The Pizza Insider: August 2014

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Thursday, August 28, 2014

DIY Chalkboard Menu Tips

Even with all the technology we have available today, we still love to play with chalk.

Admit it. When you go into a restaurant and see a chalkboard menu that's been created with some artistic flair, you stop and notice--you probably order something from it, too.

chalkboard menus
Photo: wearemiller.com

So how do you create one of these menus for your pizzeria?

You can hire an artist, like this guy.

You can quiz your staff to see if anyone is artistically inclined and interesting in playing around with some chalk.

You can contact one of many companies that are now providing this service to restaurants. There are even chalkboard templates that look like chalk, but are actually vinyl.


If you want to try your own hand at chalkboard menu design, it's not as hard as it looks. You'll just need a chalkboard, chalk, a ruler, water, and a little patience.

Here are a few general rules.

1. Always have a plan. Draw out your design on paper first; once you know what you want, measure it out on your chalkboard before starting to draw.

2. Play around with different fonts. Check out font websites and books to find fonts that you like. As you can see on the board above, varying fonts and sizes can really make your board stand out.

3. Don't be afraid to make a mistake. It won't be perfect the first go around; that's why you have water and a rag to touch up any misprints.

4. Get colorful. Black and white is great, but the menu boards that really stand out also integrate some color into them. Grab some color chalk and have some fun.

5. Start small. While 6-foot chalkboard menus certainly make a statement, you probably want to start out with a counter-top specials board when you're just testing your skills. Work your way up to the full wall menu.

Send me a picture of your finished chalkboard; I'd love to see it!

Photo: chalkartstudio.com


--Liz Barrett
Author, Pizza: A Slice of American History
Editor at Large, PMQ Pizza Magazine


Thursday, August 21, 2014

6 Ways to Handle Employee Burnout


employee burnout
Remember that feeling of starting a new job? Trying to impress the boss by getting to work on time, showing off all your skills and waiting in line for that pat on the back?

When was the last time your staff acted that way? If it's been a while, they may be experiencing employee burnout. But it's not too late to turn things around.

Paul Diaz, a former restaurant manager and small business owner, shares his 6 tips for handling employee burnout with The Pizza Insider below. 

1. Communicate Effectively and Often. You won't know whether or not one of your team members is burned out without effective and regular communication. Don't wait for a performance review to see if there are issues; reach out to your team daily, or at least weekly. Take 15 minutes out of your schedule a few times per week and sit down with one or two staffers. Ask them how they're holding up and what you can do to help them. This small time commitment can lead to long-term benefits.

2. Add Responsibilities. Got fry cooks who've had it with whipping up the same French fries and calamari every night? Give them other responsibilities. If they're well organized, they might be able to take on a nightly produce order or help with scheduling. Any time you can give a staff member more to do, you combat potential burnout and make your job easier at the same time.

3. Cross-Train. If your grill people can't stand scrubbing off the grill and cleaning the hoods every night, consider cross-training them in another area. They might do well on the appetizer station or one of your sauté stations. Restaurant workers tend to be pretty versatile, you just have to unlock their potential. Don't forget that a server who's feeling burned out might also make a decent bartender or host.

4. Promote. While you don't want to move someone up randomly just to satisfy a burned out employee, promoting from within can be an effective way to keep your staff happy. Just make sure the move makes sense; the last thing you want to do is put workers in jobs they can't handle.

5. Systematize Your Review Process. If your performance review process has historically been inconsistent, get yourself on a schedule. Your team members want to know how they're doing on a regular basis and they also want to know what they need to do to get better. Set a goal to deliver performance reviews at least every six months and make sure you stay on top of any employee concerns.

6. Recognize Your Team Without Breaking the Bank. Cost is always an issue in a restaurant, so there's no need to take out a radio ad every time a team member goes above and beyond the call. What you can do is recognize them during meetings, and if your organization has a social media presence, shout-outs there can be effective (and free), as well. Make a big deal out of any accomplishments; the benefits can be far-reaching.

If worse comes to worst and you can't find a fix, it's important to know that sometimes it's OK to let employees go. 

Find more tips for handling employee burnout here.

--Liz Barrett
Author, Pizza: A Slice of American History
Editor at Large, PMQ Pizza Magazine


Thursday, August 14, 2014

How to Make Cauliflower Pizza Crust

gluten free pizza crust
The Lucky Penny/Michelle Annett
I've seen and heard about a lot of gluten-free pizzas, but when I came across this creative Cauliflower Pizza Crust a couple of weeks ago, I was surprised at how delicious it looked.

Although the recipe is from a consumer recipe site called The Lucky Penny, I'm wondering if a Cauliflower Pizza Crust would be a viable option for pizzerias seeking a solution for their customers suffering from Celiac disease.

Take a look through the recipe below and accompanying photos. Would you experiment with it in your own pizzeria?





Ingredients
(Makes one 10-12 inch pizza)

  • Small head of cauliflower
  • ¼ c. shredded Parmesan cheese
  • ¼ c. shredded mozzarella cheese
  • ¼ tsp. kosher salt
  • ½ tsp. crushed dried basil
  • ½ tsp. crushed dried oregano
  • ½ tsp. garlic powder
  • Dash of red pepper (optional)
  • 1 tbsp. almond meal (optional)
  • 1 egg


Instructions
Place a pizza stone in the oven, or baking sheet if you don't have a pizza stone. Preheat oven to 450 degrees. On a cutting board, place a large piece of parchment paper and spray it with nonstick cooking oil. 

Wash and thoroughly dry a small head of cauliflower. Don't get one the size of your head unless you are planning on making 2 pizzas. Cut off the florets, you don't need much stem. Just stick with the florets. Pulse in your food processor for about 30 seconds, until you get powdery snow like cauliflower. 

The Lucky Penny/Michelle Annett
You should end up with 2 to 3 cups cauliflower "snow". Place the cauliflower in a microwave safe bowl and cover. Microwave for 4 minutes. Dump cooked cauliflower onto a clean tea towel and allow to cool for a bit before attempting the next step.


Once cauliflower is cool enough to handle, wrap it up in the dish towel and wring the heck out of it. You want to squeeze out as much water as possible. This will ensure you get a chewy pizza like crust instead of a crumbly mess. 


The Lucky Penny/Michelle Annett














Dump the cauliflower into a bowl. It should look nice and light, almost like flour! 

Now add Parmesan cheese, mozzarella cheese, kosher salt, dried basil, dried oregano, garlic powder, and a dash of red pepper if you want. I also added 1 tablespoon almond meal because my cauliflower yielded closer to 2 cups of cauliflower snow (this is optional and I would not add the almond meal if you have closer to 3 cups of cauliflower snow). Now add your egg and mix away (hands tend to work best).

Once mixed together, use your hands to form the dough into a crust on your oiled parchment paper. Pat it down thoroughly; you want it nice and tightly formed together. Don't make it too thick or thin.
The Lucky Penny/Michelle Annett

















Using a cutting board, slide the parchment paper onto your hot pizza stone or baking sheet in the oven. Bake for 8 - 11 minutes, until it looks like this:
The Lucky Penny/Michelle Annett















Add however much sauce, cheese, and toppings you want. Slide parchment with topped pizza back in the hot oven and cook for another 5 to 7 minutes until the cheese is melted, bubbly, and slightly golden.

[[See the original recipe and additional FAQs and photos at TheLuckyPennyBlog.com. Special thanks to Michelle Annett for sharing her creative gluten-free pizza.]]

--Liz Barrett
Author, Pizza: A Slice of American History
Editor at Large, PMQ Pizza Magazine

Monday, August 11, 2014

New Pizza Book Hits Stores in September

pizza book

I'm excited to announce that my pizza book, Pizza: A Slice of American History, will be hitting store shelves on September 1st.

I want all of you to have a chance to get the book, so my publisher has agreed to provide a 30% discount on all preorders until the end of August!

Getting the discount is simple...

Go to the publisher's site here. When you have the book in your cart, enter the PROMO Code: PIZZA30. You will receive 30% off your order (that's $7.50 off the cover price)!

If you love pizza, you'll love this book. It's full of pizza history, pizza styles, pizza recipes, interviews with people in the industry, interesting pizza facts, fun pizza quizzes and much, much more.

It's the perfect companion to a slice of your favorite pizza!

--Liz


here’s a new pizza book coming out in September, written by an Oxford-based author who you’ve probably known for years.
Here’s a hint…it’s me!DSC07742
OK, that was a giveaway.
Anyway, I’m super excited to announce my new book hitting shelves next month, Pizza: A Slice of American History. So excited in fact that I’ve gotten the publisher to agree to give a 30% discount on all preorders until the end of August!
Getting the discount is simple…
Go to the publisher’s site here. When you have the book in your cart, enter the PROMO Code: PIZZA30. You will DSC07743DSC07747receive 30% off your order (that’s $7.50 off the cover price)!
If you love pizza, you’ll love this book. It’s full of pizza history, pizza styles, pizza recipes, interviews with people in the industry, interesting pizza facts, fun pizza quizzes and much, much more.
It’s the perfect companion to a slice of your favorite pizza.
- See more at: http://www.eatingoxford.com/oxford-author-releases-pizza-book/#sthash.F7zi2Dpp.dpuf
here’s a new pizza book coming out in September, written by an Oxford-based author who you’ve probably known for years.
Here’s a hint…it’s me!DSC07742
OK, that was a giveaway.
Anyway, I’m super excited to announce my new book hitting shelves next month, Pizza: A Slice of American History. So excited in fact that I’ve gotten the publisher to agree to give a 30% discount on all preorders until the end of August!
Getting the discount is simple…
Go to the publisher’s site here. When you have the book in your cart, enter the PROMO Code: PIZZA30. You will DSC07743DSC07747receive 30% off your order (that’s $7.50 off the cover price)!
If you love pizza, you’ll love this book. It’s full of pizza history, pizza styles, pizza recipes, interviews with people in the industry, interesting pizza facts, fun pizza quizzes and much, much more.
It’s the perfect companion to a slice of your favorite pizza.
- See more at: http://www.eatingoxford.com/oxford-author-releases-pizza-book/#sthash.F7zi2Dpp.dpuf

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Hit the Million Dollar Mark at Your Pizzeria

make money at pizzeria
How long does it take your pizzeria to make a million dollars? Has it ever? What if you could achieve the million-dollar mark in a matter of months by simply training your staff to be enthusiastic about the place they work and the food they're serving?

This week I spoke with Roger Beaudoin, who runs Restaurant Rockstars. Roger began his career almost 20 years ago, new to the pizza world, and with no experience. His turning point came when he was traveling across country and stopped at a wood-burning pizzeria in New Hampshire. He asked his server for a pizza recommendation and she told him, "I can't recommend anything to you because I don't eat here; it's too expensive." Such a simple comment, but one that could ruin a business when told to enough people. "That scared me when I heard it," says Beaudoin. "I never wanted that to happen in my business." 
Roger Beaudoin

Beaudoin has been promoting staff training since his first day in the restaurant business and never looked back. He recently sold his seasonal restaurant (open only four months per year), which was making more than $1 million each season, to one of his employees. He says he owes it all to treating every table as a series of opportunities. "You have to maximize those opportunities, or you're losing money," says Beaudoin.

So what's the secret to building a million dollar business? Beaudoin says that there's nothing more important than being PROACTIVE and training your staff. "Too many owners and managers are busy being reactive instead of proactive," he says. "They spend their day putting out fires instead of using that time for short pre-shift meetings each day and formal trainings every two to three weeks."

Here are a few quick takeaways from the Restaurant Rockstars program that you can start using today.

  • "Always give two or three choices to the customer instead of approaching them with a yes or no question," says Beaudoin. "You automatically increase your odds of selling when you ask them if they'd like apple pie or chocolate cake, instead of asking, 'Would you like dessert?'"
  • "Servers should start each night with a game plan," says Beaudoin. "Have them choose their favorite appetizer, pizza and dessert, and for each table they serve that night, have them talk those items up."
  • Show servers how to describe dishes so that customers will want to order them. Beaudoin calls it Theater of the Mind and says that anyone can be trained to describe foods in an enticing way.
  • "Train servers to think of themselves as their own brand within the restaurant," says Beaudoin. "They each come up with their own bag of tricks or methods of selling more wine, desserts, appetizers, etc."
  • Want to keep their attention in a training session? Beaudoin suggests taking $100 in small bills and putting them at the center of the table. Each time someone answers a question correctly, they get to take a bill. "You aren't losing $100, you're staff will end up bringing in much more money due to their new training," he says.
  • Consider offering an incentive for sales. "I used to offer a floating $10 bill for selling more wine," says Beaudoin. "The first person to sell one bottle got the $10, then the person to sell two bottles took the $10 from them, etc. By the end of the night, everyone had much more than $10 in tips and sales and it was a fun competition."


What's your game plan for turning your staff into sales stars and reaching the million dollar mark?