The Pizza Insider: March 2014

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Thursday, March 27, 2014

How Obama's Wage Proposal Affects You

It's the latest political debate circulating through the news and restaurant industry: Could Congress pass a bill proposed by President Obama that raises the national minimum wage to $10.10 per hour?

Rob Green, executive director of the National Council of Chain Restaurants (NCCR), a division of the National Retail Federation, tells The Pizza Insider that in order to pass, the proposal would need 60 votes in the Senate; voting is scheduled to happen as early as next week. Sixty yes votes from the Senate is a highly unlikely feat, according to Green. "If the proposal doesn't pass the Senate, they'll need to decide if they want to make adjustments and send it back through," he says.

The bill, according to Green, proposes an increase of the federal minimum wage to $10.10 over a period of three years. Additionally, it would raise the federal minimum tipped wage from $2.13 to $7.00.

So how would the increase affect you and your pizzeria if it passes? For many, it depends on location, according to Green, since your pizzeria may be in a state which previously raised wages over federal minimum levels (21 states and D.C.). Beyond location, Green says that the costs introduced by a federal minimum wage hike would have a significant impact. "Increasing menu prices is usually a last resort," says Green. "So the wage increase would more than likely result in fewer staff, fewer hours for existing employees, and pressure to increase wages for staff that are making over minimum wage."

The restaurant industry is not the only industry which could be impacted by a federal minimum wage hike, but it's one of the leading industries that entry level employees turn to. Green says that a higher minimum wage could translate into fewer opportunities for these entry-level workers to get hired.

Whether you're for or against a federal minimum wage increase, there's something you can do. Organizations have sites set up with sample letters for you to send to Congress. If you have an opinion, let it be heard.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Attend a Hair Show for Pizza Advice

A couple of weeks ago I attended a hair education event in Orlando. Yes, you read that right. When I returned home from covering the event (for a separate publication), I realized that many of the business tips that the educators were sharing could also be applied to running a pizzeria.

Not surprisingly, when seeking business and marketing advice, almost any seminar or trade event will provide valuable, motivational tips that help your pizzeria--just translate the tips to apply to your own business.

We all want to attend the big pizza events that happen throughout the year (and you should), but in between, there are probably dozens of smaller nonpizza events right in your own neck of the woods. You won't be eating pizza at most of these (that's the hardest part), but you'll be learning from new-to-you experts and applying fresh ideas immediately.

Here are just five of the tips I picked up at the hair show. I've translated each into a pizzeria tip.

Original tip: If the salon is too booked to take a walk-in, give the client a $10 voucher to come back within five days so that you don't lose them to another salon.
Pizzeria translation: If you run out of a menu item or otherwise have a dissatisfied loyal customer, give them a $10 coupon to return within 10 days so that you don't lose them to another pizzeria.

Original tip: When a client says, "I want something completely different," it means they've gone through something terrible or wonderful; make them feel great!
Pizzeria translation: When a customer says, "Surprise me" they've probably had a rough day and can't make one more decision; make them something that will wow them!

Original tip: Give your client four referral vouchers valid for six weeks. For each one that comes back, the client receives $80 to spend in the salon. With $80 each on the line, they will get people there!
Pizzeria translation: Give your customers a referral coupon valid for six weeks. If it comes back, the customer receives $XX to spend in the pizzeria.

Original tip: Turn your customers into referrals by exciting them again. Talk with them. Oftentimes, they think we just don't care.
Pizzeria translation: Same as above.

Original tip: Raise your prices; be the premium, and justify yourself.
Pizzeria translation: Same as above. 

Do you attend seminars and trade shows unrelated to pizza? Let me know some of the best ones you've been to in the comments below. 

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Soldiers Eat 3-Year-Old Pizza

Photo: Steven Senne/AP
Three-year-old pizza may not sound good to you, but when you're a soldier who's been stationed in the Middle East for a year, thousands of miles from the comforts of home, the familiar taste of a pepperoni pizza, in any form, can be quite a welcome treat.

This is just one of the reasons why pizza has been the No. 1 most requested Meal, Ready-to-Eat (MRE) among military officers since 1981, and why the U.S. Military Lab in Massachusetts has spent years working to figure out how to make a slice that would survive in a standard issue meal kit for up to three years.

The issue has always been with the tomato sauce and cheese causing sogginess, a problem the lab says they've now solved by using humectants, changing the acidity of the ingredients and making improvements to the packaging.

The pizza is in its final phase of testing, with researchers reporting that the taste is similar to a pan pizza.

Thursday, March 6, 2014

6 Ways to Wake Up a Boring Newsletter

Credit: Devopstom (Flickr)
We all love the ease of sending out e-newsletters. The Internet has saved us all thousands of dollars on paper and postage.

However, the old rules of newsletters do not apply to e-newsletters. Long copy must be shortened; benefits and specials must grab the readers attention quickly; and readers must have a reason to read your email.

In the interest of keeping this short and to the point, here are 6 ways to improve your existing e-newsletter.

1. Nearly 80% of your readers will scan, not read your newsletter. Toss out introductory info and get straight to the point.

2. Keep things short and simple. Sentences should be less than 15 words, paragraphs less than four sentences, stories less than three paragraphs.

3. Avoid sounding like a book. Maintaining a friendly and conversational tone will make readers want to keep reading.

4. Report interesting and accurate information. If your readers trust you as a news source, they will open your emails in the future.

5. Stay focused. Try not to cover too many topics at once.

6. Test popular newsletter formats such as lists (like this one with important information bolded), which cover one topic and are easy for readers to scan and pick up information.You can always link to a site-based article for those who want to read more.

How are you keeping your e-newsletters interesting? Let me know in the comments!