The Pizza Insider: January 2014

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Thursday, January 30, 2014

How the New Tax Law Affects Your Pizzeria

By now you've heard about the 2013 tax law that affects how restaurants will report automatic gratuities on large group orders.

Some may not realize that this law also applies to pizza delivery charges--a practice that the pizzeria industry has been using for decades.

The tax, in effect, covers any service charge that is not considered a tip, but rather added on by the restaurant operator. Auto gratuities and delivery charges fall into this category because the customer has no control over them.

The IRS (full document found here) states specifically:

"Service charges added to a bill or fixed by the employer that the customer must pay, when paid to an employee, will not constitute a tip but rather constitute non-tip wages. These non-tip wages are subject to social security tax, Medicare tax, and federal income tax withholding. In addition, the employer cannot use these non-tip wages when computing the credit available to employers under section 45B of the Internal Revenue Code, because these amounts are not "tips." Common examples of service charges (sometimes called "auto-gratuities") in service industries are:
  • Large Party Charge (restaurant),
  • Bottle Service Charge (restaurant and night-club),
  • Room Service Charge (hotel and resort),
  • Contracted Luggage Assistance Charge (hotel and resort), and
  • Mandated Delivery Charge (pizza or other retail deliveries)."
More at the IRS Restaurant Tax Center here.

How is your pizzeria handling this amendment to the tax laws? Are you changing the way you charge for delivery? How will this affect your business? Let me know in the comments.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

6 Tips to Get You Super Bowl Ready

Photo: The Super Bowl Host Committee
We are 10 days away from Super Bowl Sunday, as long as this pesky "Polar Vortex" cooperates. What are you doing to prep for one of the biggest pizza ordering days of the year?

Check the below list to ensure you have a winning game-day plan in place.

  • Stock Up. You do not want to run out of food on Super Bowl Sunday. Make sure you have double or triple the amount you would normally need. Take a look back at last year's numbers and work from there. If your pizzeria is located anywhere near the MetLife Stadium, expect increases in business for the days leading up to and after the game as well.
  • Staff Up. There will always be employees who call in "sick" on the day of the big game, so schedule everyone you have--you will need them for taking orders, baking, delivering and more. It will be worth it to have as many hands as possible helping out.
  • Promote Preordering. Save yourself a little time on February 2 by offering to take orders now and hold them in the system. This will save customers time waiting on hold or ordering online when they'd rather be enjoying time with friends, and it will give you a good idea of how many supplies to purchase as well. Encourage preorders with a percentage off coupon on your website/Facebook/Twitter, etc.
  • Run a Game Day Special. Bring in more orders with a Super Bowl special such as "free wings with any large pizza" or "free 2-liter with 2 medium pizzas." Customers will need to feed groups of people, so consider that when creating specials that will take the guesswork out of ordering.
  • Run a Social Media Contest. Get customers involved in the game and the pizzeria by offering something free to anyone who can guess what the halftime score will be (answers must be submitted before the game starts). This one could be tricky, depending on how many people get it right, but they're likely to order more food when they call to claim their prize.
  • Bring them Back. Want all of those orders on Super Bowl Sunday to be reorders in March, or better yet, the rest of the year? Include a box topper on every order that provides a different coupon for every month for the rest of the year (good only for each designated month). Make sure the coupons are enticing enough that they'll be saved (free pizza with purchase of another, free appetizer with drink and pizza, 20% off your order, etc.).  
Have more ideas? Share them in the comments.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Proof that Pizza is Your BFF

Everyone loves pizza, but have you ever stopped to think about how over the years it has also loved you back? Stick with me for a minute here. I've got five proven facts that show how pizza is your BFF. It's hard to deny the cold, hard facts....

1. Growing up, pizza saved you from boring lunches and snacks. It waited patiently for you in the cafeteria on pizza day, after school at your favorite pizzeria, and in the freezer at home in the form of bagel bites and pizza rolls.
Credit: Burger Baroness (Flickr)

2. When you needed a hangout, or a casual joint to take someone for a first date, the pizzeria was always your go-to spot--and probably still is.
Credit: Liz Barrett

3. Studying for exams, watching the big game, partying into the wee hours of the morning... who has always been there for you? Pizza, that's who!
Credit: Podere Casanova (Flickr)

4. Pizza even accommodates your crazy mood swings--one day healthy, the next day decadent, the next day gourmet. Only a best friend would put up with that.
Credit: Liz Barrett
5. And if all that wasn't enough, when you don't feel like leaving the house, pizza is always just a phone call away. It can be there in less than 30 minutes.
Credit: Liz Barrett

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Tips to Fight a January Sales Slump

Photo by paulwan8 (flickr)
Holiday spending is over, and for many consumers, holiday bills and thoughts of the upcoming tax season has started to set in. This can result in a slower January for many pizzeria operators. Super Bowl will provide some welcome relief in February, but what can you do now to keep your books in the black?

Offer free delivery for the month of January. Let's face it, it's cold out there! Many of us do not want to step outside to get the mail, much less go pick up a pizza. Let everyone know that they don't need to go anywhere. You'll bring it to them for free. And if you don't currently offer delivery, consider hiring a few temporary drivers just during the slow time to see if it makes a difference for your business.

Introduce something new. We often associate the new year with fresh, new ideas and products. This goes for new menu items at our favorite restaurants as well. Show customers that you want to give them something new this year. It doesn't have to be a revamp of the entire menu, just a few new things to excite their taste buds.

Show new dieters that the pizzeria is safe territory. January is a time for New Year's resolutions, and while most diets don't stick around into February, they are pretty solid in January. This may include a "no pizza" rule. Remind customers about your salads and other healthy options that they are still able to fit into a "healthy" diet.

Get people in with crazy specials. Send emails or post on Facebook crazy promos to get people to come through the doors. "First 10 customers at the pizzeria tonight get a free pizza," or "Wear a crazy sweater and get free hot chocolate." You get the idea.

Hold a snowman-making contest. If you live in a snowy climate, hold a snowman-making contest with the winner receiving free pizza and sodas for their group. Invite the local news out to film it and make it fun for kids and adults with hot cocoa/coffee served inside the pizzeria (and of course, a full menu available for purchase).

Take advantage of the NFL playoffs. Most of the football fans who watch the Super Bowl are also watching the playoff games that lead up to the big game. If you have TVs in your pizzeria, invite fans via Facebook, Twitter, text to watch the game. If you don't have TVs, offer playoff game-day specials for pick-up or delivery.

Use this time to prepare.  You more than likely enjoyed a busy December, so you may be glad for the break that a somewhat slower January offers. Use this time to prepare for a busy February and start getting your books in order for tax time.

These are just a few ideas to get you started. What methods are you using to avoid a January sales slump?

Thursday, January 2, 2014

5 Steps to Higher Profits in 2014

Photo by 401(K)2013 (flickr)
The start of a new year gets everyone thinking about fresh starts and new ideas. It's the perfect time to create your master plan for success and increased profits. Below are a few simple steps to get you  moving in the right direction.

1. Diversify - Branch out from what you've been doing. This could mean adding online ordering, a gluten-free pizza, a "healthier" flatbread option or anything that will introduce your pizzeria to an expanded demographic.

2. Be More Social - Social media grows by the day. Enlist one of your staff members to help you increase your reach on sites such as Facebook and Twitter and ensure they are interacting with customers in a personal way.

3. Learn the Art of the Giveaway - The money you spend giving product away is returned tenfold when it comes to marketing. Hand out free plastic cups, pens, or magnets with your logo, and don't be shy about sending free pizzas to local teachers, office managers and hotel management. Local charities and sports teams fall into this category as well.

4. Treat Your Employees as Partners - Everyone wants to feel like they are contributing to something successful. Conduct regular company meetings and recognize the contributions of your staff. Give them responsibilities that allow them to feel in charge. In the long run, they will work hard to help themselves and you succeed.

5. Continue to Focus on Food Quality - Above all else, never lose sight of what's coming out of your kitchen. Ask friends who can be objective to come into the pizzeria when you aren't there to taste the product and provide feedback. Keep an eye on reviews that are being posted online and follow up as necessary.

I hope this helps to set you on a path toward greater success and profits in 2014. Happy New Year!