The Pizza Insider: May 2015

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Thursday, May 28, 2015

8 No-Fail Steps to Securing a Business Loan

securing business loan
Have you ever considered applying for a business loan for projects such as an outdoor expansion, remodel or additional locations?

If you’re like most, you shudder at the mere thought of walking into a bank and dealing with all of the questions and paperwork that accompanies a loan application. However, it doesn’t have to be scary if you go into the process prepared.

In fact, studies have shown that one of the top reasons small business owners fail to secure loans is because of the perception that they will be unable to obtain a loan. So, if you’re considering a loan for your pizzeria anytime soon, preparing yourself properly can help you keep a positive outlook.

1. Start by researching the lender you’re interested in. Find out what their individual requirements are and what terms they’re offering. Certain banks do not loan money to certain types of businesses, so save some time by checking this out first.

2. Know your answers beforehand. There are basic questions that every lender will ask you and that you need to be able to answer. Questions such as, “What is the purpose of the loan?” and “How much money do you (really) need?”

3. Be very specific and state a firm dollar amount. Never indicate a range, underestimate the amount you need, or say, “Whatever you can give me.”

4. Have a firm grasp on your personal and business credit profiles. You never want to appear as if you haven’t been keeping track of your financial history. This will be a red flag to the bank.

5. Learn the differences between loan types and which one you think you’ll need before spending hours filling out an application. Some lending options may take a few days (short-term business loans), some may take weeks (bank loans) and others may take months (SBA loans).

6. Have a business plan prepared. Lenders will ask you questions about your costs, customers, revenue, profit/loss projections, etc. You’ll want to know the answers.

7. Get your existing pizzeria rated. Existing businesses can get rated through Dunn and Bradstreet. The better your rating, the better your chance at landing a loan.

8. Ask first at the bank you’ve been using for years. It makes the most sense to obtain a loan from a bank that’s already doing business with you. If you don’t have luck there, try smaller, local credit unions.

It's true that it's harder than ever to obtain a business loan. But, those who approach the process with confidence and a firm understanding of what lenders are looking for have a much higher chance of securing a loan than those who enter the process blindly. Below is a checklist provided by the Small Business Administration that will help ensure you have everything in order before approaching your bank.

Business Loan Checklist
(Courtesy of the Small Business Administration,
The following are typical items that are required for most small business loan applications:

Personal Background: Either as part of the loan application or as a separate document, you will be asked to provide some personal background information, including previous addresses, names used, criminal record, educational background, etc.

Resumes: Some lenders require evidence of management or business experience, particularly for loans that are intended to be used to start a new business.

Business Plan: All loan programs require a sound business plan to be submitted with the loan application. The business plan should include a complete set of projected financial statements, including profit and loss, cash flow and a balance sheet.

Personal Credit Report: Your lender will obtain your personal credit report as part of the application process. However, you should obtain a credit report from all three major consumer credit rating agencies before submitting a loan application to the lender. It’s critical you try to clear up inaccuracies before beginning the application process.

Business Credit Report: If you are already in business, you should be prepared to submit a credit report for your business. As with the personal credit report, it is important to review your business’ credit report before beginning the application process.

Income Tax Returns: Most loan programs require applicants to submit personal and business income tax returns for the previous three years.

Financial Statements: Many loan programs require owners with more than a 20% stake in your business to submit signed personal financial statements. You may also be required to provide projected financial statements either as part of, or separate from, your business plan.

Bank Statements: Many loan programs require one year of personal and business bank statements to be submitted as part of a loan package.

Collateral: Collateral requirements vary greatly. Some loan programs do not require collateral. Loans involving higher risk factors for default require substantial collateral. Strong business plans and financial statements can help you avoid putting up collateral. In any case, it is a good idea to prepare a collateral document that describes cost/value of personal or business property that will be used to secure a loan.

Legal Documents: Depending on a loan’s specific requirements, your lender may require you to submit one or more legal documents. Make sure you have the following items in order, if applicable: Business licenses and registrations required for you to conduct business, articles of incorporation, copies of contracts you have with any third parties, franchise agreements and commercial leases.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Quick Solutions to Your Staffing Issues

resolve staffing issues
Pizzerias are inherently fun and casual. Even those that aren't family-run can often feel like they are. Problems can arise, however, when staff members take advantage of the situation and operators can't find a balance between being the boss and being a friend.

Since this is an issue facing so many of you, I took this question, and a few others, to corporate speaker and trainer Jeff Havens, CEO of the Jeff Havens Company, in an effort to find a solution.

solving staffing issues
Jeff Havens, CEO of the Jeff Havens Company

The Pizza Insider: In a semi-casual work environment such as a pizzeria, what are the pros and cons of treating staff as friends/family?  

Jeff Havens: The upside is that it's a great way to keep people working for you. There's a lot of research out there to suggest that our newly global, hyperconnected world has actually made people more interested in personal relationships than ever before, and treating employees with fondness and respect is probably the best way there is to encourage loyalty and reduce turnover. The downside, of course, is that it makes it more difficult to give orders or correct bad behavior. Plus, friends and family occasionally ask you for money and expect you to be understanding when they're 45 minutes late. However, you can force those people to help you move, so you've got that going for you.

The Pizza Insider: How can a boss reassert his authority after falling into the "friend" zone?

Jeff Havens: This is tricky. Avoid making the conversation about, "This is what I expect out of you," and focus instead on, "This is what needs to be done for us to be successful." If you're able to concentrate relentlessly on the mission--making customers happy, reducing operating costs so that everyone can keep their jobs and maybe get a raise, etc., you'll avoid the pushback you inevitably get when people think you're attacking them and their habits.

The Pizza Insider: What do you see as one of the biggest staff mistakes made by owners/managers in the restaurant industry, and how do you propose it be avoided/corrected?

Jeff Havens: I worked in restaurants for seven years, and the biggest staffing mistake I noticed was the tendency to hire anyone who walked through the door. The impulse makes total sense; restaurants generally have high turnover, and it's hard to imagine turning anyone away when you're already short-staffed. But part of the reason for that high turnover is the fact that a lot of those kneejerk hires end up flaming out two months later. If owners and managers could spend a little more time on the hiring process and make it harder to get the job in the first place, they might help themselves in the long run by putting together a stronger, more dedicated workforce. It's more work on the front end, but a lot less work down the road.

The Pizza Insider: I've seen some of your talk on generational differences in today's workforce. How can these differences be embraced in a pizzeria environment?

Jeff Havens: There are a million ways to do this. Older workers are generally better at starting and holding conversations, which often makes the difference between a customer saying, "Their food is good," or "I like going to that place." Teaching young employees how to engage customers and maybe (gasp!) make it through an entire shift without staring at their phones, would be valuable for everyone. Alternatively, you can have fun with your customers; for example, if you're an older person and waiting on a table of teenagers, take the order while staring at your phone the entire time, or tell them to text you their order because you're too busy to ask for it. You can have in-store competitions between your Young and Old staff about who's the better pizza tosser or who's faster at cleaning the ovens. You can challenge your older workers to find a technology that your younger workers have never heard of, and vice versa. Anything that creates conversation and engages everyone on your team is going to bring them closer together, and that's going to lead to all kinds of good things.

The Pizza Insider: When assessing a staff members performance, what are three key areas you feel should be addressed?

Jeff Havens: I tend to agree with the notion that all of us could learn pretty much any job as long as someone is willing to teach it to us, so I'm going to avoid pizza-centric ideas here, since I think those are skills a good manager could impart to almost anyone.

Here goes:

1. Interpersonal communication skills is probably at the top of the list. This affects how they deal with customers and other staff members.
2. Punctuality. It indicates the kind of attention to detail and organizational skill that suggests management potential.
3. Sense of humor. Someone who can make people excited to come into work everyday is invaluable. 

How do you find balance between being the boss and being a friend? Let me know in the comments below.

Thursday, May 14, 2015

12 Ways to Get Free Publicity

get publicity
For some of you, spending money on marketing may be the last thing on your mind, especially if business is slow and you're biggest concern is paying your staff.

However, the slow times are when it's the most important to keep your pizzeria's name in front of customers. After all, that's when you need their business the most.

The good news is, you don't have to spend a lot of money to promote your pizzeria. With some creativity, a little time, and maybe a drop or two of elbow grease, you can reach hundreds of potential customers and spend very little--if any--money. Below are just a few ideas to get you started.

1. Team up with a local charitable organization and organize an event that raises money for a good cause. The organization and local media will help to spread the word, and you'll be doing something good in the process.

2. Claim your location on Google Places and help your pizzeria move to the top of the listings in local searches. This is free and should save you time when trying to figure out how to boost your rankings on Google.

3. Become a member of your local Chamber of Commerce and host a business networking event, catered by your pizzeria, of course! Members of the Chamber are typically movers and shakers in the community who can spread the word about your business and become customers who later order for office lunches and parties.

4. Visit local businesses and drop off a couple of pizzas along with some of your menus and a letter or flyer outlining your offers for catering. You'd be surprised how many people will remember you for bringing them pizza!

5. Offer to host a pizza-eating contest at a local school function or during an upcoming fair. Your pizzeria banner will be flying high over the contestants and all of the local media will mention you.

6. Create a food challenge and a wall of fame. Word spreads fast when people are trying to win something. Challenging foods could be an extra-spicy pizza, a huge calzone, 20 mozzarella sticks, you get the picture.

7. Run a contest online and in-store to create--and name--the next specialty pizza on your menu. Make it at least a month-long contest and get the local media involved to spread the word.

8. Enter your pizza into contests--both online and at trade shows. The publicity you can garner from even just entering a contest is phenomenal. Imagine if you win!

9. Host a hotel concierge night and invite them to taste your menu. They'll be much more likely to refer guests to the pizzeria if they've been there themselves.

10. Offer a taxi driver discount if you're located in an area with a high number of taxis. If you become the preferred pizzeria for taxi drivers, guess which pizzeria they'll recommend when asked by their passengers.

11. Sponsor a local school sports team and feed them before or after the game. This will show your support in the community and give you new customers for years.

12. Offer a slice of the day, pasta of the day, or soup of the day and announce it each day on Facebook and Twitter. This will get tummy's rumbling when they see what you have on special.

What ideas do you have for getting free or low-cost publicity? Share your thoughts in the comment section below.

Friday, May 8, 2015

Top 7 Pizzeria Success Tips

running a restaurant
Have you ever been in a situation where the pizzeria down the street is packed with customers while you have empty seats on a Friday night? On the surface, that other business may not appear to be doing anything out of the ordinary to bring in more business. But, look a little closer and you may find that the operator is practicing some key habits that almost guarantee success.

#1: Create a Friendly Atmosphere. This first one may seem like a no-brainer, but as a consumer yourself, I'm sure you've been to restaurants where you feel like family, are greeted by name (maybe even with a hug) and leave feeling like you've visited old friends. Alternatively, you've probably been to other restaurants where the employees seem rushed, distracted and generally uninterested in you as a guest. Which one would you rather return to as a customer?

#2: Keep the Restaurant Clean. From the tables to the dishware to the floors to the bathrooms, the pizzeria should always be spotless. If the kitchen is viewable to guests, make sure it's not in disarray. A recent poll revealed that 88% of customers associate dirty restrooms with poor sanitation in the rest of the restaurant.

#3: Get to Know Your Customers. It's easy to get wrapped up in the day-to-day duties of running a restaurant, but it's important to get out of the accounting books and out on the floor to greet your customers personally. Ask them how their meal was, solicit customer feedback and take their suggestions seriously. The personal touch you give as an owner can keep customers returning for years.

#4: Keep Your Employees Happy. Many pizzerias suffer from high turnover rates for various reasons, but it doesn't have to be this way. There are many affordable ways to keep your employees happy--and working. Show them that there's room for advancement; once trained, allow them some independence and self direction in their work; let them play music in the kitchen if it can't be overheard in the restaurant; work with them one-on-one to help create a work/life balance; and remember that saying something as simple as, "Great job!" goes a long way toward keeping employees happy.

#5: Reward Guests for Returning. One of the easiest ways to get customers to return to the pizzeria is through a loyalty card program. If you are a small operation and aren't ready to jump in with both feet, start with punch cards (you'll want to graduate to a POS-based system, but punch cards will get your feet wet). Make sure that the back of the punch card has space for the guest to write their name, phone number and email address for your marketing purposes once they turn in the card for their free meal. Also, when you give them their first card, punch it two times. Guests are much more likely to return if they think they are closer to their goal.

#6: Get Online. With an estimated 300 million Internet users in North America, you are missing out on free marketing opportunities every day if you aren't online. Having a website is just the beginning. Do you have a regularly updated Facebook page and/or Twitter page? Do you offer online ordering? Do you monitor and respond to the reviews of your restaurant on sites such as Yelp, Urbanspoon, Tripadvisor, etc.? Consider tasking one of your tech-savvy employees with maintaining your online presence.

#7: Continue to Create the Best Pizza in Town. You didn't think I was going to forget about the pizza, did you? First and foremost, your guests are coming to you for your pizza, so make sure it's always the fresh, delicious, consistent product they've come to expect from you. When the economy fluctuates, raise prices, don't lower your ingredient quality. Your customers will understand your need to raise prices when it means they get to continue to enjoy their favorite pizza! 

Are you following all of the above habits? Which can you improve on?


Friday, May 1, 2015

5 Steps to Profitable Pizzeria Anniversaries

restaurant anniversary
Everybody loves a party, and when we’re talking about pizzeria parties, nothing compares to an anniversary party, complete with discounts, special menu items and guest appreciation gifts. 

While customers love these events, putting them together can be a daunting task for you. However, with proper planning and organization, you can ensure that your upcoming pizzeria anniversary party is a smashing success.

1. Plan Ahead
Before jumping into anything, it’s essential to have a plan. When will you celebrate? Which anniversary and why? Sit down and determine your goals for the event; they should include more than just having a good time. Are you trying to reward current customers, obtain more, or both?
Keep things simple and don’t try to celebrate every year. Milestones that happen every five years are the norm and a welcome treat for regular and prospective customers.

2. Market Your Event

True for any type of event, customers need an appropriate amount of notice before your event. Start getting clients excited about it at least two months before the celebration if you expect to create any measurable impact. Send out teasers through the mail, email, social media and more to get everyone excited leading up to the event.
Don’t leave out the press. Alert your local newspapers, food bloggers and radio stations well in advance of your event, providing all relevant information, photos and an invite.
3. Thank your Customers
Once you decide when you want to celebrate your anniversary, you’ll need to determine how you’ll celebrate. One of your main objectives should be to thank your customers for helping you get to the anniversary. There are many ways you can thank customers in addition to the party, whether it’s through a month-long discounting program, year-long specials or even big prizes such as free pizza for a month or free delivery charges for a year. Ultimately, you’ll want to run an anniversary promotion during the same month as the event to tie the two together. Include special friends and family discounts and party invites to encourage referrals.
4. Reward Yourself!
With all of the specials being offered to customers, you may be wondering what the rewards are for you on your anniversary. In addition to giving you a chance to thank your customers face to face, showing them how much you care, you’ll have the added opportunity to introduce them to new menu items, encourage them to invite friends that may turn into longtime customers, and encourage the purchasing of gift cards and other retail items at the event. Did I mention the press clips, new customers, and sales boost? Happy anniversary!
5. Get Everyone Involved
Above all, planning a pizzeria anniversary should be a team effort. Recruit everyone on your staff to help in the coordination, and consider all ideas brought to the table. Having a large group working together toward the common goal of creating a successful event will benefit everyone in the end.