The Pizza Insider: August 2015

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Thursday, August 27, 2015

8 Fixes for Your Boring Restroom

creative restrooms
You spend every waking moment thinking about how you can keep your pizzeria ahead of the competition. You update your menus, add outdoor seating and introduce creative cocktails. But when was the last time you paid attention to your restroom?

Admit it. At some point in your life, you've visited a restaurant that had a really killer restroom and told at least a few people about it, if not more. So why is your bathroom so boring when the rest of your pizzeria rocks?

I recently met John Flushberg, author of BathRoom Profits (see the end of this article to enter to win your own copy), who had a lot to say about how you can use your bathroom to both impress guests and spread the word about what's happening in your pizzeria.

The Pizza Insider: John, you write extensively about how bathrooms are underutilized profit centers in restaurants. What do you mean, specifically?

John Flushberg: Business owners often do not include their bathrooms into the overall marketing strategy for their business. They think a clean bathroom alone will do the trick. However, the bathroom is the area where the business owners have all the undivided attention of their customers.
Nobody visits any restaurant (including pizzerias) with a high expectation of what might happen if they visit their bathroom. Nothing is easier to WOW your customer with than an unexpected, inspired and happy visit to the bathroom. "You have to see their bathroom!" is the key here.

The Pizza Insider: What are the main reasons most restaurants underutilize bathrooms?
Flushberg: The main problem is often either the "avoidance strategy" or the "delegation strategy." A lot of owners get busy advertising how good the food is and how fast it's delivered, but they usually don't think it really matters to focus too much on an "experience bathroom." The bathroom ends up being neglected or delegated. Business owners who get it know that the bathroom should never break the customer experience in their venue and that is has to be one of the driving forces--to be proud about their business. If the owner can create a bathroom experience to be proud of, the employees will match that, and doing related tasks to the bathroom will actually become fun!
The Pizza Insider: What are some of the easiest ways that pizzerias can improve their bathrooms today? 

Flushberg: There's so much room to create word-of-mouth marketing with bathrooms. Since most of your competition will never think about this, you can create almost an unfair marketing advantage without the need to spend a fortune. Impress your customers and make them feel like your bathroom is one of the nicest ones they’ve seen in a long time.

The most important advice I give owners of restaurants and pizzerias is to find and match their theme. So if you have a small and rather simple pizzeria, your bathroom should reflect the simplicity of your place. If you are a gourmet pizzeria, your bathroom should reflect that you are providing extraordinary pizzas and create some sort of feeling of the customer being in a bathroom they have never been in before.

The Internet will give you a neverending stream of "weird ideas" to help with your creativity. Don't go overboard with the outrageous factor, though. Always match your pizzeria's theme.

Consider having a local artist paint a mural in the bathroom that matches your theme. Your guests will talk about it, and you'll be supporting the arts. 

Get away from the typical man and woman symbols and use pizza symbols to get creative with your bathroom door signage.

Here's an example of how a gas station bathroom became famous (click here to watch). If a gas station can make this work, it should be a piece of cake,, to do it for a pizzeria!

A Few More Ideas:

* Toilet seat lids that look like a pizza
* Custom made bathroom hooks shaped as pizzas
* Mirrors decorated with pizza ingredients to trigger your customers ideas that they might want to add some ingredients on their pizzas (for a premium price of course)
* A special pizza offer that only those who visit the bathroom know about

***Want to win your own copy of BathRoom Profits? Tell us in the comments below how you are--or plan to--impress your guests with your bathroom. Winner will be chosen at random in the next couple of weeks.***

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Increase Profits with Smaller Portions

We see it all the time--restaurants serving portions that could feed two to three people. It's a struggle between giving the customer a feeling of getting more for their money while still trying to make a healthy profit.

Some of the downsides to serving portions that are too large include wasted food, additional to-go box usage and lost profits.

The fact is, no one needs a pound of pasta or three servings of fries when they sit down to a meal. In fact, many customers appreciate a restaurant that serves smaller portions (look at the popularity of tapas and mini desserts).

Many consumers (including myself) have resorted to skipping apps, sharing entrees, and nixing dessert in order to balance out the huge portions that are being served. This behavior doesn't help with your profits.

So what can you do if your customers are accustomed to large portions at your pizzeria but you want to introduce smaller entrees/pizzas? Consider pairing a price cut with the portion cut and offer personal-size pizzas at lunchtime or on the Starters menu. Most people will enjoy the lower price and finally be able to try some of your apps and desserts.

Alternatively, you can raise the prices slightly and label yourself as "family-style." This way, customers will order pasta, salad and bread items "for the table." Tactics like these can curb waste, inspire customers to try new dishes, and boost your bottom line.

How are portions at your pizzeria? What measures are you taking to make your menu the most profitable it can be?

Thursday, August 13, 2015

7 Reasons Not to Open a Pizzeria

opening a pizzeria
After eight years of writing for the the pizza industry, I've learned a lot of reasons why the average person should think twice about opening a pizzeria. Despite what the layperson may think, it's far from a way to get rich quick.

Reason #1: It's Hard Work!
The average pizza lover often looks at running a pizza shop as something fun they'd like to do when they "retire." Let me tell you, hearing it from the operators I've talked to, running a pizzeria is a 24/7 business.

Reason #2: There's More Liability Involved
Pizzerias require more insurance than regular restaurants because they're seen as a risk due to drivers carrying cash and making "fast" deliveries.

Reason #3: The Price of Cheese is Constantly Changing
Over the past few years the price of cheese, one of pizza's most popular ingredients, has gone up and down like a roller coaster, making it hard to keep a steady menu price.

Reason #4: The Competition is Intense
With more than 70,000 pizzerias in America, the competition, including those who will offer a similar product for half--or even a fourth--of your price, grows every day!

Reason #5: Staff is Transient
While this holds true for every restaurant, pizzerias also lose delivery drivers regularly when they have car/license troubles, etc.

Reason #6: You Will Work for Free
For those who enjoy a steady paycheck, starting a pizzeria will be a rude awakening. As with any startup, you will do all of the grunt work and make no money--likely for years.

Reason #7: Your Friends and Family Will Visit You at the Pizzeria
This one may read as a plus at first, but in reality, the pizzeria is the only place people will be able to visit you anymore, because that's where you will be--all the time. For the first couple of years in business, most pizzeria operators have to put friends and family on hold.

Thankfully, tens of thousands of pizzeria operators have beat the odds and become successful despite the reasons I've pointed out above. If you're one of them, how did you overcome all of these obstacles? Was it worth the struggle? Let me know in the comments below.

Friday, August 7, 2015

5 Ways to Retain Your Customers

attract customers
By now you know that repeat customers bring the most consistent profits into your pizzeria. They spend more, they provide word-of-mouth advertising for you, and they loyally return again and again, bringing friends each time, if you're lucky. The goal should be to have at least 25% of your profits coming from repeat customers.

So how do you get one-time customers to transition into repeat customers? It goes beyond serving them a great pizza. Here are 5 tips to get them coming back for more.

1. Provide Great Value and Service. "Give the customer a great perception of value for their meal and provide them with outstanding fast and friendly service," says Tom "The Dough Doctor" Lehmann. "There's a lot to be said for being 'Down-home friendly.'"

2. Show Them Appreciation and Respect. "The best way to get a customer to come back is to make them feel appreciated and respected," says Vanessa Maltin-Weisbrod from Delight Gluten Free magazine. "In terms of the community that I work with, a pizzeria that has employees who care about food allergies and shows customers that they are well informed and offer safe practices, have customers for life."

3. Make them Feel Like a Star. "Make the customer feel important," says Jonathan Porter from Chicago Pizza Tours. "Ask them if they live in the neighborhood or if they are visiting, etc. Engage with them."

4. Offer Something Unique. "Great service and unique offerings attracts repeat customers," says Jason Feirman from "A pizzeria that may have average pizza but an excellent beer list could attract a customer base that's excited about experiencing unique beverages. Unique offerings don't even have to be food related; if a pizzeria is catering to families, they could set up an air hockey table or other games in a back room, which places the focus on the overall experience."

5. Show Them the Love! Scott Wiener from Scott's Pizza Tours says it best, "Customers come back when they feel loved."

How do you keep your customers coming back for more?