lehmann, American Institute of Baking

"Seasonal vegetables, modern butcher shop meats (morteau, 'Nduja, mortadella, etc.), farm to table concepts. And why don't more pizzerias offer breakfast pizzas for brunch on Sunday?" --Jonathan Porter, Chicago Pizza Tours

"The biggest thing on people's minds is gluten free pizza and other products such as pasta and desserts. Gluten allergies are becoming common, and many guests are choosing a gluten free lifestyle. While most pizzerias cannot offer a 100% gluten free environment, it is becoming very important to consider the needs of this growing segment." --John Arena, Metro Pizza

"Many shops are ditching their traditional soda machines for higher quality beverages. Although the margins often aren't as high on these "artisinal" drinks, stocking your restaurant with a couple of alternative options can help you distinguish yourself from the pack. Plus, it gives you an opportunity to support local or independent vendors." --Jason Feirman,

"Any pizzeria that doesn't offer craft beers is asleep at the wheel. Dessert pizzas are also a no brainer; it's so easy to use Nutella and other add-ons for a tasty dessert pie!" --Scott Wiener, Scott's Pizza Tours

"The gluten-intolerant trend is growing and gaining momentum, along with consumers becoming aware of being lactose intolerant and reducing sodium in their diets. Consumers want operators to appeal to them with lower sodium, gluten-free, lactose intolerant menu items and it will continue to grow in popularity." --Linda Duke, Duke Marketing

"We're finding that off-menu specialty pizzas served as test slivers upon ordering can occupy the patron while they wait for their order. For example, a family comes in and orders two large pepperoni pizzas and upon paying selects one of the 'Test slivers' of specialty pizzas already prepared, such as 'Frito Pie Pizza' and is handed a comment card to complete. This gathers customer information for marketing as well as free feedback during idle times." --Mike Rasmussen, Rasmussen Tax Group

What trends are you seeing? What are you trying? Has it been successful?

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Delectable Desserts...for Delivery!

I love pizza. That's not news to anyone. But one of my pet peeves has always been the lack of dessert choices when I order pizza for delivery. Dessert always seems to be an afterthought on pizzeria delivery menus. Yes, maybe the pizza should be enough to fill me up, but that never stopped me from wanting something sweet to top off that cheesy goodness!

So I started looking around for pizzerias that offer delicious desserts. I'm sharing some here in the hopes that someday the idea of an expanded dessert menu will catch on across the nation and I'll be be presented with a plethora of dessert options to wrap up my favorite pizza meal. From a business standpoint, desserts generate pretty good profit margins as well, so it may not hurt to give a couple of them a whirl, either as specials or permanent additions.

Pizzeria Uno in Chicago offers patrons several desserts, including bread pudding with salty caramel sauce, a chocolate peanut butter cup, deep dish chocolate chip cookie sundae and more.

National chain Godfather's Pizza has monkey bread and a giant chocolate chip cookie.

Sunset Pizzeria in Las Vegas delivers chocolate cake, homemade cannolis and cheesecake.

Castiglia's Italian Restaurant & Pizzeria in Fredericksburg, Virginia, offers tiramisu, bacio puffs, chocolate mousse cake and more.

OK, this one might be my favorite. At Primo Pizzeria in Deerfield, Massachusetts, every delivery order arrives with a free brownie!

What types of desserts do you offer on your menu for delivery? Tell us about in the comments section.

Monday, April 15, 2013

Do You Care What Your Customers Think?

Do you remember when restaurants asked for customer feedback using customer comment cards presented with the bill or displayed at the table? Whatever happened to those? I've often wondered if they slowly disappeared because the feedback given wasn't useful, or if restaurant owners simply stopped caring what customers thought.

I have always believed that a well-designed customer comment card, using questions that will give you the answers that can truly help your business, is invaluable to growing your pizzeria and keeping customers coming back.

There's a lot of groaning in the restaurant industry when it comes to online restaurant review sites, but what is being done in-house to collect the opinions of your customers before they leave your establishment? Many people are timid about saying they are unhappy when asked by a server, but will openly give an opinion on a comment card (or website).

Creating a comment card is easy, and there are plenty of examples online, like the one here. The best one will include questions about service, food quality, customer menu suggestions, and any other insights you want to collect from patrons. Imagine if one of your customers is sitting on the next big money-making menu idea for your pizzeria and all you have to do is provide a forum for them to share their vision?

Hesitant about bringing back the "old school" paper comment cards? Ask your Web designer about giving customers the ability to post reviews on your own website. Display a QR code at the table and encourage customers to share their comments and suggestions. With everything readily accessible on your own site, you can respond to concerns and praise from customers immediately.

Friday, April 12, 2013

Detroit-Style Pizza Makes Headlines

You may have noticed a surge of news about Detroit-style pizza lately. Born and raised in Michigan until I was 13, this newfound interest in the thick, square pies with signature crispy-edged crust may mean that the style is headed my way sometime soon, which makes me very happy.

A couple of years ago, PMQ had two Detroit-style pies entered into the American Pizza Championship. One came in second and the other came in third. It was almost unheard of, seeing as they were the only competitors who had that style in the entire competition, and neither had competed with us before.

The next year, the second place winner, Shawn Randazzo, went on to compete in a Vegas pizza competition and won the title of World Champion Pizza Maker of the Year, against Italians no less! The third place winner from our competition, Jeff Smokevitch, won Gold in the American Pan Competition during the same contest.

Now this is probably pure coincidence, but Little Caesars just introduced a Detroit-style pizza nationwide at the beginning of April. The very same day, Madison Heights, Michigan-based Hungry Howie's introduced its Detroit-style pizza, with a flavored crust (what the chain is famous for). Hungry Howie's company executives have said that they decided to add the menu item after they tested it in other parts of the country and it got "very positive" reactions. Chains do not usually introduce new menu items without a fair bit of confidence that the item will do well.

It's perplexing to me that the Detroit-style pie has been around since the '40s, and yet it's just getting its time in the spotlight; most people don't recognize it the way they would NY-style or Chicago-style. It will be an interesting development to watch. Maybe we'll start to see other regional pizza styles start to migrate across the country as well.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Pizza Salads

On Sunday I caught an episode of the Food Network show Chopped where one of the challenges was for chefs to use leftover pizza in an appetizer dish. One chef cut the pizza up and created toasty croutons in the oven, which she later tossed with frisee and eggplant to make a salad. It made me think of all of the fun pizza salads that can be created inside a pizzeria kitchen. So today, I'm linking to some salads I found online (non-pizzeria) that integrate traditional pizza toppings. Do you serve any salads that mimic pizza in your pizzeria? Tell us about them in the comments section.

The GreenLiteBites blog has a recipe for pepperoni pizza salad that uses turkey pepperoni, mozzarella, mushrooms, tomatoes, broccoli and tomato paste.

The Pillsbury layered pizza salad uses rotini pasta and layers of Roma tomatoes, bell peppers, sliced pepperoni, green olives, mozzarella and red pepper.

The pepperoni salad from the Spoonful blog tosses together mozzarella, pepperoni, tomatoes, green peppers, black olives and croutons.

Taste of Home's pizza pasta salad contains Parmesan, cherry tomatoes, cubed cheddar and mozz, green onions and pepperoni.

Friday, April 5, 2013

Is Your Pizza Truck Safe?

There's no denying the popularity of food trucks. They can be found lining the streets of many major metropolitan cities during lunchtime, at art and cultural events, and traveling the farmer's market circuit. In fact, when I run a search for pizza trucks on the popular Roaming Hunger food truck website, 184 trucks show up in the results. However, even with their popularity and strict health regulations, there's still a fairly large group of people who are nervous about ordering food from them. So what can you do to help them feel as confident ordering from a truck as they do coming into your pizzeria?

Thumbing through this month's issue of Health magazine, I came across an article about the safety and sanitation questions often raised by food trucks. Fortunately, pizza trucks weren't mentioned negatively in the article, but it did point out to food truck customers what they should be looking for when dining truckside. These safety red flags should be on your radar as well if you run a truck or are considering starting a pizza truck business. Remember, in a truck, your kitchen is on display at all times, and customers will be watching. Show them that you care about their health and safety.

Your truck should display a license and letter grade from the local health department (customer's can ask to see these or look them up if not posted).

Gloves should be worn (and changed frequently) to illustrate that you care about food safety. If you don't wear gloves, be extra conscious about your hands and nails being clean at all times.

Hair should be tied back and not hanging over food or needing to be brushed from your face causing you to frequently touch your hair or face, picking up bacteria and spreading it to food.

Foods must be at proper temperatures. Piping hot pizzas, calzones, soups, etc., and cold from the refrigerator sandwiches and salads.

Keep the sink stocked with soap and clear of dirty dishes. You'll need easy access to hand washing.

Do you run a pizza truck? How do you ensure your truck is always in tip-top shape?

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

What Qualifies a Restaurant as "Best?"

On Tuesday, Bravo announced that Chef Gordon Ramsay would be bringing his UK hit "Ramsay's Best Restaurant" to the U.S. and calling it "America's Best Restaurant." The show will travel across the country and pit 16 of America's best restaurants against one another, in their own kitchens, to see who truly offers the best all-around, top-to-bottom experience. The winner will be crowned "America's Best Restaurant." So of course, everyone is wondering which 16 restaurants have been chosen, and of course, that's being kept a secret.

What I think is more interesting is the idea of "best" restaurants and "best" pizzerias. It's a question I get asked all of the time and one that's difficult to answer. To tell you the truth, I usually don't answer it. So many factors go into creating a memorable restaurant. It's not solely the food, the atmosphere or the service individually. It's the perfect combination of everything together--every time you visit. Let's take a look at some of the details that make a good restaurant great.

The food is consistently well prepared. This first one should be obvious, but I can't tell you how many restaurants I've been to where there are only a few items I'll order again and again. At a truly great restaurant, you feel secure ordering anything, because you know it will be outstanding no matter when you order it or who happens to be in the kitchen that day.

There's always service with a smile. Customer service starts at the front door, with a friendly greeting and an escort to the customer's preferred table. Whether you run a sit-down restaurant or an order-over-the-phone pizzeria, customers should feel appreciated and happy with service, never angry or frustrated.

Every square inch of the facility is clean. Whether we're talking about the windows in front, the bathrooms, the floors, tabletops, dishes, or the kitchen, every part of the restaurant should be clean. One of my pet peeves is ordering an expensive glass of wine and finding someone else's lip prints staring back at me.

Customers are regularly surprised by extras. Some of my favorite restaurants are the ones where I'm surprised with a free teaser appetizer when I sit down, bread that's warm from the oven when it arrives at the table, a manager/owner that comes around and asks how everything is going, and maybe even a tiny sweet at the end with my bill. These are all things that stay in a customer's mind and will get shared with friends.

Owners/chefs aren't afraid to think outside the box. At top restaurants you'll often see a changing or seasonal menu, which allows the chef to experiment and customers to try new things each time they come in.

The restaurant pays attention to small details. Soft napkins, nice soap/tissue in the bathrooms, good butter/olive oil with bread, etc. Even the smallest details stand out and help to move your restaurant to the top of the list in a customer's mind.

So how does your pizzeria fare when you go through this list? How do you make your customers feel special, and what makes your pizzeria the "best"?

Monday, April 1, 2013

Engage with Facebook

I recently watched a webinar on HootSuite University called Facebook Brand Pages: Rules of Engagement, and since most of you reading this probably have a Facebook fan page for your pizzeria, I thought it was important to share some of the tips I gleaned from the webinar’s host Jason Li, lead strategist with global creative solutions at Facebook. Let me know which of these strategies you’ve tried and how they’ve worked out for you!

First of all, Li says that, on average, your posts will only go to about 16% of your fan base. In order to increase this number, you should strive for a virality of 1% to 2% within the first couple of hours of posting. Meaning, don’t post at times when users are unlikely to see and share the post, such as 2:00 a.m. Also remember that 40% of people’s time on Facebook is spent in the News Feed, so pay attention to how your posts appear on the News Feed page, since most people will see them here, rather than on your actual Facebook brand page.

Li’s 4 Steps to Business Success on Facebook
  1. Build your page
  2. Connect to customers through Facebook ads (What’s more important than quantity of fans, is quality of fans. Are they actual customers? Facebook ads can target the exact demographic you’re seeking.)
  3. Engage with customers through quality content
  4. Influence the friends of your fans (organic word of mouth and paid media) If you have 50,000 fans, you have the ability to reach 4 million friends of fans.
Steps Toward Customer Engagement
Rather than fill-in-the-blank questions and polls, Li suggests a more sustainable method of content creation.
  1. Identify why customers love your brand (do they love the way your product smells, tastes, feels, functions, the way it makes them feel, etc.?)
  2. Understand why people share content on Facebook (liking, sharing, commenting, etc.).
The Four Principles of Why People Share on Facebook
  1. To make my life easier (asking for recommendations from others on Facebook to solve a problem/question). How you can do this: Help them learn something new, discover something inspirational or reward them with savings or tips.
  2. To build relationships/rapport (often people like something just to acknowledge to their friend that they were on their page). How you can do this: Create a two-way dialogue, provide prompt and meaningful responses, recognize/celebrate fans, create an emotional relationship, make them smile!
  3. To help others (sharing best places to go in a city, etc.) How you can do this: Ask for feedback; be open and transparent about your company.
  4. To craft our identity (sharing our movies that we watched, music we listened to, restaurants we visited, etc.) How you can do this: Enable fans to express who they are.
Once you can identify why people love your brand and can integrate that into one or more of the above four principles, you will be able to drive quality engagement.
Establish a Communication Rhythm with a Posting Strategy
  • Once you have quality posts to share, post at least one to two times per week (no more than 5X per week). Don’t create posts just to fill in spots. If you have two good posts, post two times per week. Fans will see through the “filler” posts.
  • Create a content calendar and schedule your posts.
  • Understand your audience and engagement with Page Insights. You can see how many people you’ve been reaching, and how many people have been engaging with your posts on a weekly basis. Keep track of this to note trends in time, frequency, etc.
  • Promote your posts to increase engagement in the News Feed.
  • Download the Pages Manager app on iPhone to post updates via mobile.
I hope these tips from HootSuite’s webinar with Jason Li will help you in your fan engagement. It never hurts to try something new when it comes to social media!