The Pizza Insider: April 2014

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Friday, April 25, 2014

7 Ways You're Sabotaging Your Business

Photo: Mike Poresky (Flickr)
Have you ever stopped to consider the ways that you may be sabotaging your success without even realizing it? Small missteps add up quickly when you're running a business.

Take note if you're guilty of committing any of these no nos.

Sabotage #1: Your phone has no voice mail. Customers who are planning a dinner will often call a pizzeria the night before to check hours. If you're closed and there's no voice mail message that lets callers know when you're open, they will move on to the next restaurant.

Sabotage #2: You're not collecting customer information. How can you keep customers if you don't know who they are? Collecting data via a POS system, comment cards, loyalty clubs, etc. will help you continue to market to and sell to your existing customers.

Sabotage #3: You don't keep your social media pages updated. It's not enough to start a Facebook or Twitter account. You have to keep it updated and interact with your guests; otherwise, it makes you you appear lazy--or worse--closed.

Sabotage #4: You don't have a budget for marketing. "Word of mouth" is not marketing. It's great, but it's not marketing. Every business needs to continue spreading the word about itself no matter how successful it is. Look at companies like Apple, McDonald's and Wal-Mart. They haven't stopped marketing themselves.

Sabotage #5: Your numbers don't add up and you don't know why. Do you have a clear picture of your food and labor costs as well as your profits and losses? Faulty numbers can spell disaster for a pizzeria.

Sabotage #6: You keep your nose to the grindstone. It's great to focus on your business, but in order to grow, you also need to get out and talk with other business owners, attend trade shows and interact with the community. You are the face of your business, so let people meet you!

Sabotage #7: You like the status quo. It's easy to get comfortable when things are going well, but your customers enjoy it when you test new menu items and drinks, and your staff will like the challenge when you change things up as well. Be different and attract more customers.

This is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the ways you can sabotage yourself. So the next time you're patting yourself on the back for a great week, take a moment to check that there aren't any areas of possible sabotage.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Seeking Help with Franchising

Photo: Caleb Roenigk (Flickr)

After several years of running a pizzeria, there comes a time when you start to think about expanding. That can mean opening a store in the town next door or branching out across the country and allowing others to use your company name and recipes. 

Running one store can be hard enough, so when considering franchising, many pizzerias bring in an expert to help make the transition from one to many a smooth one.

I touched base with historic Aurelio's ( in Chicago, which currently operates 40 locations in six states, to see why chief operating officer Kirk Mauriello sought franchising assistance, and how it ultimately benefited the pizzeria.

The Pizza Insider: Why did you seek assistance from FranConnect?

Kirk Mauriello: We were looking for an all-encompassing system to use for handling our franchise information and communication stream. FranConnect had the most comprehensive and easy-to-use system for corporate and franchisees.

How long did the process take from start to finish and what were some of the biggest challenges and rewards?

We were able to get FranConnect up and running within about 30 days. The biggest challenge was internal. Getting all the stores set up and making sure that we had all the correct information such as email addresses for the franchisees. The biggest reward was being able to have one system that keeps all the information we need about each franchise locations in a database.

Are there some aspects that you felt could not be done without assistance from an expert? 

We are a small organization. Although, we are listed in the Top 50 Pizza Chains in America, we are very lean. We only have six corporate employees and we rely heavily on technology systems to maximize our effectiveness. FranConnect has saved us thousands of hours of work that we used to have to do compiling data. Now we just enter the data and the system keeps track of it all.

How has working with FranConnect helped to grow Aurelio's?

We have been able to implement other pieces that FranConnect offers such as PerformanceWise, which has allowed us to improve our quality control process and automate a very detail oriented, time consuming process. 

What advice do you have for the independent pizzeria operator considering franchising?

The key to franchising is systems and processes. Not only restaurant operational systems and processes, but administrative systems and processes.

Rick Arevalo, chief client officer from FranConnect shared some additional information with The Pizza Insider about what pizzerias operators should think about before considering franchising.

The Pizza Insider: What are some of the big questions an independent pizzeria operator should ask themselves when considering franchising?

Rick Arevalo: Before considering converting a business over to a franchising model, there are many commitments and legal requirements to consider. Once you have registered a trademark and created the franchise agreement, you have now committed to a system of promised support that would convince an investor to spend a significant amount of time and money to become “part of a greater thing” – your trademark. So why should they gravitate to your offering? The operator going into franchising would need to have over time:

·         An organized process of handling leads from different sources which organizes, automatically send responses and retains records of all investments and results by lead source as well as an electronic sending and accounting of all FDD’s sent out and their results.
·         A clear communication follow up to every prospective inquiry that expeditiously showed them what is offered, why it is attractive and graphically represents your company as the only choice in your specific space.
·         Once you have brought on new franchisees, they will need an organized, managed process to cover all bases and expedite the opening of their location and shorten their time to “days first dollar”.
·         A centralized online communication tool where your whole system would “congregate” to drive culture, improve communication and create alignment throughout your network.
·         A formalized way of supporting franchisees through online training and timely addressing daily issues that come up.
·         The ability to retain all records of documents, trainings, personal information, phone calls , emails and field visits in one place that is easy to access and understand corporate wide.
·         An objective way of making location visits that specifically directs franchisees on what to do and why through pictorial examples and impeccable follow up to ensure compliance and progress.
·         Compiling financial information and KPI’s, collecting royalties electronically and comparing all units to benchmark results and progress.
·         The ability to help franchisees increase revenues through an integrated marketing platform to include franchisee micro-sites, email marketing, PPC, print marketing, online ad builder, customer feedback etc.

How long does it generally take to open a franchise using FranConnect versus doing it on your own and what is involved in the process?

There are a myriad of issues and problems to overcome if one were to consider entering franchising on their own. The biggest problem that you would encounter is not knowing what you don’t know. It takes many years of experience to realize that it would take you years to setup a franchise system, start to bring in prospects, show them that they are investing in a complete system that will ensure direction, protection of the trademark they are investing in, and a solid promise of increasing the value of their investment over time. All of this comes from the “complete” array of services brought to the franchisee by the franchisor. FranConnect offers all of these modular pieces in one place and most importantly, supports individual franchisor/customers by bringing them the expertise and best practices of over 500 brand names. The result is the ability of the potential small company can become a franchisor in a fraction of the time because all modules you could possibly need along with the supporting expertise to use them is provided in one place.

Is help affordable to the small business owner? What is the typical return on investment?

It does not matter what size of an organization you are, help is affordable and expandable. FranConnect currently works with many small and startup companies that may start out with only a few modules, but expand to others as they grow and need them. The ROI on any particular module is clearly short term and ongoing. We are highly accessible to anyone and want to become partners in growth for life.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

The Gift of Giving

Photo: mira66 (Flickr)
Many people—maybe even you—have convinced themselves that in order to make a difference with charity work, they have to be able to write out a huge check or it’s just not worth the effort. The truth is, it doesn’t take much to make a difference. You’ll have a great feeling of accomplishment knowing that you are doing something for the greater good. Make it a goal for 2014 to hold at least one charity event in your pizzeria.
Pick a Passion

There are many creative ways to raise money for charity. Do you want to help the industry, children, animals? Make a list of great causes and when you’ve narrowed it down to one subject, check into some charities on the Better Business Bureau website. Contact the organization and tell them what you’re planning; they’ll be happy to help you with advice on planning and coordinating a successful event.

If you’re lost when it comes to thinking of how to raise money, just start small in the beginning. Try the following promotions to get things started and ask others around you for additional ideas.

Charity Pizza of the Month. Create a special pizza for the charity of your choice and have a portion of the proceeds go toward your charity.

Gift Card Raffle. Run a week-long or month-long raffle to win a $100 gift card to the pizzeria. Tell entrants that the raffle money raised is going toward your designated charity.

Host a Pizza Making Class. Teach a class on pizza making in the pizzeria and have all entry fees go to your charity.

Hold a Pizza Eating Contest. Charge your competitors to enter and have the funds raised go to charity.

The most important thing to remember is that no donation is too small. Don’t feel discouraged if you run a month-long promotion and you have only $250 to send to your charity. You have still made a difference by showing your customers and staff what it feels like to give back. Don’t lose your momentum; each small success leads to a greater one.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Write a Book and Boost Your Business

Photo: Dwayne Bent (Flickr)

Have you ever considered writing your own book? There are thousands of books published every year and even more that go straight to the online market. In recent years, we’ve seen more and more pizzeria operators get into the writing game, sharing stories and recipes that bring consumers into their world. Will you be next?

I pondered some of the questions you may be asking yourself when it comes to book topics, benefits of authorship, target audience and more and took them to Ken Dunn, author of five books on sales, marketing and writing, including Learn How to Write a Book in Two Hours. His books have sold more than 250,000 copies in 10 languages worldwide.

In addition to the advice given in the Q&A below, visit an online bookseller one day and type in the word "pizza." You'll find hundreds of books about pizza, but there's undoubtedly a few topics that haven't been covered that are just waiting for your expertise.

The Pizza Insider: How can a pizzeria operator benefit from writing his/her own book?

Ken Dunn: Writing a book can help him or her share what inspired them to start their pizzeria and how they did so. If their family came from Sicily, customers would love to know that. A book gives them the opportunity to explain how the pizzeria was established and what they do to continue to help it grow. It’s important to incorporate information about their mission and company beliefs, so that if, for example, they believe in fresh food, potential customers know about that. It also helps them gain notice from potential investors. 

Opening up this way [writing a book] can gain the trust of stakeholders, attract new customers, display knowledge of the company’s workings, and help an operator gain confidence in their field. This isn’t to say that publishing a book means sharing all one’s secrets to success. Instead, a good book will scratch the surface, establishing the writer’s expertise, while keeping the finer points indefinable. Don’t give away the family recipe; instead, explain the history of your particular recipe, your belief in fresh ingredients, and other information that builds your brand without putting you out of business. 

Upon reading the book, every employee in the company will truly understand that their leader knows what he or she is doing. This confidence in their boss will enable employees at every level to work effectively, confident that with an expert at the helm, the entire company’s goals can be achieved.

What are some book topics you would suggest to a pizzeria operator?

Some topics for a pizzeria operator to consider would be the inner workings of their business and how to be successful. For a brand that prides itself on tradition, the history of pizza or pizzerias could also be a good topic to establish. If they write about how they succeeded in business, the operator could, potentially, open themselves up to opportunities to speak.

What are some proven success methods for building a successful book and marketing it well?

There is not one “magic formula”—or, in this case, “recipe”—for writing a successful book. One of the most important components of a good book is a good editor, not only to ensure that there are no grammatical mistakes, but also to make sure that the book flows well and tells a story in an effective manner.

We have found that a combination of traditional and digital media is most effective. When marketing a book, traditional public relations should be combined with SEO efforts, like blogging, as well as social media. There are some places where these efforts meet—using SEO optimized press releases on PRWeb is the perfect marriage of the two disciplines.

In today's self-sufficient Internet world, do you suggest ebooks over traditional publishers?

I do, because, in the traditional publishing world, there is no guarantee that your book will turn out the way that you want it to turn out—I have spoken to many authors who have told me that their publisher went as far as to change the title of their book without consulting them. When self-publishing, authors get final approval during each step of the creative process, from the cover of the book to their website to their press releases.

What's your take; is 2014 the year you'll write your book? Have you already written one? Tell me about it in the comments below.