The Pizza Insider: June 2013

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Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Leading By Example

Photo: Andy Arthur
As the owner/operator/manager of your pizzeria's staff, you have a lot of people counting on you every day. Have you fully accepted the leadership role and everything it requires to inspire your staff to give you their all?
Leaders have been defined many ways throughout history, but all have possessed similar attributes.

They lead by example. Leaders don't sit on the sidelines; they get involved and become a part of the process.

They accept responsibility. Good or bad, they accept the responsibility of taking on challenges and seeing them through to the end.

They inspire others to succeed. Leaders create an atmosphere that inspires others to take on leadership roles of their own.

They listen. Leaders absorb and handle a variety of feedback--positive and negative--with an open ear. Staff members always feel comfortable coming to them with issues.

They give constructive criticism and genuine praise. Leaders know how to communicate what went wrong without alienating staff members; they also know when and how to praise someone for a job well done.

These are just the tip of the iceberg when recognizing a good leader; I also went to The Pizza Insider blog advisory board and asked what they thought made a good leader.

"A great leader is someone who inspires others to be the best that they can be. Whether it's at a job, a cause, or on a sports team, a true leader is someone who makes everyone else want to be better." --Vanessa Maltin Weisbrod, Delight Gluten Free magazine

"A leader leads by example. Giving a pep talk is fine, but if you aren't there showing how much you care about your business, then all the words fall on deaf ears." --Jonathan Porter, Chicago Pizza Tours

"The biggest criterium of a leader is the ability to make decisions." --Scott Wiener, Scott's Pizza Tours

"A great leader inspires and motivates those around him/her and gives them the tools and resources to produce the best work possible." --Jason Feirman,

Monday, June 24, 2013

Putting an End to Email Overload

I'm going to step away from pizza for a moment, because I really want to share something that I feel can be a big help to everyone who spends a lot of time going through emails every day. I've never spoken to this company and I'm not being paid to say nice things about them. In fact, I just came across the site when I was reading through some materials on

I don't know about you, but I have three separate email accounts that get a fair amount of useless emails every day. I read a statistic recently stating that 80% of emails are spam. Ugh! Anyway, when I heard about, I immediately checked it out.

The deal is this. You sign in with your Gmail and/or Yahoo accounts (these are the only email clients supported at this time), and it will automatically run through your account and pull out all of your subscriptions. It then gives you a choice to either unsubscribe from them or "roll them up" into one combined email that you'll receive daily. Ta-da! No more cluttered inboxes! I can hardly imagine it.

When I ran the scan on my Gmail account, it found 133 subscriptions. My Yahoo had 138. Some of them I didn't even recognize! Needless to say, I unsubscribed from more than half of them on both accounts and "rolled" the rest.

I'm excited to experience my new inbox!

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

7 Ways to Benefit from LinkedIn

I'll admit that when I first started using LinkedIn, I had no idea what I was doing. In fact, I was a bit late to the game, joining just about a year ago.

As the months have passed, I've picked up a few things, but still wouldn't consider myself a LinkedIn expert. However, I do know that there are many benefits to using LinkedIn to enhance networking, and trying to gather the most connections is not at the top of the list.

If you haven't set up a profile yet, or even if you've been using the site for a long time, there are some easy tips to keep in mind to get the most benefit out of LinkedIn.

1. Take your time in creating a professional profile. Remember that this is the first impression many people will have of you, including contacts that will hopefully be doing business with you in the future. Make sure your profile presents you and/or your business in a simple, professional manner, and you include a photo.

2. Focus on quality, not quantity. On sites such as Facebook, the focus is on getting the most friends and likes. On LinkedIn, you really want to focus on connecting with the people who can help you the most, and vice versa.

3. Choose relevant groups. If you decide to join any groups, choose the ones that truly interest you, not those that you want to promote to. People will ignore sales pitches in groups anyway. And if you are in a group, select a day of the week to visit the group and interact where you can.

4. Connect offline. Each week, choose 2-3 of your LinkedIn connections and send them a message to chat via phone (meet for coffee or lunch if you're local). Doing this will grow a true networking group from what you're building on LinkedIn.

5. Conduct market research. LinkedIn is a great forum for asking opinions. With so many business minds in one place, posing a question about a new marketing promotion could provide a ton of insightful feedback.

6. Find new staff members. When you aren't networking, LinkedIn has a great tool for finding new employees. With the Advanced Search function, you can search users by years of experience, previous employers, location and more.

7. Gather business reviews. Connections on LinkedIn are usually open to trading recommendations. If you've worked with someone before (think vendors, accountants, distributors, etc.) ask them to write a recommendation for you and you'll do the same for them. This will show up when others search for you, giving your business added credibility.

These tips have just scratched the surface of what you can accomplish through networking on LinkedIn. If you're interested in delving deeper, I recently came across a free ebook called "How to REALLY use LinkedIn," which you can find here.

How are you benefiting from LinkedIn? Share your tips in the comments section below.

Friday, June 14, 2013

Timeless Advice from Dale Carnegie

Photo: Liz Barrett
Last week I was looking for a new book to start reading and pulled one off the shelf that has moved with me from place to place since probably the early '90s. I don't think I ever finished it when I first started reading it all those years ago, but I'm now at a place where I can appreciate the lessons it holds.

I've come to realize that most people have heard of, read, or owned (and never read) "How to Win Friends & Influence People" by Dale Carnegie. It was published back in 1936, but the advice it holds still rings true today.

So, in the hopes of sparking a bit of entrepreneurial spirit, or maybe just inspiring people to be nicer to each other, I'm sharing a very abbreviated version of the principles from the book here. I chose Friday so that we can all go into the weekend prepared to win friends and influence people!

Techniques in Handling People
--Don't criticize, condemn or complain.
--Give honest and sincere appreciation.
--Arouse in the other person an eager want.

Ways to Make People Like You
--Become genuinely interested in other people.
--Remember that a person's name is to that person the sweetest and most important sound in any language.
--Be a good listener. Encourage others to talk about themselves.
--Make the other person feel important--and do it sincerely.

Win People to Your Way of Thinking
--The only way to get the best of an argument is to avoid it.
--Show respect for the other person's opinions and never say, "You're wrong."
--If you are wrong, admit it quickly and emphatically.
--Let the other person feel that the idea is his or hers.
--Try honestly to see things from the other person's point of view.

Be a Leader
--Begin with praise and honest appreciation.
--Call attention to people's mistakes indirectly.
--Ask questions instead of giving direct orders.
--Let the other person save face.
--Make the other person happy about doing the thing you suggest.

Do you have a favorite principle from the book? Let us know in the comments below.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Traveling Pizza

Photo: Liz Barrett
Since joining the PMQ Pizza Magazine staff six years ago, pizza has traveled with me on many an airplane or car ride back home to Oxford, Mississippi, from pizzeria visits around the country (you'd be surprised how well it keeps).

Sometimes, since my friends know that I love pizza, they also bring me pizza when they go somewhere (did I mention that I have awesome friends?)

My latest gift came in the form of two pizzas from Imo's in St. Louis. My friend Pat has been talking about this place for years. He grew up on Imo's and said it was a must try. I haven't been able to get up to St. Louis, so when he went last week, he brought Imo's back! I popped it in the oven and the super thin pie emerged crispy and cheesy.

I'm not the only one who enjoys pizza from far-off places. A growing number of pizzerias are offering their pies for mail delivery to people who just can't live without them. Still more have begun mass producing and supplying pizzas to local and national grocery store chains so that we can always have access to a taste of home.

How many times has someone come into your pizzeria and told a story about eating your pizza when they were younger, or wanted to experience it again after moving away?

Have you ever considered shipping or freezing your pizzas? Let us know in the comments section below.

Friday, June 7, 2013

Training Time

What's your training style at your pizzeria? Do new hires follow a training manual and specific steps to learn their new job or are they thrown to the wolves?

In order to properly learn any task in a pizzeria, trainees usually need to go through a series of steps, which include, but are not limited to: demonstration of the task; shadowing another employee; verbal or written instructions; trainer supervision while performing tasks; and role-playing, with the trainee performing duties while the trainer acts as the customer.

Many new trainees have never worked at a pizzeria before--or anywhere! The most important place to start is with safety (i.e., handling food, emergency situations, kitchen equipment safety, slip and fall avoidance, etc.).

Patience is key when trying to determine which learning style works best for each person. It's important that all employees are trained on the same tasks and skills--and consistently--especially since many of them will be training each other. Assigning mentors or "buddies" to new employees can also boost the morale of your current staff, showing them that you trust them enough to train a newbie.

And don't restrict training to the new hires. Refresh the skills of your more seasoned employees every six months, or as needed. These periodic trainings can include customer service improvement, menu upsell techniques, and training to move into other positions at the pizzeria.

So what's your training style? Let us know in the comments section below.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Liven Up Soda Sales

Jic Jac is a soda from the 1950s that was
originally produced in St. Louis.
Just as wine and beer drinkers enjoy picking out the perfect beverage to go with their meal, those who don't imbibe also enjoy variety in their nonalcoholic drink choices.

I was looking through a specialty soda website recently and found more than 1,200 different sodas available, many I had never even heard of before. Over the past several years, as craft beer has become more popular, so have craft sodas, using fresh ingredients and very little sugar.

We've seen soda tastings, soda pairings and soda mocktail contests. So with all of these interesting sodas available, why aren't restaurants offering more choices?

It's true that specialty sodas cost more than traditional soda, but customers are also willing to pay a premium price for the novelty and uniqueness of a specialty soda that they can only get from you.

Take a poll of your customers, or run a test with some sampler packs. See what the reaction is to some additional soda choices at the pizzeria. You may be pleasantly surprised at the results.

Are you already offering specialty sodas? What are the results? Let us know in the comments section.

Monday, June 3, 2013

Are Flatbreads Your New Competition?

Flatbread booths numbered in the dozens at
the National Restaurant Association show in Chicago.
Photo: Liz Barrett
Remember when you only had to worry about the pizzeria down the street as competition? You may have noticed more non-pizza restaurants adding flatbreads to their menus. Subway has had them for a few years now, and Chili's just recently rolled them out systemwide. At Chicago's National Restaurant Association show, I couldn't walk 10 feet without coming across another flatbread company. Flatbreads are the easiest way for any restaurant to add a pizza-type item to its menu, and the trend is clearly in full swing.

So what are you doing to stay ahead of the bar down the street that used to just sell burgers and is now offering flatbread appetizers that compete against your pizza menu? What about the steak restaurant around the corner that's showcasing gourmet flatbreads three nights a week?

The fact of the matter is, with ready-made flatbreads, any restaurant can now be your competition. Consumers love pizza, whether it's thick, thin, folded into a calzone or on top of flatbread. If they just ate a flatbread at the seafood joint across the street two nights ago, what are the chances they're coming to your pizzeria tonight?

In order to compete, as well as satisfy customer wants for lighter menu options, many pizzerias are now offering flatbreads on appetizer and lunch menus. You may want to consider starting out small by testing flatbread variations for lunch before adding them to the permanent menu; this will allow you to assess their popularity and test out different topping combinations.

What's your take? How many restaurants in your area, pizza and non-pizza, currently offer flatbreads? Let us know in the comments.