Photos by Josh Keown
Obviously every pizzeria is different from the next for a variety of reasons. Your size and volume of sales largely determines the number of items you should be making yourself in-house versus what you should outsource. With that said, there are a few things I believe every pizzeria in the nation, without exception, should make in-house.
First, let’s talk salad dressings. Most pizzerias serve a garden salad or a variety of salads, which is great. Oddly enough, many operators take the easy way out and simply purchase dressing packets. While there are certainly some benefits to dressing packets (like zero preparation time and the fact that they won’t spill on the way to the destination), there are bigger reasons that I feel you should be making your own dressings. The two biggest benefits? Superior product and big savings!
Last year, I traveled to Pizza Today kitchen to create homemade dressing video that should be available for viewing in the magazine’s archived Web site. What I shared with viewers is that with a good Italian dressing and mayonnaise, you’ve got a great starting point to make many different dressings. It really takes just a few minutes to make up a gallon of dressing once you’ve assembled your ingredients.
Many times, operators swap one thing for another. An example is bringing in a pre-made product that will cost us more money to buy than it costs to make, but we are swapping a low food cost for a lower labor cost. In this case of dressing, you will end up with a better product that you can call homemade at a cost that will bring more dollars to your bottom line.
Once you have your own dressings in place, consider selling them fresh in pint or quart containers. Be sure to put labels on the containers since your customers will place this dressing in their refrigerator at home and will be reminded of your pizzeria several times a day when they open their refrigerators.
Some folks are intimidated by the thought of making their own pizza dough — and I have no idea why. While there are many frozen dough products available, there’s nothing as good as a freshmade dough! I know that some go into business not wanting to make that investment in a mixer, but I say putting out an inferior product could prevent a new place from ever really launching a successful operation. Now keep in mind that making dough is a science and needs to be taken seriously with precise measuring. One thing you don’t want to do is put out an inconsistent pizza. And this is why some operators promise you into creating and make member is making off many times own dough.
Moving more to the value-added categories, I’m seeing more and more operators switching to pre-sliced meats and vegetables. I certainly understand and agree with buying sliced pepperoni. But purchasing sliced turkey, ham, roast beef and salami, frankly, is a waste of money as well as results in you serving an inferior product. Most of the pre-sliced meats I’ve seen are a chopped and processed product with too much added water. Find a great quality meat that fi ts your pizzeria’s price point and slice your own meats. If you schedule things properly, you’ll only need to slice meats and cheeses every other day. I used to have a big tube or chute that attached to my slicer, and I would put whole heads of cored iceberg lettuce in the tube and shred it. I’d also put cored peppers, peeled onions and cored tomatoes. This would very quickly slice all my veggies. Fresh, washed, whole mushrooms would slice up very quickly, too. This saves an enormous amount of money compared to buying this stuff already processed — and gives you so much more control over how much you will prepare, virtually eliminating waste!
Let’s talk chicken for a minute. In my pizza shops, we sold more than a ton of chicken every year. For convenience purposes, we’d buy precooked chicken for our various menu items. Diced white chicken would only be used for chicken salad. Four ounces of chicken breast were used for grilled chicken subs and salads, and grilled chicken strips for pizza. Although it saved us in labor and wiped out any problems or possibility for cross-contamination with salmonella found in raw chicken, we also spent an average of $4 per pound. Because we had such small spaces and limited refrigeration, we chose the more expensive yet easier route; however, when you stop and do the math and find a source of fresh random chicken breast for $1.50 a pound, even after considering the shrinkage once cooked, we can still save about $2.30 per pound. I have now switched to buying 80 pounds of raw chicken breast a week. That’s over 4,000 pounds a year at a savings of $2.30 per pound. That adds close to $10,000 to my bottom line. Doing the math helps you find the room and makes that transition a bit quicker, doesn’t it?
I marinate my chicken with a little bit of oil, salt, pepper and garlic, and then either roast it or grill it depending on the application. I attempted breading my own for the Parmesan dishes, but decided to continue to purchase that chicken breaded and ready to go.
I want to leave you with some sweet thoughts. If you’re not offering any sweets for dessert, you’re missing a great opportunity to raise that check average while really delighting your customers immensely! I know we’re all busy with the amount of prep we do already, but you and I both know there’s always that little bit of down time in between lunch and dinner where you really do have an opportunity to squeeze out a few homemade sweets. Sure, there are lots of great items you can purchase already prepared with a built in profit margin, but you can usually double your profit (or more) if you can make it yourself. Even if you had to go and buy a dollar cake mix in the store with their matching frosting, you could put a real nice three-layer freshly baked chocolate cake with chocolate frosting together for a total of about four bucks. Get 12 huge slices out of it and charge $3.95 a slice for a profit of $43. Make sure it’s on display, and your customer will just have to have a slice. You don’t have to do it that way, of course. But the point I’m making is this: Come up with something! Homemade fudge brownies and mile high apple pie is something that is very hard to resist. I took our stale bread and what I didn’t use for croutons and made a real simple — but amazingly delicious — bread pudding. Desserts are usually a missed opportunity.
Give it a try!
Consider making the appropriate changes to fit these “must do’s” into your operation’s routine — and watch your profits soar while customers come to appreciate the work you are willing to put in for them. It will certainly set you apart from the competition!
Introducing the Players
Doug Ferriman, owner, Crazy Dough’s Pizza, Boston
Kevin Suto, CEO and President, Zachary’s Chicago Pizza, Oakland
Dan Collier, franchisee, Rusty’s Pizza Parlors, Ventura, California
Peg Tomasso, owner, Tomasso’s Pizza & Subs, Boca Raton, Florida
Joe Crowley, owner, Pisa Pizza, Malden, Massachusetts
Chef Jeff Freehof, owner, Garlic Clove Italian Eatery, Evans, Georgia
Scott Anthony, franchisee, Fox’s Pizza Den, Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania
Do you feel like, based on your sales, the recession is nearing its end?
Ferriman: Yes, I do think the recession is slowly improving. We have seen mixed sales at our stores. While one store is up five percent, another is fl at or down two percent. But, all in all, I do believe consumer confidence is coming back.
Suto: I have not seen any indication that the economy is going to recover any time soon. It is tough out there for many businesses and individuals. I base this feeling not necessarily on our sales, but on what I see and hear from individuals in our community and around the country.
Collier: No, I do not believe the recession is nearing the end. Not even close. Yes, my sales are up over last year. However, that is because we adjusted our marketing, did more events and added new marketing for catering. All this effort has led to a 5 percent increase only. In the past two months, two more pizza places and multiple restaurants in our market have gone out of business. I get a call almost weekly from some restaurant owner asking if I’d like their restaurant for pennies on the dollar.
Tomasso: No, because we have found that our customers are still cautious with their money. Our sales have been increasing. Pizza is healthy and affordable for a family. People still want to eat out, or order in, and pizza fits the bill.
Crowley: No. Sales have been great because of our marketing and reinvestment, but our customers are still facing layoffs and financial problems.
Freehof: I am seeing slight increases over last year, but not over two years ago. It's a good sign, but I wouldn't come close to calling it 'near its end.'
Anthony: Yes, but consumers have lost a lot of confidence in the system and are still spending conservatively.
What steps have you taken to battle the recession? What have the results been?
Ferriman: We have stepped up our direct mail campaign, specifically targeting corporate catering as well as residential delivery. The results have been strong due to pizza’s ability to stretch the catering dollar better than other food categories.
Suto: We have been very careful to monitor our costs and to eliminate waste. Most importantly, we work very hard to be the best we can be every day. We are satisfied with the results so far and can thank our loyal customers and committed employee-owners for our longevity and success.
Collier: Our coupon offers were for 10 to 15 percent off. We increased that to 20 percent, on average. We now aggressively market catering, and we doubled the number of off-site events (festivals, schools, sporting tournaments, etc.). We eliminated all ‘mass’ marketing. Excepting door hanging, all print marketing is to our own database. We also cut labor two percent, renegotiated all rents with landlords and renegotiated all bank notes with banks.
Tomasso: We simply continue to do business as always, providing delicious pizza using quality ingredients. Our customers have come to rely on our commitment to excellence and have rewarded us with a stable business.
Crowley: Steps taken to battle the recession include a major remodel and an aggressive marketing campaign. We reinvested over $100,000 on a remodel, using many vendors that I met at International Pizza Expo. Our marketing campaign focused on massive fundraising programs, direct mail, Facebook and theme nights. Results have been a 10 percent increase in sales and great crew morale.
Freehof: We’ve marketed in new and innovative ways. We’ve connected with new customers and focused on catering any event possible, and it has helped keep our heads above water.
Anthony: We have focused on prime costs and community marketing. As for prime cost, even though my sales were down three percent in 2009 versus 2008, my profits still stayed up. I was able to meet the demands of my customers and have no price increases. Community marketing: In this economy, this was a vital step in earning customer loyalty. Especially when competitors are waging price wars, I can still compete on quality.
As a business owner, what’s your primary concern heading into 2011?
Ferriman: My primary concern heading into 2011 is commodity prices, specifically cheese and wheat. One ounce of cheese is 16 cents, so you really must focus on portion control and watch it like a hawk.
Suto: The economy is No. 1. Extreme and sudden cost escalation is always a major concern as well. Health care is out of control, and we all know what happened with cheese, fl our and other commodities not so long ago.
Collier: I believe that the recession will not end until unemployment comes down under 9 percent. We benefit from an employee standpoint since no one leaves because there are no jobs available. But our customers have less money due to layoffs, reduced benefits and reduced hours. The second concern is money to borrow. Tighter bank restrictions mean no money available to borrow to grow.
Tomasso: Politics are killing this country. Republicans and Democrats need to stop this constant 'going for the throat' over every issue and work together to find solutions to our problems. We worry about how healthcare initiatives and taxes are going to affect us.
Crowley: My primary headache heading into 2011 is dealing with political issues: Health insurance, increased meals tax, immigration reform, local and state increases in taxes and fees, and changes in local and state fi ling procedures.
Freehof: Finding new ways to grow my business. Thinking about home meal replacement.
Anthony: While I expect my sales volume to go up, I don't want to forget all I learned from the recession. Never take a good economy for granted. What’s the one critical thing you know now that you wish you knew when you first opened your business?
Ferriman: The one thing I wish I knew when I opened would be how to effectively market my brand. As many small businesses do, we tried everything, but never focused on one or two proven marketing vehicles using one message. Now, we focus on two to three marketing vehicles and just hammer away at them. We target college students through a collegiate promotion book that is distributed throughout the city. We constantly mail menus in a radius around a location, and we also send direct mail pieces to corporations.
Suto: Our business is constantly evolving, and yet we are firmly rooted in the vision set forth by our founders, Zach Zachowski and Barbara Gabel, in 1983. There isn’t really one big thing that stands out as critical information we were lacking in the beginning. We are constantly presented with opportunities to learn as individuals and evolve as a company.
Collier: As I opened more locations, I thought I could continue to wear all the same ‘hats’. As a result, some critical parts of operations did not get enough attention. If I had it to do all over again, I would have promoted an area supervisor when I opened the third location.
Tomasso: Do not skimp on the quality or portions of your product. People will pay for good food. Don’t be afraid to charge for it.
Crowley: I wish I knew back in 1993 that I needed to give up responsibility and trust my key employees. It took many years for me to stop being a worker and start being an owner.
Freehof: That in a recession, everybody is looking for a deal or discount.
Anthony: Making a good pizza is only a fraction of what it takes to have a good pizza business.
What's your biggest business headache, operationally speaking?
Ferriman: My biggest headache would be running a delivery business in Boston. It is a challenge dealing with traffic and highrise buildings. One of our stores in Boston is located near Fenway Park. Every time there is a game, it is gridlock around the store, which makes it difficult to maintain good delivery times. Another challenge in a city is delivering to the high-rise buildings. When a driver has to go to the 20th floor of a building, he or she could get bogged down, adding an extra 15 minutes to a delivery.
Suto: The unpredictability of the human condition is to me the most diffi cult thing to deal with. We depend on a lot of great people to do what we do, and we are very lucky that our employees are so dedicated and reliable. With a staff as large as ours and providing for as many customers as we do, there is always something that is going to happen with an employee or customer that is out of our control that can create hardship for our business. We deal with these issues as they arise. We do whatever we can to help these people through their difficulties. It can be challenging, but also rewarding at the same time.
Collier: The constant effort to ensure we produce the best pizza in the market. Since we charge more, the pizza must be worth it.
Tomasso: Constantly reinforcing proper procedures with our staff.
Freehof: In times like these, more people use credit cards, which changes cash fl ow and increases costs!
Anthony: Employees’ sense of entitlement and lack of initiative/ motivation. When you find a star employee, do what it takes to keep them.
What has been your most effective form of marketing?
Ferriman: The best form of marketing we have used is direct mail. We are constantly sending mail pieces out to corporations and residents. It is the tried and true form of pizza marketing and always provides the best results.
Suto: Word of mouth, by far. Customers sharing their positive experience at Zachary’s with others has been our most effective form of marketing from the beginning.
Collier: New customers: Door-hanging. Existing delivery customers: Direct mail. Existing dinein customers: 15 percent off business card for next time. Also, online ordering now represents 7 percent of our sales.
Tomasso: Community involvement. Sponsoring youth teams, providing gift certificates, special pricing for youth groups and running special events throughout the year. For example, we began Pizzas for Pencils 15 years ago, where we gather new school supplies to give to needy children. This year we are inviting customers in to make their own pizza — and in exchange we are asking for $10 worth of new school supplies. People have fun and save a few bucks on the cost of a pizza. We help a worthy cause — and people talk about it.
Collier: We use it, but it is not effective at this point. Facebook is designed for personal relationships, not so much for pizza business. All the creative cell phone apps and texting advertising are useless. They have become the new sales people to replace the old print advertising sales people who only serve to distract you from ops. YouTube is probably the most effective of the bunch.
Tomasso: Yes, we do use social media. We launched a Facebook fan page and linked it to our Twitter account, allowing users from both networks to see our updates. We uploaded photos of the pizzeria and staff, and let our fans know of specials and events with daily updates. Occasionally, we offer freebies to customers who mention they are a Facebook fan.
Crowley: We are using Facebook, and it has been incredible. We have over 3,400 fans, and that number is growing every day. We use it to 'promote' rather than 'sell'. We run contests and giveaways and have fun with it.
Freehof: We have a Facebook fanpage. It continues to grow, and now customers are starting to post their favorite things about our restaurant, which we obviously love!
Anthony: While I am not convinced that these forms of media are here to stay (as they will go the way of MySpace), we are giving it a try. We use Facebook. It is a good, inexpensive way to get your message out. But I really don't see it driving traffic on its own. I view it as an additional way to make an impression on people.
Pepperoni aside, what’s your bestselling pizza? How many of those per week do you sale?
Freehof: “Meat Lovers” is 25 percent of all my specialty pizza sales.
Ferriman: Our best-selling pizza is the potato bacon cheddar sicilian slice: Seasoned red bliss potatoes, smoked bacon, scallions, cheddar cheese and swirl of ranch dressing. It is a favorite among the student population. We sell about 50 a day.
Suto: Our 'Pride and Joy' is our spinach and mushroom stuffed pizza. We sell a lot of them. We haven’t taken the time to count how many we sell in a week!
Collier: Tough call since 80 percent of our pizzas have pepperoni. Our BBQ Chicken pizza sells well, along with our signature 'Rusty’s Special' (meats and veggies).
Tomasso: Pepperoni is indeed the king. Our second best seller is cheese, which we sell a few hundred of. Sausage is next. We have a local meat market make our Italian sausage, and he uses just enough red pepper for a little kick. One of our specialty pies, 'The Carnivore,' made with pepperoni, sausage, meatball and bacon, is popular, too. The aroma of that pie is to die for. Something we have been playing around with lately, we call them 'Pizza Popovers,' is gaining fans. We roll up a pizza, cut it into sections and bake in muffin tins. Light, fluffy and different. Something for our customers to talk about.
Crowley: Our best-selling specialty pizza is our buffalo chicken with a bleu cheese base, marinated buffalo chicken, roasted red peppers and our three-cheese blend.
Anthony: Pizza makes up 70 percent of our menu mix per week, and we sell about 700 pizzas a week. Plain cheese pizza has really grown in popularity (thank you, recession). That now accounts for 14 percent of our pizza sales. Pepperoni is 56 percent. Additionally, our gourmet pizzas account for 10 percent of pizza sales. Our 'Pierogi Pizza' and the 'Chicken Rancher' make up more than half of that (about four percent each).
Last September, we produced our 09.09.09 Event in Print. It was a massive — and innovative — undertaking. We promoted the issue via e-mail, direct mail, Twitter, etc. We lined up key industry personalities and translated the magic of International Pizza Expo into print. We also made it a multi-media event by incorporating blogs, video and social media tie-ins. When all was said and done, over 10,000 pizzeria operators watched the videos that corresponded to the issue. And, much to our excitement, the issue was named one of the Top 25 Single Issues of 2009 by Trade Association Business Publications International (TABPI) and won a TABBIE Award.
With all that going for us, how could we not do it again? This year, our September “Event in Print” again offers a plethora of priceless advice. Some of my favorite takes from this issue include:
• George Hadjis (page 12) explaining the steps he took prior to the recession to prepare for it. Then, like any good leader, Hadjis has continued to evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of his company. Not one to sit back idly, Hadjis and his family continue to push Oggi’s forward.
•Big Dave’s suggestion that every pizzeria in America should promote National Pizza Month (page 18). October brings us Halloween, one of the industry’s fi ve most important sales days. Imagine how successful your October could be if every pizzeria in the nation encouraged consumers to eat more pizza during National Pizza Month.
•Pat Bruno, a food critic himself, explaining first-hand what a food critic looks for when walking into a restaurant (page 22). It’s interesting to see which things earn points and which miscues get them deducted. A bad review can break a restaurant’s back, but a good one can catapult business to the stars.
• The different answers to the same questions in our Beer & Bull in Print (page 64). It’s interesting to read that some operators believe the recession is nearing an end, while others are far less optimistic. Additionally, the different takes on the effectiveness of social media mirror a debate that I imagine pizzeria owners will continue at the real Beer & Bull at International Pizza Expo 2011 in Las Vegas.
• Sean Brauser’s assertion that he would rather explain his prices to a customer than have to apologize to that customer for his food quality (page 76).
Jeremy White editor-in-chief
Photos by Josh Keown
Any way you slice it, 105 years is a long time. That’s how long one of America’s favorite foods has been a part of our landscape, and much of our national fabric has changed since then. We’re still crazy over baseball and apple pie, to be sure, but we’re also driven by unsurpassed corporate wealth, the Internet and … pizza.
A humble Italian food that once fed peasants, today pizza is a staple of the American diet. But it wasn’t always so, and we wouldn’t have the bustling pizza industry we have in 2010 (more than 70,000 pizzerias and $39 billion in annual sales) if it weren’t for one man’s change of focus in 1905. That man was named Gennaro Lombardi, and he was an Italian immigrant who ventured to the United States in 1897, like so many before and after him, to capitalize on the boundless opportunity that made America famous.
A baker by trade, Lombardi rented an apartment above the grocery store in which he worked upon his arrival in the Little Italy section of New York City. He often stayed late into the night baking pizzas that the grocer would sell out of his shop the next day. Eventually, Lombardi bought the building that housed the grocery store. It did not take him long to figure out that the thousands of nearby factory workers represented a growth market for his modest business. In 1905, at 32½ Spring Street, Lombardi’s became the first officially licensed pizzeria in the United States.
With all that was going on in the nation and world, it isn’t surprising that the birth of American pizza didn’t cause any ripples in the news. After all, pizza was still a poor man’s meal — and the U.S. had its collective eye focused on a revolution in Russia. Looking back, it’s easy to see that 1905 was an important year in history. Aside from the Russo-Japanese War and the aforementioned revolution that resulted from it, 1905 witnessed the founding of the city of Las Vegas and the birth of influential author Ayn Rand. Theodore Roosevelt began a full term as President, while Albert Einstein proffered his theory of relativity to the scientific community. The Wright Brothers put their third airplane in the sky, and this one flew for an impressive 39 minutes. The world’s fi rst U-boat was launched and novocaine was introduced. Christian Dior was born and Jules Verne died.
In New York, all eyes were on the baseball world: the New York Giants won the World Series by defeating the Philadelphia Athletics four games to one.
Amidst all this, Lombardi used his coal-fired oven to turn out thin-crusted beauties fashioned after the traditional pizza of his home city, Naples, Italy. His pizza was simple — tomato and cheese — and received a sterling reception from the lower-middle-class workers in his target market.
The kitchen at Lombardi’s was stocked with able and enterprising pizza makers, and many of them eventually left to start their own pizzerias. Chief among them was Anthony Pero (nicknamed Totonno), who opened the famed New York pizzeria, Totonno’s, in 1924 on Coney Island. Both Lombardi’s and Totonno’s still do a brisk business today and continue to win over critics and pizza lovers alike.
Through the 1920s many pizzerias that can be considered offshoots of Lombardi’s opened in and around Little Italy. It took two decades for pizzerias to gain a strong foothold in New York City’s other neighborhoods, but they eventually did just that. Even then, the typical American outside of New York wasn’t hip to pizza’s attributes. You had pockets — New Haven, Connecticut, for example — that served pizza to the masses, but they were few and far between.
The Chicago-style deep-dish pizza that’s so popular in the Midwest today was invented in 1941, and some claim it was the first truly American pizza. One thing is certain: the product was completely different from the Neapolitan style pizzas found in the Northeast.
Ironically, it took a World War for pizza to hit its stride. American soldiers stationed in Europe during WWII eventually developed a hankering for the food while on tour in Italy, and when they returned home they raved about it to family and friends. By the 1950s, pizzerias could be found in many of America’s cities and suburbs, even those further out to the West. According to American Heritage, the number of American pizza parlors grew from 500 in 1934 to 20,000 in 1956.
A new deck oven, fired not by wood or coal, but by gas, made pizza production easier and more convenient (and, down the road, conveyors would come into play). As a result, pizza-bythe- slice gained in popularity in New York and tiny pizzerias continued to proliferate throughout the nation. The first Pizza Hut, in fact, was opened in 1958 by Frank and Dean Carney in Wichita, Kansas.
The No. 2 chain, Domino’s, was born shortly thereafter when brothers Tom and James Monaghan borrowed $500 to purchase DomiNick’s Pizza in Ypsilanti, Michigan, in 1960. A year later James traded his share of the business to Tom for a car (a Volkswagen Beetle, for the record), and Tom changed the pizzeria’s name to Domino’s. What distinguished Domino’s from everyone else was the delivery aspect of the business.
Aside from witnessing the birth of Domino’s, the 1960s saw franchising become a hot growth vehicle. This continued through the following decade, and the 1970s were a period of major growth for pizza chains as they realized they could offer value pricing and gain market share through advertising. Pizza chains proliferated in the 1980s and some of today’s major players — Papa John’s, California Pizza Kitchen — popped onto the scene. In California, the “gourmet” pizzas many Americans enjoy today were invented by personalities like Alice Waters and Ed LaDou, the man who brought specialty pizzas to the repertoire at Wolfgang Puck’s restaurant, Spago. During the 1980s, the pizza chains refined their practices and began a cutthroat price war that still defines the pizza category today. Meanwhile, independent pizzerias continued thriving with grassroots marketing, community involvement and a dedication to offering their customers hand-made pizzas topped with high quality ingredients.
More than 100 years after Gennaro Lombardi opened America’s first licensed pizzeria, the U.S. pizza market is filled to the brim with independents and chains alike. In fact, the pizza segment is one of the few foodservice categories that isn’t entirely dominated by major chains, and that’s part of what makes the industry so competitive, fresh and fun a century after its beginning in New York City.
Before Pizza Became 'American'
Pizza is much older than America itself. In fact, its precursor is believed to have originated in prehistoric times when Egyptians cooked bread on fl at, hot stones. Later down the road — approximately 1,000 years ago — Neapolitans began covering focaccia with herbs and spices, according to the Smithsonian. Next came pizza’s most direct ancestor, “Casa de nanza,” which were doughs pounded into thin crusts and topped with leftovers prior to baking.
Interestingly enough, early Europeans feared the tomato was poisonous. Native to the South American countries of Peru and Ecuador, tomatoes were introduced to Europe in the early 1500s by Spanish Conquistadors. But Europeans would not eat the tomato until nearly 150 years later when, in the late 1600s, some brave soul discovered the fruit was not only safe to consume, but delicious. This opened the door for modernday pizza as we know it, which was developed in Naples, Italy.
The world’s first pizzeria, Port’ Alba, opened in Naples in 1830. According to the Smithsonian, the pizzas there were cooked in an oven lined with lava from nearby Mount Vesuvius, a world-famous and historically important volcano. The early pizzas in Naples were flavored with oil, lard, tallow, cheese, tomato and often anchovies.
In 1889, Don Raffaele Esposito created the Margherita Pizza, which is adorned with nothing but tomatoes, fresh mozzarella and basil, in honor of Margherita Teresa Giovanni, who was the Italian Queen at the time.
Even today, the classic Margherita remains one of the world’s most popular pizzas.
Photos by Rick Daugherty & Josh Keown
Whenever I speak at the Pizza Expo, invariably people ask me the same couple of questions, but mainly it is: ”How did you do it?” The “it” is an amazing story of how I took Romeo’s Pizza from one to 31 stores over the last five years –– with 21 of them coming in the last 18 months. The best way for me to answer is to explain the long, arduous process and how it takes time, planning, and execution over a period of years. So when I was asked by Pizza Today to write an article detailing and recounting our phenomenal growth during the worst recession in decades, I was excited to share with you, the small independent pizzeria owner, a story I hope inspires and helps you grow your operation as well.
In 2001, I bought a small mom and pop pizzeria in Medina, Ohio, called Romeo’s Pizza. It was operated very poorly, but yet still managed to do some good numbers and the pizza seemed pretty solid. This was my third pizza restaurant, and I looked forward to growing the business. I tweaked the recipes, added better management and began to see a lot of potential. Four months later, September 11th happened, and the world stopped. Sales dropped significantly as people began to experience some of the financial uncertainty that is still with us today.
In March of 2002, I asked industry consultant Big Dave Ostrander for some help in making my concept duplicable. My goal was to open multiple Romeo’s Pizzas and possibly start franchising, but first I had to fix the areas of my operation that were still broken and fine tune the areas that weren’t. So Big Dave invited me to the NAPICS food show in Columbus, Ohio, to meet him, and told me to enter the pizza contest since I would be down there anyway. After dreaming that I won that night, I entered the most popular of our pizzas –– The Butcher Shop –– and proceeded to win first place! The prize was an all expense paid trip to Italy to compete at the World Pizza Championships.
Over the next couple of years, I worked on my system. I had a strong grasp of food and labor costs, focused on marketing and customer service, and found ways to make my business not depend on me to run it day to day. I hired two managers and paid them well (both of whom own multiple Romeo’s Pizza stores today). I also put together a very aggressive bonus program for them. One of the biggest keys to success I have found is to have a bonus program for your manager. My managers get bonuses based on sales, labor cost and food cost. This gives them a vested financial interest in my business, which is priceless. I love to pay bonuses! Managers that don’t bonus in my company usually aren’t around long. Get your people invested in your business!
I spent about four years trying to perfect my system, focusing on menu engineering, training programs, operations manuals and marketing programs. During that time, I won the Best Pizza in the Midwest at NAPICS again, Best Gourmet Pizza in America in New York City, and was featured on the Food Network’s $10,000 Pizza Challenge. I have gone to Italy to compete at the World Pizza Championships 7 times as a founding member of the World Pizza Champions. Throughout, my main focus was always building a system that would allow me to open another store. I have identified three of the most important areas I focused on that led to the growth of Romeo’s Pizza. There are many other factors, including luck, but these three things are absolutely necessary if you want to grow your operation: • Defining your brand marketing strategy. • Creating a system. • Personal development.
Defi ning Your Brand Marketing Strategy Since December of 2008, Romeo’s Pizza has grown from 10 stores to 31. Same-store sales have risen 20 percent month after month during that time. We have beaten down the $5 pizza guys, destroyed the “Buy 1, Get 2 Free” guys, and have overcome an unprecedented marketing blitz this industry has never seen before by the Big 3. So the big question is how did we do it? What is the magic button that you can push to make all of that happen for you and your business? It all starts with marketing. Brand Marketing. While most of the smaller pizza chains and independents stopped advertising during the recession, we actually spent the most we ever have. More importantly, we changed the way we marketed. Being fed up with competing in the money mailers and coupon books for the best deal, we stopped doing them. Advertising is only a piece of marketing. It isn’t the only thing. We began to focus on building our brand. Branding is all about creating an image of your company that gives your customers and prospective customers confidence that your company and products will meet or exceed their expectations every time. Marketing your brand will continue to pay you back long after the coupons have expired.
The first step is to determine who you want to be and create your brand based on the customers that you want to attract. We wanted to attract loyal, value-oriented (not price driven) customers who appreciate quality over garbage — so we built our brand around them. I stopped using coupons as my marketing strategy and started to build real value into our offerings. I created package deals that would help Romeo’s keep our average ticket around $20. Some of the packages included a pizza with wings or a pizza with a salad, breadsticks and pop. We even had some two- and three-pizza packages. Recently, I created the “Romeo’s Pizza Build Your own Ultimate Supreme Pizza” with up to five toppings for only $13.99. It allows us to compete with the $10 price point and still maintain our position as a premium brand. We are going to truly have it for a limited time so that our promotional price doesn’t become a permanent price reduction.
I firmly believe that, as an industry, we need stop lowering our prices. Pizza is the most popular food in America, and the most economical for a family — yet many of us try to market solely based on price. I tell customers all of the time I would rather explain my price than apologize for my quality, and no matter how large we become, we will always use only the best possible ingredients on our pizza.
Once you determine what you want your brand to stand for, you must create marketing materials that represent that image. We built menus, flyers, magnets, door hangers, menuboards and box toppers with the highest quality paper and images, and put our brand “look” together. Our menu is the second most effective marketing tool we have (our pizza is the first). We are trying to attract people that are loyal and are not afraid to pay for quality; and all of our marketing materials, especially our menu, need to represent that. I also insert our menus everywhere. Today, we insert our menu in those same coupon books we shunned, but now we stand out. Our brand marketing image separates us from the barrage of coupons and cheap pizzas, and has allowed us to grow our sales system-wide 20 percent.
In your advertising you must communicate your unique selling proposition, or USP. What do you do that nobody else can do or say? At Romeo’s, we use only the best tomatoes from California, which go from the field to the can in mere hours. We make our own dough daily by trained dough masters in each of the stores. We have a specially blended cheese made in Wisconsin using provolone and mozzarella that is used exclusively by Romeo’s Pizza. That is the way we promote our brand. What can you say about your pizza that either no one else can say, or no one else has said? A lot of people use the same sauce we use or get their cheese from Wisconsin. A lot of people make their dough fresh every day … The difference is how we communicate it to the customer.
Remember, advertising is only part of marketing (the most expensive part!). Other areas of marketing we focused on were lazy customer cards, new mover programs, up-sell contests in the stores, local sponsorships and other direct mail pieces specifically targeted down to the carrier route for neighborhoods in which we wanted a better presence. We also give a menu and a magnet to every customer, and we put box toppers and bounce-back coupons on every pizza. Soon we are starting a rewards program that will be integrated with our POS system. I also have a weekly email that goes out to our database (and a text program as well).
The best way to win a customer is to give them a pizza for free. We look to give our pizza away at as many places as we can. I would rather give a group a bunch of pizzas for free than try to sell them for five bucks each (because I maintain my brand image and value, and I know that I will gain customers for life if they just try it). A lot of people are afraid to try new things, so you have to make it very easy to try your pizza.
Marketing is the lifeblood of your business, and it’s like a tree … you need to water it to make it grow, not wait for it to grow and then water it. But your operations have to meet the promises that your marketing makes, and that’s where creating a system comes into play.
The next area of focus for me was operations and creating a system. I wanted to have a very duplicable concept, and I spent four years trying to perfect it before I opened our second store. We constantly try to improve every aspect of our business, so the work on the system is never done. Some of the areas that we addressed were the look and appearance of the lobby, employees and food. We’ve standardized and weigh every pizza, sub and pasta dish. We set a strict dress code for our management and staff, and created and enforced an employee handbook. We also aligned ourselves with a POS system, which I feel is absolutely critical in duplicating your concept. I would never open a store without a POS system.
We also spent a lot of time and effort on documenting the way everything is supposed to be done. We created a food prep manual that details how to make everything we make, as well as an operations manual, which details how we operate a Romeo’s Pizza restaurant. Additionally, our employee handbooks detail what is expected from each employee in writing before they start. My goal was to create a system that would run my stores, allowing me to work on my system. If your store depends on you to be successful, then you haven’t created a strong enough system and you are not ready to grow. As we have grown, I often have to go back and change some of the policies and procedures, so I look at these manuals as a fluid document that has the rigidity to run the store, and yet has the flexibility to make changes for the better.
I attribute a lot of the growth of Romeo’s Pizza to personal development. I believe that in order to grow you need to become a master of many skills. You need to understand finance and accounting, you need to be able to hire and train good employees, and you need to become a strong leader. You need to be able to calculate food costs, create effective advertising campaigns, and be able to hear opportunity knocking. You also need to eliminate negativity and excuse making from your vocabulary. All of these skills can be learned, and I focused a lot on my own personal development. If you are weak in these areas begin investing in yourself. Take a class, read as many books as you can, and attend International Pizza Expo 2011 next March. People ask me all the time if I ever thought Romeo’s would be this big, and I can honestly answer “yes.” I truly believed we could.
I have tried to give you a glimpse into the process I took to build a successful pizza company. Our plans are to go back and tighten up our system again and add stores in 2011. We are looking at multiple DMA’s to grow and expand as we become a regional chain. Our goal for the next 10 years is to have 1,000 stores. We will also grow same-store sales as we continue growing externally through opening company stores and franchising. You too can create the business of your dreams. Get started today.
Photos by Josh Keown
“A man who stops advertising to save money is like a man who stops the clock to save time.” This quote is generally attributed to Henry Ford, defending his marketing budget during the Depression. Operators in the midst of the present recession appreciate those words. We realize that we are fighting for our sales and we don’t want to waste our ad dollars. Daily, we are bombarded with ‘fool-proof’ marketing ideas from polished snake oil ad representatives. Where is the proof that these marketing ideas work? How do you measure the effectiveness of a promotion? That’s what ROI (return on investment) is all about.
ROI is a measurement used to evaluate the efficiency of a marketing investment or to compare the efficiency of a number of different investments. To calculate ROI, the benefit (return) of an investment is divided by the cost of the investment; the result is expressed as a percentage or a ratio.
The return on investment formula: If I generated an extra $1000 in profit from a marketing campaign and it cost me $700 to implement, my ROI would be 41%. Many marketing Web sites are equipped with these calculator applications, so you can see the possibilities of using different marketing tactics. For example, using one such calculator I see that my new movers program generates $7,657 to my bank account when I invest $143, assuming the lifetime value of a customer. (Your average sale multiplied by the number of times a customer frequents your establishment per year multiplied by the length of your average customer relationship = Lifetime sales multiplied by your profit margin = Lifetime value of a customer.)
Chris Hall, owner of Big Red’s Pizza and Subs in Utica, Ohio, adamantly states: “You have to be able to track your marketing somehow, otherwise you’re throwing money at the public and praying it off.” Hall’s outlook has paid off. His business has grown nearly 600 percent since 2005. Hall not only tracks and measures sales, but also the response rates to different types of offers and the areas yielding the greatest response rate. These ROI measurements give Hall the ability to re-vamp his marketing in a timely fashion. Hall advises that putting an expiration date on offers is a must. expiration dates rather than a limited time offer gives you the means to measure and finetune your marketing to get the biggest bang for buck. Lance Benton, franchisor of the 50 unit Pizza, agrees. “You have to be constantly monitoring your ROI, promotions that worked well lose steam over time and you need to be on that,” Benton says.
There is more to a promotion than the initial dollars and cents. John Sculley, successful businessman of PepsiCo and Apple fame, has said: “No great marketing decisions ever been made on quantitative data.” Benton sees the wisdom in that. “Naturally we look for an increase in sales and profits when implementing a promotion, but other factors, such as obtaining new customers and gaining their data, are also important benefi ts for future promotions,” he says. Small business consultant Issamar Ginzberg, of Monetized Intellect, offers this thought: “It’s not about how many pizzas this ad sells, it’s about the lifetime value of the customers this ad brings in. As long as the ROI is not negative up front, it’s a go.”
In my own pizzeria, I utilize my POS to tell when I am in the heart of good promotion. The POS will indicate for me how many of the incoming calls are new customers and I know I’ve got this chance to make a great first impression and to boost my ROI now and in the future.
“You should also be measuring community awareness and how much free publicity your company is getting from promotions,” says Ginzberg. “A good promotion will get a nice amount of free additional publicity from the media, and especially from word of mouth.” Do people talk about you on social media and restaurant review sites? Do your customers help drive traffic? These residual effects can all be included as a benefit of your investment. Various Web sites, like kurrently.com, are popping up all the time to help you measure the effects of social media.
While some experts will do the math just for the given time period of a promotion, we realize that we are not traveling salesmen. Our businesses are part of a community, and we are in it for the long run. Therefore, these intangible benefits need to be given due consideration. Hall attests to the lifetime value factor, too. In a guerilla marketing move, Hall sent a coupon to 68 Facebook fans of local competitors; of those, 47 people responded. “We now see 18 of them weekly and another nine new customers bi-weekly,” Hall says. That sure beats dumpster-diving!
Most pizza marketing is executed in a direct response manner. That being said, Ginzberg adds: “Make something that is promotion-unique, like a new item or a different sized item, and you will have a built-in calculation for how the promotion is doing. Another trick is putting a different phone number (say, toll free) on a specific promotion. Any calls that come in on that number can be traced back to a specific promotion.”
Success is not left up to chance. Ford, Sculley and hosts of other American businessmen knew they had to market their product to make it great. They learned how to market their products by monitoring ROI.
Photos by Josh Keown
I am now into my 26th year as freelance restaurant critic for the Chicago Sun-Times, and I am still having a ball. I love to eat and I love to write about food, so this is one helluva job (if you can call it a job). Here’s the backstory. I have worked here and there as a waiter, a short order cook, line cook and –– along the way –– have done restaurant consulting work in Spain, Mexico, India, Canada, and across the United States (but never in Chicagoland, because that would be a conflict of interest). And for several years I headed up my own Italian cooking school here in Chicago. Also, as many of you know, I have been a contributing editor at Pizza Today since about the time the first issue was printed.
I know how tough the restaurant business can be, so my mantra is quite simple: be constructive, never vindictive. Always be fair. Restaurant critics are you friends (and can be your best friend) –– not the enemy.
That preface is the set up for this article, but let’s set the record straight on that. As a restaurant critic, one of my positive reviews can do a whole lot of good. In fact, over the years I have done a lot of good for many restaurants in and around Chicago (I do two reviews every week, and they appear in the Weekend Section of the Chicago Sun-Times, as well as online. I rate restaurants using a star system: One star to four stars (the highest), with half stars added as needed.
Here is how I go about my work. First, I choose the restaurant I want to review. It could be Italian/pizza, contemporary, French, steakhouse, Thai, Indian, Greek, Asian –– whichever way the culinary winds are blowing. Next, I make a reservation using a fictitious name (or using Open Table under a made up name). In other words, all of my restaurant visits are anonymous. When I speak to someone at the restaurant to book a reservation, I am aware of a few things. A pleasant and cordial greeting gets points. If I am put on hold for more than, say, two or three minutes, I might hang up and call back. It’s not a big deal, so I cut some slack there.
We (my wife and the designated eaters I might call in to try more dishes) arrive at the restaurant. A smile from the host stand and a welcome? Good start. Table ready? Yes. Add points. If we get shuffled off to the bar, points are deducted (major points deducted if we are stuck at the bar for longer than 20 minutes). Points can be recovered if a manager or person comes by and gives us an update: “We are clearing your table now, it should be just another minute or two.”
OK, now let’s say I did not make a reservation or the restaurant does not accept reservations. In other words, we just show up and try to score a table at a hot new restaurant. “How long is the wait?” I ask. If he or she says “15-20 minutes,” fine. Now we can have a drink at the bar. But if I see that a halfhour has rolled around and nobody has updated us on the status of our table, points are deducted. Update customers that are waiting for a table as often as feasibly possible. It’s only fair, and that gets points toward the final star rating.
So, now we are seated. Is the table clean and looking good? (OK, so I am at a pizza joint with, say, eight tables. I am not going to get all out of sorts if everything is not perfectly pristine, but it sure helps when it is.) Looking around the dining room I see that the tables are nicely spaced and that the ambience has a certain feel. There's a niceness, a style that flows with the type of food being served. Is this a comfortable place where I will enjoy spending the next hour or so?
Our server comes by and gives us a sincere welcome and (hopefully) a “thanks for coming.” Add points. “Have you been here before?” she asks. “No?” “Let me take a few moments to tell you about our menu.” Add points. You are winning me over.
Our server announces a few of the daily specials (“The pizza special for tonight is with arugula, shaved Parmesan, EVOO.”) Nice. Thanks. If he or she volunteers the price for this special pizza, add points. Water glasses are filled as needed. I am starting to feel really good about this restaurant.
Looking over the menu, I note that each dish gives a broad description of the ingredients. I don’t expect it to be a recipe, but I will expect enough of a description to allow me to make an informed decision. For example: “Pizza Primavera: Rich tomato sauce, bufala mozzarella, mushrooms, cherry tomatoes, zucchini, Kalamata olives, basil and extra-virgin olive oil.” Perfect.
What am I looking for? Creativity, something that perks my interest. Even better is that when I look at the menu, up and down and around, I see so many dishes that I want to try. That’s a good thing. Add points. Do the prices on the menu make sense? I have paid up to $24 for a plate of ravioli with eggplant. Was the ravioli that good? Yes, but not $24 good. Will I point that out in my review? Definitely. On the other hand, I will point out in my review what a great deal that linguine with clam sauce was for just 10 bucks.
At this point, our order is placed. Appetizer or salad, pasta, pizza, entreé –– however it works out. Now I am aware of the timing between courses. Did the pasta or pizza show up before appetizers were finished? A nice pace is always good –– no rushing, but no long, long waits between courses (the kids are getting antsy). Points are added or deducted (but not to any degree of absurdity) for how all of that plays out. If there are, say, six people at our table, did three of us get our food, and two or three are waiting (and waiting …)? You’re going to get docked for that.
Let’s say that all is going smoothly. The food is excellent, and everybody is having a good time and lost in the moment of enjoying our food; the mood around the table is solid and conversation is flowing. Our server comes by for a quick check (see sidebar) and moves on. Thank you. Add points.
Quality, creativity and consistency are three areas that I am always aware of when evaluating a restaurant, and I expect that criteria to be commensurate with the price paid.
I look at it this way: when a movie is made, it’s a done deal. It is what it is. A restaurant is way different. Every day is a new day in the restaurant business, and things happen. Someone doesn’t show up, equipment problems, any number of things can happen; all of you have been there.
The bottom line is that if you want a food critic to review your restaurant, send him or her an email and invite them to experience your food. If you have a Web site, point that out. And, point out what dishes or creative ideas I should look at when I am viewing your online menu (I can tell a whole lot about a restaurant just by looking at a menu). Give a food critic a reason to visit your restaurant and, if all goes well, the publicity you will get will be beyond your expectations.
Don’t offer any free meals or under-the- table deals (we don’t like that approach). Win me over with your hospitality and your delicious food. Lastly,
I add major points if, when I leave, someone thanks me for coming and invites me back soon.
I thought you would like to read about some of what irks me. I call them Pat Peeves.
• A menu that is difficult to read. Please, use a bold typeface!
• “How’s everything?” is not a positive approach. “Neither is “How’s everything tasting tonight?” I have actually heard this: “Is anything tasting good?”
• “Who gets what?” are three words that should not be in a servers’ vocabulary.
• “You guys” are two words that should not be used in the company of women. As in “And how are you guys doing tonight?” Uh, that’s my wife, dude.
• Bowls and plates as big as manhole covers do not belong on tables the size of a postage stamp.
• Just because I pause a bit and lay my fork down doesn’t mean that I am finished eating. Get your hands off my plate.
• Music played too loud just adds to the din, and that escalates into a shouting match to just carry on normal conversation. Turn down the volume as needed. It makes everybody happy.
Photos by Rick Daugherty
Editor’s Note: Last year in our September issue, Chef Jeff showed readers a handful of great items that can be made with everyday pizza dough. The article was a hit, so we’ve asked him to develop more ideas for this issue. Enjoy!
I was so delighted with the responses we got from last September’s pizza dough article and demo showing ways to use dough beyond pizza that I wanted to ”stretch the dough” just a little bit farther. As you may have learned by now, I am a fi rm believer in making fresh pizza dough. It’s one of the least expensive things we make and, at the same time, is so incredibly versatile. The options are practically endless. To understand my menu philosophies by now, you also understand that it’s important to utilize the ingredients you bring into the kitchen in as many versatile ways as possible. When I talked to you in the past about artichoke hearts, I’ve taught you to use it not just on pizza, but also in salads, appetizers and pasta dishes. Well, the same goes for pizza dough. It’s plentiful and inexpensive. Let’s take a quick look back at what we explored a year ago.
Last year, we made some very simple breadsticks, both appetizer- and dessert-style (along with some amazing garlic knots, pita pockets and tortilla wraps), utilizing a dough sheeter. We finished off with calzones and stromboli. Once you have those things down pat (and I surely hope you have tried some or all of these techniques by now), I’ll want you to try these other innovative ways to utilize your pizza dough.
Let me start out with something very simple: flatbreads. Take an 18-ounce dough ball and stretch it out onto a 12-inch screen or pan. This will be much thicker than your normal pizza. Brush it with some olive oil, and then use your creativity with what you will top it with. Remember, this is not a pizza, but will become a nice round loaf. I like to put sliced red onion with coarsely chopped rosemary and shredded parmesan on mine. You can also lightly spread tomato paste on the bread. You’ll want to cover the dough and let it rise for about an hour. Bake at 400 F for about 12 to 15 minutes. These are great to have on display for customers to take home as an add-on to their order.
Next, I want to share one of my favorite snacks of all time: spinach pies. Don’t confuse this with Spanikopita, which are layers of phylo dough with a spinach and feta mixture in the middle. Scale out 3 ounce dough balls and let them proof long enough for the dough to be relaxed enough to roll it out into about a five-inch diameter fl at dough round. Next, take two pounds of cooked and well-drained spinach. You can use frozen chopped, but I like to quickly sauté it in a pan or even on my fl at top grill for just a minute or so. Over- cooking it will drain the bright green color out of your spinach, so be careful not to do that.
Once you have two pounds of chopped and drained cooked spinach, add in 1⁄3 cup of olive oil or vegetable oil, two tablespoons of freshly minced garlic cloves or granulated garlic, and two teaspoons of salt. The spinach mixture is really that simple. Plain cooked spinach is so bland and boring — but when you marry it with a little salt and garlic, it is truly amazing!
Now add three ounces of spinach to the bottom half of each rolled-out dough, egg wash the bottom half edge and fold down the top. Seal it. Make a little slit in the top and let the spinach pies proof for about 45 minutes. Bake them at about 375 F for 10 minutes. These should be served at room temperature. In a sense, spinach pies are almost like mini calzones; but, because of the process, it is more bread like. You can vary these pies by adding sliced black olives and pepperoni to the spinach mixture. You can also slice the pies open, to order, and add the pepperoni (and even some cheese) at the customer’s request. Just bake it for a couple of minutes to melt the cheese. Once you start making these and find some fans, you’ll realize that making a dozen probably won’t get you halfway through the lunch hour!
In keeping with that spinach theme for a moment, I want to share the pinwheel concept with you. Take a 12-ounce dough ball and stretch or roll it out in a rectangle shape, then take eight ounces of the spinach filling described above and spread it out evenly over the dough. Now simply start at the bottom and roll it up. Then take a serrated knife and cut one inch pieces; lay them on their side in a well oiled pizza pan or on a half sheet pan. It’s important to cover these and let them rise for an hour. Then bake them for about 10 to 12 minutes. Just before they are done, sprinkle shredded Parmesan cheese over them to enhance their flavor. This is a great appetizer — or even a wonderful substitution for dinner rolls.
Pinwheels for dessert? Absolutely! Use the same method I just described in the spinach pinwheels, but change the filling. Here’s a great recipe to try: mix a half-pound of butter or margarine, one cup of brown sugar, one of cup sugar and one tablespoon of cinnamon.
Now when you roll out your dough, simply spread this mixture over the dough and roll it, cut it, proof it and bake. Wow, you now have your own cinnamon bun pinwheels made of your own pizza dough. If you take a pound of powdered sugar and add a few tablespoons of warm water, you can make a very nice glaze to drizzle over the pinwheels. Add some blueberries to the brown sugar/cinnamon mixture for yet another variation of pizza dough pinwheels.
Let’s finish off with one more sweet treat: zeppoli. You’ll need a fryer for this one. Everybody loves fried dough when they go to the carnival, so why not offer your version? This one is so easy. Just cut little pieces of pizza dough, about half-ounce pieces, and fry them until golden. Once they come out of the fryer, you’ll want to roll them in cinnamon sugar. Then you can drizzle chocolate and caramel sauce over them. Sprinkle a little powdered sugar over the whole thing and call this one a sweet and profitable success. Now that I’ve shared even more creative ways to use your pizza dough, I really hope you roll up your sleeves and give some of these recipes a try. I promise you’ll find great success in pleasing your guests and raising your check average. So go ahead, see how many ways you can “stretch your dough”!
Photos by Josh Keown
October has been officially recognized as National Pizza Month. Since its inception in 1984, it has been briefly featured from time to time in the national media. Every year, Pizza Today gives it some ink. This year, I propose that our industry start a celebration and public relations blitz. If we don’t celebrate our industry, who will? I know we don’t need much prompting to start a party, so let’s see how we can make next month a winner.
October is a perfect month to jumpstart your PR and marketing strategy into high gear. Vacations are over, and school is back in session. The weather is cooler, and families have gotten over the cash fl ow crunch of the September “back to school blues” (which comes with outfitting all of the kids in new wardrobes, supplies, etc). I would propose that every pizzeria operator in the country get behind this awareness campaign. Your campaign could use the following tools to get the awareness out to your area:
• Get a banner made for the front of your store.
• Headline it on your next fl yer printing.
• Mention it on box toppers and door hangers.
• Change your marquee or changeable copy sign.
If you blend National Pizza Month with another event, like National Fire Prevention Month, it will gather more momentum. You will not get free public relations if the media or public thinks it is a ploy to sell more pizzas or advertising. Your celebration must include some benefit for the customer. If you don’t answer the question, “What’s in it for me?” it may be perceived as self-serving. Here are some ideas I’ve successfully used for awareness and sales builders.
• Team up with the local fi re department to do a smoke detector battery check and replacement check. This is so important for seniors because they are very afraid of climbing up on a step stool or chair to service a detector. Any fi re department worth their salt will jump at the chance of lending a hand. Just cross-promote the idea and offer to help fund the battery costs. This is a perfect cross promotion with a local insurance company.
• October was my anniversary month. All month long we held a weekly super deal and topped off the month with Customer Appreciation Night. This was by far the best single marketing event I ever did.
• You may want to tie the affair in with an employee bounce back certificate. During the month of October, employees hand out half off any large specialty pizza to lost and non customers. Add this disclaimer: “One certificate per person, valid only during October.” To finish off the month, organize a Halloween costume parade at your store. All dressed kids and chaperones get a free slice of pie from 6-7 pm. Would a few pieces of candy and a small gift certificate also be in order? Imagine if every single pizza place advertised National Pizza Month on a banner, poster, changeable copy sign, fl yer, box-topper or any other collateral piece for five weeks. The power of 70,000 establishments is a big number.
October is right around the corner. Make your place the talk of the town.
Each month, we strive to bring you recipes that will help grow your menu and make your operation a success. These recipes come from a variety of sources, including Pat Bruno, Chef Jeff Freehof, Big Dave Ostrander, our own in-house food stylist Jerry Washington (Chef Jay), and numerous pizzeria owners from across the country. We have more than 600 recipes archived on our popular Web site, PizzaToday.com, and we add to that number almost daily.
We thought it would be fun if the editorial staff highlighted its favorites. These recipes have been published in the pages of Pizza Today or on PizzaToday.com over the years. Chef Jay has prepared these dishes for us in our test kitchen many times. It seems we can’t get enough of a good thing!
Apple Pie Pizza
½ cup all-purpose fl our
½ cup packed light brown sugar
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into bits
In a small mixing bowl, combine the fl our, brown sugar, cinnamon, and granulated sugar. Mix the butter in with your fingertips or pastry cutter to form small crumbles. You will have 1½ cups of streusel. Set aside or chill for 15-20 minutes.
3-4 Granny Smith apples (about 2½ pounds), peeled, cored and cut into ¼-inch slices
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 tablespoons light brown sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
3 tablespoons apricot jam or preserves
1 14-inch pizza shell
In a mixing bowl, toss the apples with the lemon juice. In a sauté pan set over high heat, melt the butter until it just begins to froth. Add the apple slices and cook, stirring occasionally, for 4 minutes. Add the brown sugar and cinnamon and cook for 2 minutes more or until the apples are barely tender. Transfer the apples to a bowl and let cool for 10 minutes. (Can be prepped ahead).
In a small saucepan, cook the apricot jam until it liquefies. Set aside. Brush the entire crust, including the edge, with the apricot jam. Spread the reserved apples evenly over the crust. Sprinkle the streusel over the apples. Bake the pizza. Let it sit for 10 minutes before cutting and serving.
One 12-inch pizza crust
3 ounces Alfredo sauce
6 ounces mozzarella, grated
4 ounces white cheddar, grated
6 ounces fresh tomatoes, cut 1⁄4-inch thick
4 ounces bacon, cooked until starts to crisp, chopped into
3 ounces romaine lettuce, 14-inch wide ribbons
1 ounce Italian vinaigrette
1 ounce Parmesan cheese, grated
Place pizza crust on pan. Spread crust with white sauce. Top with cheeses, tomato slices, then bacon pieces. Bake at 550 F for 15-20 minutes, until cooked through and bubbling.
Toss romaine with vinaigrette and place in center two-thirds of pizza after removing pizza from oven. Sprinkle with grated Parmesan and serve.
One 14-inch pizza crust
6 canned plum tomatoes, drained and chopped
6 ounces fresh mozzarella, coarsely chopped
3 tablespoons grated Romano
8 leaves fresh basil, torn
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
Roll crust thin, to about 1⁄4-inch thickness. Add tomatoes, mozzarella and Romano. Arrange fresh basil leaves evenly over pizza. Drizzle entire pizza with olive oil and bake at 500 F until finished.
Cinnamon Swirl Pizza
Yield: one 12-inch pizza
(Scale up in direct proportion)
16 ounces pizza dough
¼ cup unsalted butter, melted
½ cup sugar
2 ½ teaspoons cinnamon
Cut the dough into four pieces, each about 4 ounces. Roll each of these pieces into a thick rope that is about 18 inches long.
Lightly oil (use corn oil or other vegetable oil) a 12-inch pizza pan. Lay each of the pieces of dough onto the pan, coiling them as you would do for a coil of rope. Gently press the coils together. Cover the dough with plastic wrap and give it another 45 minutes to an hour to rise.
Brush the melted butter over the dough coils. In a small bowl, combine the sugar and the cinnamon. Sprinkle the cinnamon-sugar mixture over the dough.
Bake the pizza at a low temperature (350-375 F) for about 12-15 minutes.
1⁄3 cup unsalted butter
2 cups powdered (confectioner’s) sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
2-3 tablespoons water
In a small sauce pan set over low heat, melt the butter. Stir in the powdered sugar and vanilla. Add the water, one tablespoon at a time. While adding the water, stir until you get the icing to the consistency of a thick syrup. Drizzle the icing decoratively over the slightly cooled pizza.
Sea salt and fresh ground pepper
8 ounces chicken, cut into strips
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons minced garlic
2 ounces sun-dried tomatoes, diced
2 ounces broccoli
2 lemon wedges
2 ounces white wine (Chablis works well)
10 ounces penne, cooked al dente
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 ounce pecorino Romano cheese
In a mixing bowl, combine sea salt & pepper. Lightly dredge chicken in it, then grill about halfway through.
In a large skillet, heat extra virgin olive oil. Saute chicken in oil; lightly brown on both sides. When chicken changes color, add garlic. Continue to saute, stirring constantly until garlic is lightly browned. Add sun-dried tomatoes, lemon, broccoli and wine. Reduce by 1⁄4 to 1⁄2.
Add salt & pepper to taste. Add penne. Toss with butter and cheese.
Chicken and Bleu Cheese Pizza
1 12-inch pizza crust
1 pound grilled chicken breasts, cut into ¼-inch wide strips
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
3 tablespoons hot sauce
1 tablespoon cider vinegar
½ cup sour cream
½ cup ricotta cheese
¾ cup crumbled bleu cheese
In a saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat. Stir in the hot sauce and vinegar. Cook the sauce, simmering gently for about 3 minutes. Turn off the heat and add the cooked chicken to the sauce to coat.
In a food processor, combine the sour cream, ricotta and ½ cup bleu cheese. Process until a smooth sauce is formed.
Spread the sauce evenly over the pizza. Arrange the chicken strips over the sauce, pressing the chicken gently into the sauce.
Sprinkle the remaining ¼ cup of bleu cheese evenly over the pizza and bake until finished.
Makes 4 to 6 servings
1⁄4 pound pancetta in a chunk about 1⁄2 inch thick
3⁄4 cup diced Roma tomato
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 clove garlic, sliced
3 large egg yolks
1 cup heavy cream
1⁄2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1⁄4 cup freshly grated pecorino or Romano cheese
4 teaspoons freshly ground pepper
1 pound spaghetti
Pare the rind from the pancetta and cut the meat into a small dice. Put the oil, butter and garlic in a sauté pan that is large enough to hold all of the pasta after it has been cooked. Set the pan over medium heat. Cook and stir the garlic until it is a deep golden color. Discard the garlic. Raise the heat to medium-high. Add the diced pancetta to the pan and fry it until it is crisp and throws off most of its fat. Add the tomato to the pan and turn the heat to low to keep the pancetta warm.
In a mixing bowl, lightly beat the egg yolks with the two cheeses and half of the ground pepper. Set aside.
Cook the pasta in plenty of boiling salted water until it is al dente. Drain well. Working quickly, add the cooked pasta to the pan with the pancetta. Now add the egg, cream and cheese mixture to the same pan. Toss rapidly and thoroughly to coat the pasta, “cook” the eggs and thicken the cream. Add the reserved ground pepper. Serve at once.
Variations: Use prosciutto in place of the pancetta.
(Italian egg drop soup)
Yields: 6 servings
1⁄8 teaspoon grated nutmeg
2 teaspoons Italian parsley, finely chopped
1 quart chicken stock
1 cup water
2 tablespoons Parmesan cheese, freshly grated
10 ounces fresh spinach
Kosher salt and pepper, to taste
In a small bowl, beat eggs. Whisk in nutmeg and parsley. In a 2- or 3-quart pot, bring chicken stock and water to a gentle boil. Stir in Parmesan and spinach. Cook until spinach is tender, about 3 minutes. Pour in the egg mixture while stirring with a whisk. Lower the heat to a simmer; cook for 2-3 minutes while stirring. (The egg should form ribbons in the soup.) Season with salt and pepper; serve immediately.
Mamma’s Magnificent Meatballs
Yield: about 100 2-ounce meatballs
8 pounds lean ground beef
2 pounds ground pork
1⁄4 cup minced garlic
1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 cup grated Romano cheese
1 cup finely chopped parsley (use fl at-leaf if you can)
5 cups torn day-old Italian bread, soaked in milk, squeezed dry
8 eggs, lightly beaten 4 teaspoons salt 4 teaspoons black pepper
4 teaspoons dried oregano, crumbled
Combine all of the ingredients in the order listed. Mix by hand thoroughly.
Form into meatballs, a bit larger than a golf ball, by rolling the meat between your palms. Lay the meatballs in one layer on a sheet pan(s). Refrigerate meatballs 1 hour, covered, or until ready to cook.
Pour a thin film of vegetable oil in a large skillet. Over medium-high heat, sauté the meatballs in batches until they are cooked through, turning them frequently to brown evenly.
1 12-inch pizza crust
1 tablespoon fresh garlic, crushed
2 tablespoons olive oil
5 ounces base cheese blend (65 percent mozzarella, 25 percent Jack, 10 percent cheddar)
2 ounces chicken, cut into strips or torn
½ cup fresh mushrooms, sliced
¼ cup dried cranberries
¼ cup red bell peppers, diced
1⁄8 cup celery
¼ cup peperoncini peppers, diced 1 teaspoon sage
1⁄8 cup roasted pumpkin seeds
1 ounce Romano cheese
Top pizza skin with fresh crushed garlic and olive oil, spreading evenly over skin. Add base cheese mix, then add toppings in the order listed, spreading over entire pizza evenly. The peperoncini and red bell peppers should all be chopped finely to ensure complete distribution. Bake at 450 F. Serve.
4 extra-large egg yolks
1 whole egg
1/2 cup sugar
1 tablespoon dry Marsala
8 ounces mascarpone
1 cup heavy whipping cream
2 tablespoons sugar
8 ounces esprsso or brewed strong coffee, cooled
24 ladyfingers (savioardi) Cocoa powder
Put the egg yolks, the whole egg, and the sugar in a double boiler arrangement over simmering water. Whisk the eggs constantly until they thicken into a light custard. Add the Marsala and combine. Whisk a bit more. Turn out of the bowl into a pan to cool.
Cream the mascarpone. Set aside. Beat the whipping cream to the soft peak stage. Add the sugar. Beat to the stiff peak stage.
Fold the mascarpone into the whipped cream, then fold that mixture into the cooled egg/sugar mixture.
Assembly: Use a pan or glass dish that is about 8x8 inches. Working one by one, dip a ladyfinger into the cooled espresso. A quick dip in an out (the ladyfi ngers will absorb more of the coffee than you think) works best.
Put a thin layer of the mixture over the bottom of the pan. Fit 12 layfingers into the pan (trimming as needed). Layer half of the remaining cream mixture over the ladyfingers.
Fit 12 more ladyfingers into the pan (dipping each into the espresso fi rst). Layer in the rest of the cream mixture and smooth it out.
Screen (sift) the cocoa powder liberally over the top. Cover tightly with plastic wrap and chill overnight (or at least 4 hours). Serve in squares portioned to about two and one-half inches square.
Yield: Six servings
2 large eggs
1⁄2 cup canned evaporated milk
1 cup Italian-style bread crumbs
Oil for frying 24 raviolini, thawed (if frozen)
1⁄4 cup grated Parmesan
2 cups marinara sauce, warmed
In a small bowl, beat and combine the eggs and milk. Put the breadcrumbs in another small bowl. Heat the oil to 360 F for frying.
Dip the ravioli in the egg mixture to coat; let the excess egg drip off. Dredge in bread crumbs, knocking off excess. Arrange ravioli on a sheet pan or tray. (May be prepped ahead to this point and refrigerated).
Fry ravioli until golden brown and remove. While they are still hot, sprinkle with Parmesan. Serve with marinara sauce for dipping.
Barbecue Chicken & Scamorza Pizza
Yield: two 12-inch pizzas (recipe can be scaled up in direct proportion)
2 12-inch pizza shells
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 whole skinless, boneless chicken breasts, cut into small cubes
1 cup bottled barbecue sauce of your choice
1 cup chopped red onion
11⁄2 cups shredded scamorza
In a skillet set over medium-high heat, warm the vegetable oil for 1 minute. Add the chicken. Stir and cook until the chicken is cooked through, about 4 minutes. Remove the chicken from the pan with a slotted spoon and reserve. (Can be prepped ahead and held in the cooler.)
In a large bowl, toss the cooked chicken with the barbecue sauce to coat. Divide the chicken equally between the two pizza shells. Sprinkle 1⁄2 cup of red onion evenly over each pizza. Sprinkle an equal amount of the cheese on each pizza. Bake at 450 F until crust is golden brown and cheese bubbles.
Baked Parmesan Zucchini Sticks
Yield: 6 servings (scale up in direct proportion)
1 cup seasoned Italian breadcrumbs
½ cup grated Parmesan cheese
5 medium zucchini (about 21⁄2 pounds), cut into strips about ½ inch wide and 3 inches long
4 large eggs, lightly beaten
In a mixing bowl, combine the breadcrumbs and the Parmesan cheese. Dip zucchini strips in beaten egg, then in breadcrumb mixture to coat. Spray a sheet pan with cooking spray. Arrange the zucchini strips in one layer on sheet pans. Bake in a 425 F oven for 20-25 minutes, or until golden brown. (Shake the pans after about 15 minutes.) Serve with warm marinara dipping sauce.
Cheese and Sun-Dried Tomato Dipping Sauce
½ pound mild goat cheese
¼ cup sun-dried tomatoes
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 large clove garlic, peeled and minced
In the bowl of a food processor, combine all the ingredients and blend until smooth. If necessary, add a teaspoon of cream or milk to thin. The consistency should be close to that of Ranch dressing.
Serve as a dipping sauce for an assortment of appetizers, including fried mozzarella, toasted ravioli, breadsticks, etc.
Photos by Pizza Today Staff
At Oggi’s Pizza & Brewing Company, the recession first became evident last year. Our sales for stores open one year or more were stalled and, in some neighborhoods, were showing a decline. What wasn’t making sense was the pace of expansion in the restaurant industry all around us. With sales growth stalling or even falling at our stores, how could all of these chains continue to open new stores? It was almost like we were in a competition for sites — and the rents were becoming ridiculous. In our minds, we couldn’t figure out why the world wasn’t paying attention to the headlines coming from Wall Street. There was a credit crisis coming and the consequences of cheap money and loose regulations in the mortgage industry were about to send the economic world into a tailspin.
Of course, this was so different than what we had been experiencing –– we doubled in size during in the previous five years –– that it was like saying that the rain was coming even as the sun shined. The signs, though, were all around us. As in any bubble, the housing market behaved irrationally. Housing was experiencing what I can only describe as hyperinflation. People would compete with each other to buy properties, only to turn around immediately after the purchase and list it for sale at a higher price. Many times, this would also attract buyers competing with each other for the real estate — and the cycle would begin again in a manner that was obviously unsustainable. Bankers were lining up to supply this insatiable demand for mortgages, and they too became complacent in not requiring the borrowers to substantiate their incomes. These signs were all around us, but I suspect when you are experiencing it first hand, it is difficult to recognize the dangers that await you. There were other signs out there. Out of the blue, one of our franchise stores in northern San Diego County declared that he was in trouble. His location was just not generating the traffic that his high-priced lease had promised him. He was in a mall –– one of the first places to be hit right in the heart of consumer spending. Another franchise store was also struggling, but we had known this and were fighting what seemed to be an uphill battle to reverse the sales trends in that store. This store was in the Phoenix area and was also being hit hard by the real estate decline.
The signs were all around us. All anyone had to do was look at them. Well, we did. Not only did we see this tsunami, but we also prepared some measures that we felt would insulate our stores from the dangers. We at least prepared for the onslaught of bad economic news and did what I believe any business needs to do in this type of scenario — get in front of the curve.
Long ago, back in my graduate school days, we subscribed to the philosophy of being in touch with what was really going on. It stemmed from our reading of the book “Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance” by Robert M. Pirsig. I’ll never forget the part in the book where one of the riders on a motorcycle trip who relied only upon the gauges that indicated trouble broke down and had to cancel the rest of his adventure. In the meantime the other rider, who was very in tune with the noises and vibrations of his machine, felt that it was not running “right.” As a result, he put a fix in place so that he didn’t break down like the other rider. In our world, knowing what it was supposed to feel like as opposed to what it did feel like meant that we reviewed our key performance index numbers on a weekly basis. As we mentioned, the signs were all there.
Our strategy of co-branding with our local professional sports teams has undergone its test as a major strategy play for us. Our belief that it will carry us forward through this recession was further tested when we decided to sponsor the Anaheim Ducks even though the recession was looming down on us. Maybe I should say "because the recession was looming down on us." We really believe in the soundness of this strategy for our concept. Nevertheless, we needed to make some adjustments to help us on the costs side. The moves that we engineered made us more efficient and cut our expenses as we headed into this dangerous climate. We cancelled our suite at Petco Park as part of our renewal with the Padres and reorganized management in the field. Now that our costs at the franchise level were under control, we concentrated on preparing our franchisees to survive and maybe even prosper in this storm. In the 2009 menu update, we introduced 27 new menu items for our customers to explore and experiment with. Our hope here was for us to tempt them with diversity and give them a reason to frequent us more often (while our competitors bombarded them with advertisements to try and lure them away). In addition to the new menu items, we introduced a newly designed menu format that included pictures of many of our dishes. Finally, we focused a lot of our attention on creating some below 550-calorie menu selections, which were highlighted in our menu as well as our advertising.
We would all like to believe that these measures helped our small chain weather most of the storm. The results seem to support that notion with same store sales declining 3.5 percent last year and running relatively fl at so far this year (down 1 percent). Our forecast is for same store sales to start improving in the second half. Let’s all keep our fingers crossed.
Our family is at the heart of our business. Each family member holds an important position in the hierarchy that is Oggi’s Pizza & Brewing Company. The fact that we have stayed together for so many years (just about 20) is a testament to mutual respect and familial love. Of course, all things eventually come to an end. It was our goal for the first generation to exit in a step-by-step fashion while the second generation steps up to lead the company. To a large degree, we seem to be achieving this. My daughter, Estella, was awarded her MBA from San Diego State late last year, which was the catalyst for the changing of the guard. She is following in my footsteps (MBA from Pepperdine University in 1985) and, quite honestly, has all of the knowledge necessary to bring Oggi’s and our business partners to the next level.
My son, Tommy, has also made an impact as he recently took command of the beer production portion of the business. Tommy is the general manager of Left Coast Brewing Company, the company charged with producing those award-winning micro brews that are served at our 17 outlets. Tommy has a degree in marketing from the University of San Diego, but has a love for brewing great beers. He recently traveled to Chicago to receive a gold medal for his Black Magic Stout Beer at the World Beer Cup. It was an honor beyond imagination for Tommy, who is recently married and brought his bride along for the ceremonies. At the award ceremonies, Tommy flew out of his seat as he heard his beer was the winner in the American Style Stout category. This type of enthusiasm is a critical aspect of his leadership style.
My nephew, Shawn, has been described as an Oggi’s expert. He can recite historical data as well as minutia only someone obsessed with this business can remember. As director of operations for franchising, Shawn has had a personal role in hiring most people, training them and watching as the stores spawned under his supervision embrace their markets with the newly minted franchisees in our system.
My wife, Dora, has always been involved, even though she is now stepping back a bit as we await our first grandchild. Although our family is important to the future of Oggi’s, expanding our horizons and bringing in fresh ideas as well as new people is even more important as we continue to paint the portrait that is our business. Making good hires is always a challenge. When you make successful hires, it can turn your world upside down, and mostly for the better. This has been one of the areas that has shown the most improvement during this period. Who knows, maybe we had a wider selection to choose from. Nevertheless, we have made great strides internally with a fantastic controller. We also hired a corporate chef to guide us through this nutritionally challenged era. Finally, we created a new position of franchise business consultant. This post will work directly with our franchisees in order to help them improve their business and their bottom lines. These three hires were made possible by our reorganization, which freed the funds necessary to improve our support staff.
Besides our new hires, we have invested in some management intelligence that will also give us a leg up on the competition. In this type of business environment, advertising becomes an important element of any offensive that you may have for your business. Just spending advertising dollars, though, isn’t enough. With redemption rates for normal advertising running at less than one percent, it becomes an exercise in futility when you spend your hard earned and limited advertising budget on something that returns one new customer for every 100 solicitations. We invested in market research software to help us better target our advertising to those customers that have the highest probability of responding to our offers. This partnership helps us to not only analyze demographic data, but now psychographic data, which will help us better understand our markets.
Making each advertising dollar count more is an important element in becoming more efficient — which can only lead to greater profitability. Of course, in order to fully utilize this, you first have to know what your customer looks like. What is your customer profile? The good news here is that this software is telling us. Armed with this knowledge, we are able to advise each of our stores more effectively as it relates to what to advertise as well as how to advertise it. Because this market has created the so-called “trading down” mentality, we are also busy conducting focus groups and trying to find out what our customers like and don’t like about us. In this economic environment, you can take nothing for granted.
At the end of the day, though, it all boils down to the customer experience. It is essential that you try and please each and every customer that chooses your restaurant over another one. Remember, the very nature of what we call a “recession” means that the market that you once catered to is now shrinking. Not only is it shrinking, but your remaining customers are being lured away by all of your competitors. To survive, you must never lose sight of quality of product and quality of service. Providing value in both pricing as well as total customer experience is about as important as oxygen in Maslow’s hierarchy of needs.
My brother, John, and I opened our first restaurant in 1991. It was the beginning of a terrible recession, and all of our plans were put on hold by an economy that was in transition. I remember the real estate agents when they told us of their rally cry: “Stay alive till ‘95.” Well, 1995 came and we were still standing. Interestingly, though, a lot of our competition was gone. What it meant for us was that in this now increasing expansionary market, we were positioned to enjoy a bigger piece of the market as those competitors who tried to hit home runs went out of business.
Sometimes hitting singles and scoring runs is better than that grand slam. When you swing for the fences, you sometimes have the propensity to strike out. In order to survive, we must look at each of our customers as potential singles and just keep doing the things that feel right for our circumstances.
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