The Pizza Insider: March 2015

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Thursday, March 26, 2015

3 Ways to Crush Your Competition

Far too many times I've heard pizzeria operators say, "We were doing great until the competition moved in a couple of blocks away; then sales started to slip."

Here's the truth: You will always have competition; it's a given if you're running a pizzeria. However, the way you handle that competition can mean the difference between success and failure.

While I've heard of some pizzeria operators going to extremes such as parking their own delivery vehicles in front of other pizzerias and stalking the activities of other operators, I've got a much more productive--and less "I'm the crazy pizza guy"--plan in mind.

Before anything else, take a deep breath and accept the fact that you have a new competitor; you can't be the only game in town forever. Now, let's explore how to make sure your business keeps going strong despite the new guy.

Step 1: Focus on the Big Three. I'm not talking about pizza chains here; I'm referring to three factors that can help any business stand out from the rest--quality, service and price. It's OK if you can't hit all of three, but focus on offering the absolute best in at least two of these areas and your customers will notice.

Step 2: Reinforce Your Brand to Your Customers. It's natural for people to try out the new pizzeria in town, but it's up to you to keep them from returning to your new competition. Use your powers of direct mail, social media, email newsletters and more to remind your customers about what your pizzeria offers and why they are so important to you. Actively communicate with your customers for several months before, during and after the opening of your competitor's store.

Step 3: Promote Something New. Help alleviate the desire for your customers to go to the new guy by giving them something new at your own pizzeria. Promote new weekly specials, a new beer pairing program, a Sunday brunch or a lunch buffet. Be the pizzeria that they already love, while also offering them something new to try each time.

How do you fight back against competition? Let me know in the comments section below.


Thursday, March 19, 2015

7 Tips for Finding the Perfect Location

restaurant real estate

The first—and often the hardest—step in opening a new pizzeria involves finding the perfect location. You know the one…tons of foot traffic, ample parking, low rent, lots of natural light, minimal build-out requirements, etc. The process can involve months of searching coupled with innumerable sleepless nights spent ruminating about your seemingly never-ending wish list.

Many first-time pizzeria owners—or even those looking for a second location—sabotage their success by either choosing a location too quickly, or being so specific about their needs that they’re never able to choose anything. So how do you know for sure that you’re choosing the right space for your new pizzeria? The simple answer is, you don’t. Luckily, there are plenty of people who have been in your shoes before and lived to tell the tale. Here, I’ll share some tips owners have shared with me over the years when it comes to finding the perfect home for your first—or next—pizzeria.

1. Don’t Select a Space Based on Price, Proximity to Your House or Impatience. Before selecting any location, look at demographics, competition, future growth potential and how the location will fit in with your pizzeria’s concept. Consider who will be walking or driving past your shop on a daily basis as well as those who will may be stopping by after visiting neighboring businesses. Location really is everything, in most cases.

2. Don’t Expect to Find Something Overnight. You probably didn’t choose your home from the first batch you looked at, so don’t rush into securing a pizzeria location before weighing all of the factors that go into it.

3. Ask for Help. While many use services such as LoopNet to search for properties, a realtor is often the best option for alerting you to listings as they come onto the market (sometimes even before they're listed). They can even hook you into the mls system and have listings sent directly to your inbox. A realtor has your best interest in mind since they’ll also make a commission when they find you something that makes you happy. If leasing your space, have a lawyer look over the lease agreement before signing anything (one thing to check for is a capped Triple Net/CAM charge in your lease. If not capped, the landlord can do a multimillion dollar remodel and charge the tenant for it).

4. Weigh Your Buying and Leasing Options. Big-city locations, such as Los Angeles, New York, and Chicago, don’t lend themselves to purchasing a location due to the high cost of real estate. However, in smaller cities and towns, it can be a great investment to own your own building. This won’t be the same for every situation though. In some cases, leasing can provide more flexibility and less responsibility for maintenance. Buying, on the other hand allows you to gain equity and obtain tax breaks not available as a renter.

5. Plan for Unexpected Expenses. When opening a new pizzeria, there will be a lot of expected—and unexpected—expenses, ranging from contractor costs for remodeling, equipment, supplies, staff, and more. Keep in mind that your projected opening date will almost always be off by a few weeks—if not months, costing you additional lease payments and lost earnings. Have enough money in reserve to cover yourself for six months to a year, and keep a detailed list of all expenses.

6. Know the Difference Between Needs and Wants. Each pizzeria owner’s wish list will be slightly different, depending on your offerings, theme and demographics, but there’s usually some crossover when it comes to aspects such as parking; access to major streets; foot traffic; ideal square footage and an affordable lease. Before searching for your location, write a list of realistic needs and wants. Be ready to say no if a space does not meet your requirements. After all, you will likely be in the space for many years to come, and a small annoyance now could quickly turn into a large nuisance later.

7. Know What You Can Afford. Calculate the number you need to hit in order to cover rent and all expenses and still make a profit. Pad the budget for surprises and don’t overspend or you’ll cut into your earnings before you even open the doors.

Are you currently searching for, or recently found, a new location? Tell me about your experience in the comments below.


Thursday, March 12, 2015

7 New Ways to Make Hummus


Remember when hummus used to be chickpeas, garlic, tahini and olive oil? Recently there's been a surge of different flavor combinations being introduced into hummus, helping to make appetizer orders almost irresistible.

Looking for a way to introduce an intriguing hummus offering to your starter menu? Check out the following recipes.

Pizza Hummus is reminiscent of pizza with tomato paste, oregano, basil and garlic.

Italian Hummus uses white beans and rosemary to provide an Italian feel.

Roasted Broccoli Hummus combines broccoli, toasted sesame seeds and parsley into traditional hummus.

Edamame Hummus replaces the chickpeas with edamame.

Pumpkin Hummus boasts pumpkin, Greek yogurt and Parmesan cheese.

Roasted Red Bell Pepper Hummus provides some spice with onion, cilantro, garlic and chipotle pepper.

Black-Eyed Pea Hummus brings a southern twist to hummus.

Have a classic hummus on hand? Mix Ins are a simple way to kick it up:
Beet - add roasted beet, feta cheese and dill
Curry - blend in your favorite curry powder 
Spicy - toss in some chopped jalepenos and roasted garlic for some heat

Have you experimented with hummus at your pizzeria? Tell me about it in the comments.

Thursday, March 5, 2015

16 Ways to Sell More Appetizers

One of the quickest ways to boost check averages at your pizzeria is to sell more appetizers. Imagine if  just 10% more of your customers ordered starters. The difference in revenue would be noticeable.

Easier said that done, you say?

Here are 16 ways to encourage customers to kick off their meal with a starter.

  1. Have servers remind customers that they can bring an appetizer out right away while they wait for their pizza.
  2. Offer a range of appetizers at a range of prices that fit every budget.
  3. Walk around the dining room handing out small samples of appetizers to make them want more.
  4. Send free appetizer coupons to your best customers to get them hooked.
  5. Make appetizers new and enticing, but keep them simple, such as flatbreads, bruschetta, etc.
  6. Call your appetizers “small plates” or “sharing plates” and the appeal—and price—naturally rises.
  7. Highlight an “appetizer of the week” on social media to get stomachs grumbling for it.
  8. Promote appetizers during your on-hold message and online.
  9. Offer a free appetizer with purchase on your slow days.
  10. Strike a balance between what’s expected and unexpected (i.e., breadsticks and chips and salsa).
  11. Show professional photos of your appetizers on all marketing materials.
  12. Offer appetizer combo platters that several diners can share.
  13. Include a sample of a featured appetizer inside your best customer takeout/delivery orders.
  14. Use tent cards on tables and counters to remind customers about appetizers.
  15. Each month, offer a different appetizer on special to highlight your offerings.
  16. Create a separate appetizer menu for those at your bar or those coming in for a late-night snack.

Want to know more? Check out the full article in the September 2014 issue of PMQ Pizza Magazine here.