Cajun-Creole cooking is hot (as in trend, but also because customers are taking to spicy-heat dishes like never before). So why not jump on the bandwagon and play along? I am sure your customers will love the variety.
Some of the specialities of New Orleans in particular and Lousiana in general include po’ boys, the famous muffaletta, jambalaya, gumbo, crawfish . . . the list goes on and on.
Critical to most Cajun dishes is the spice mix. There are brands upon brands of ready-to-go Cajun spice mixes, so that’s the easy part. However, should you wish to make your own Cajun spice mix, try this one:
Cajun Spice Mix
3 tablespoons paprika
2 tablespoons each of cayenne pepper, thyme, oregano, onion powder and garlic powder.
1 tablespoon each sea salt or kosher salt, black pepper and sugar
Combine all ingredients in a bowl. Makes about 1 cup.
On the other hand, the “Holy Trinity” of Cajun-Creole cuisine is bell pepper, onion and celery. It all depends on what style of dish — pasta, soup, sandwich, pizza — you are going for.
The meats most commonly used in Cajun cookery are andouille sausage, pork sausage (boudin) and chaurice (similar to chorizo).
Here are is a Cajun-inspired sandwich recipe to get you started.
///////// Pasta Jambalaya with sausage and chicken
Serves 4 to 6 (scale up in direct proportion)
1 pound penne rigate, ziti or rotini, cooked in boiling salted water until al dente. Reserve ½ cup of the pasta water (the starchy water enhances the pasta “sauce”). Drain the pasta and set it aside. Keep it warm.
3 tablespoons olive oil
¾ pound shrimp
¾ pound andouille sausage, diced into ½-inch pieces
½ cup yellow onion, small dice
½ cup green bell pepper, small dice
1 tablespoon minced garlic
2 tablespoons Cajun spice mix
½ cup chicken stock or broth
1 cup canned plum tomatoes, crushed by hand and drained
½ cup grated Parmesan
Over medium-high heat, warm the olive oil in a large saute pan for 1 minute. Add chicken, sausage, onion, bell pepper and garlic. Add the Cajun spice mix. Stir and cook until the chicken and sausage and bell pepper are cooked through (about 5 minutes). Add the chicken broth and tomatoes. Cook and stir to reduce a bit. Add the reserved pasta water and cook for another 3 minutes.
Put the cooked, reserved pasta in a heated pasta serving bowl. Add the jambalaya sauce and toss to combine. For each portion, sprinkle on the Parmesan just before serving.
//// Muffaletta //// Olive Salad
Yield: 2 quarts
1 cup finely diced celery
1 cup finely diced carrots
1 cup green “Salad” olives with pimientos
1 cup chopped black olives
½ cup pepperoncini
2 ½ cups roasted sweet peppers, coarsely chopped
3 cloves garlic, finely minced
¼ cup capers, rinsed
1 teaspoon each white and black pepper
2 teaspoons dried oregano,
¼ cup finely chopped flat-leaf
2 tablespoons lemon juice
3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1 ½ cups extra-virgin olive oil
Put all the ingredients in a non-reactive container (glass preferred) and mix thoroughly to combine. Cover tightly and refrigerate. Use after 12 hours. It will keep for about 1 month.
The two meats most commonly used in a muffaletta sandwich are hard salami (Genoa works best) and ham. Mortadella is often used, too. The cheese most commonly used is provolone. The meats and cheese should be thinly sliced.
The bread most commonly used is Italian. The shape of the bread should be round, and it should have some height, since it will be sliced in half horizontally. Size varies, but the bread should be no smaller than 8 inches in diameter. The largest muffaletta sandwich that I ever had was made with a 12-inch round loaf.
The assembly goes like this. Slice the bread in half horizontally. Scoop out some of the bread from the center of the bottom half (this helps to hold in the olive salad). Spoon some of the olive salad into the “cavity” of the bottom half of the bread. Lay in the provolone cheese, then the meats. Smear some of the liquid from the olive salad over the meat. Cover with top half of bread. Press down on the bread to flatten the sandwich just a bit. Slice into wedges and serve. u
Pat Bruno is Pizza Today’s resident chef and a regular contributor. He is the former owner and operator of a prominent Italian cooking school in Chicago and is a food critic for the Chicago Sun-Times.
Dave, I have a full-service pizzeria with a fairly big dessert menu. My desserts have been pretty successful, but they slow table turns. Do you have any tricks up your sleeve that will help me move customers through a little quicker without losing those dessert sales?
I’m so glad to hear that your dessert line is popular. The real issue seems to be how you can raise your gross sales if you have guests squatting in the dining room, nibbling on dessert. Understand that your guests are looking for a dining experience, not a meal. Rather than try to cut the experience short so you can get another table turned, I’d be glad they don’t want to leave and would simply raise the rent. I’d train my wait staff to suggestively sell paired wines and upscale coffees along with the dessert. The longer the guest stays, the more they spend if your wait staff is effective. Bundle your desserts with a story and a beverage or raise prices. When a guest feels like they are getting “the bum’s rush,” something clicks in their subconscious. They reward your behavior by not returning as often. If they really have a bummer experience they may never come back. Most people will excuse a bad meal from time to time, but not indifferent or snooty service.
At International Pizza Expo in Las Vegas, my eldest son and I dined at Emeril’s at the MGM Grand. We were greeted, seated, watered, menued and treated to a small sampler of desserts to share in the first 5 minutes. Our server immediately scored huge points. He accomplished Awareness and Trial in one quick surprise move. During the course of dinner, he ascertained we were conventioneers and brought over a dessert wagon with the pastry chef to refresh our memories on how wonderful the free pre-meal samples were. He offered to package any dessert for the road. We bit and oinked out in our room an hour later. Also, you may want to look for ways to expand seating. My good friend and client, Joe Moore of Totora’s in Huntsville, Alabama, made a beautiful outside dining area that is used nine months of the year.
I will be opening my first pizzeria this summer. I’m really struggling with the dough, but want to make it myself in-house. I need a fool-proof recipe. Can you help me?
I’d be happy to. If you contact me (888-BIG-DAVE), I’ll send you my formula for “Old Faithful” — the dough I used for 35 years. It’s great dough for hand-stretched, medium-crust pizza that performs well in a deck oven. I also have other formulas available. Dough is a living organism. It has a birth, maturity and death. Dough management is as important as the recipe. You really should arrange to intern a day or so with a teacher to really understand and get it. It is very hands on. I spent a week learning classic Italian and Neapolitan dough making at Tony’s International School of Pizza in San Francisco last summer. To make great dough, you need to first learn the chemistry of what every ingredient does. The interaction that takes place between the ingredients will determine color, mouthfeel, elasticity, ease of opening the dough ball and so on. Like my mentor Tom Lehmann says: “Ninety percent of all dough problems can be fixed with a cheap thermometer and a scale.”
Big Dave Ostrander owned a highly successful independent pizzeria before becoming a consultant, speaker and internationally sought-after trainer. He is a monthly contributor to Pizza Today. You’ve got questions … our expert has the answers.
Submit your questions via e-mail to Jeremy White (firstname.lastname@example.org) — make sure to put “Ask Big Dave” in the subject line. We’ll pass the best questions on to Dave each month for his highly sought-after advice.
Imagine the change we, as an industry, could enact if we put our collective might behind a common cause. The pizza business is a $38 billion juggernaut. We’re 70,000 strong. We serve more than five billion pizzas annually, and we represent the hardest working, most community-oriented segment in all of food service.
Think about it — an industry as robust as ours pushing in the same direction to make the world a better place.
The time is now.
Breast cancer is a disease that impacts all of us in one way or another. If you don’t personally know someone who has suffered from it, consider yourself fortunate. The sad fact of the matter is that more than 190,000 new cases of invasive breast cancer will be diagnosed in 2011. Around 40,000 women will die from breast cancer this year. That’s approximately 110 breast cancer deaths daily.
What does this have to do with your pizzeria?
Here at Pizza Today, we believe that America’s 70,000 pizzerias are in position to make a profound impact on their communities and the lives of their customers. When we do that, imagine the goodwill we, as an industry, will generate.
But goodwill alone is not enough to end a disease. That’s why we have created Slice of Hope. Turn to page 21 of this issue and you’ll see an ad announcing this innovative pizza industry charity event. Pizza Today publisher Pete Lachapelle and I, along with Art Director Josh Keown and a handful of pizzeria owners and friends, are going to cycle from Portland, Oregon to Seattle, Washington October 4-7.
The event is designed to raise breast cancer awareness nationwide.
During Slice of Hope, we’re going to talk up the pizza industry to anyone who cares to listen. When we get press coverage, we’re going to make sure to point out the fact that this charge is being led by America’s pizzerias. We’re going to show how much this industry gives back.
And that’s where you come in. Can you donate 10 percent, or more, of your single-day sales on Friday, Oct. 7? If you can, we’ll send you a Slice of Hope sticker to hang in your window. When thousands of pizzerias across the country have the Slice of Hope logo on their front doors or windows, consumers are going to take notice. And they’re going to thank you for it.
In the meantime, I thank you in advance for jumping into this fight with us. Every dollar we raise will be given to the Karen Mullen Breast Cancer Foundation, which is volunteer staffed and will give 100 percent of its Slice of Hope proceeds to four of the nation’s most promising and effective breast cancer research labs.
In future months, I’ll give you more details as the Slice of Hope event draws closer. Among other things, I’ll tell you how you can make your tax-deductible donation when the time comes.
Lastly, if you have ideas for the event or know of a unique way you can help out, I want to hear from you. Email me at email@example.com.
Jeremy White, editor-in-chief
What will happen if I mix my dough less than the normal time?
A: If you mix your dough in the 15- to 20-minute range, you probably won’t see much change in either the dough or the finished pizza. Where you will begin to see a change in both the dough and the finished pizza is when the mixing time (using a planetary mixer) falls into the 7 minute or less range. If you mix dough for less than 5 minutes, and are using instant dry yeast (IDY), you should pre-hydrate the IDY in 95 F water, and then add it to the remainder of the dough water in the mixing bowl. If you are using compressed yeast, you should suspend it in the dough water prior to adding the flour and any other ingredients.
There are two ways to stage the dough ingredients in the bowl. The first is to put the flour in the bowl, followed by the other dry ingredients, and then add the water and oil and mix. The second is to add the water to the bowl first, and then add the flour, followed by the rest of the dry ingredients, and lastly the oil. The first method typically results in rather poor flour hydration with short mixing times. For that reason, when short mixing times are employed, it is recommended that the second method be used as it results in a more consistent dough with less mixing time required.
With less mixing time there is less gluten development and, as a result, the dough tends to be stickier when handled soon after mixing, such as when taking the dough to the bench for scaling and balling. Because of this, the dough will tend to pick up more dusting flour in the process, and take on more of the appearance characteristics of a “rustic” dough and finished crust. The main reason for under mixing a dough is to achieve a more open, porous internal crumb structure in the finished crust. This type of internal crumb structure is conducive to achieving a light, tender eating characteristic, while promoting a crispy bottom crust characteristic.
In some cases, the mixing time is reduced to only a matter of seconds. We have used 45 to 75 seconds of mixing time to achieve a unique cracker-like finished crust. When these extremely short mixing times are used, the result doesn’t look anything like a normal dough. Instead, it looks more like that of a baking powder biscuit dough, with a sizeable amount of dry flour present. This dough must be manually pressed together at the time of scaling just to get the pieces to cling together, it is then roughly formed into a ball –– still with a lot of dry flour present –– and placed into a plastic dough box where the dough will be allowed to hydrate while it is stored in the cooler for the next 18 to 48 hours, prior to use. As you might imagine, this dough is very particulate, and it just falls apart at the suggestion of forming it by hand, so it must be formed into skins by using a dough sheeter/roller. Once this is done, it must be trimmed to size, as it cannot be stretched to a circle. The resulting crust has a very dry, cracker-like texture that is perfect for use in a pizza buffet type of operation.
By all means, experiment with different mixing times for your dough. It is just another tool that we have to work with to modify the finished crust characteristics.
I’m trying to decide between a deck oven or an air impingement/conveyor oven. How do I know which is right for my operation?
A: Many people look at an oven only as a means to bake their pizzas, but it is actually a lot more than just that. Consider your store concept. Will you be a delivery/carry-out delco or will you be more focused on dine-in? A delco pizza can benefit from being baked in an air impingement oven, as the high airflow does an excellent job of removing any water released by the vegetable toppings, resulting in a potentially drier pizza for the customer. Air impingement ovens are also ideal for pizzas with lots of toppings, as they can remove the moisture released from all of those vegetables.
On the other hand, if you have a more traditional, dine-in concept and you want to entertain your customers by allowing them to watch your prep people toss pizza skins, a deck oven might be the oven of choice. If your concept is upscale dine-in, perhaps a wood-fired –– or one of the look-alike deck ovens –– might be right for you.
If you have a by-the-slice concept, you could go with either a deck oven or an air impingement oven. A deck oven works well for a traditional slice operation where ready-made slices are placed into the oven for reheating while the drink order is filled and the order paid. The air impingement oven is a vital link in a concept where each slice is topped with fresh ingredients and finished to order in about 3 minutes. Think of it as an upscale slice operation where the same air impingement oven is used to par-bake the skins from which the slices are cut, and to finish baking the slices to order.
There are a multitude of other reasons for choosing one type of oven over another, but space does not permit me to cover all of those. These are the main considerations when selecting the best oven type for your store, and hopefully they will help you in making the right decision on one of your most important –– and expensive –– pieces of equipment.
Tom Lehmann is a director at the American Institute of Baking in Manhattan,
If you were in Las Vegas, then you know that International Pizza Expo® was the place to be. You could feel the energy and pizza enthusiasm from the moment you walked into the Las Vegas Convention Center.
There was something for everyone at International Pizza Expo® 2011, veterans and newbies alike. When the show closed on Thursday afternoon, more than 6,400 buyers had visited more than 900 exhibits and attended more than 80 educational sessions. Rounding out the experience were numerous culinary competitions, contests, demonstrations and other special events.
The Traditional Division of the International Pizza Challenge™ had the following regional winners and wild cards who advanced to the finals:
• Paul Duran, AJ Bariles’ Chicago Pizza, Yucaipa, CA –– Western Region
• Jane Ellen Mines, Nima’s Pizza & More, Gassville, AR –– Mid-American Region
• Brad Rocco, Bexley Pizza Plus, Bexley, OH –– Eastern Region
• Andrew Carrabba, Millie’s and Paulie’s Coal-Fired Pizza, Bluffton, SC –– Open I Region
• Michel Arvblom, New York Pizza, Malmo, Bara, Sweden –– Open II Region
• Shawn Randazzo, Cloverleaf Pizza, Roseville, MI –– Wild Card
• Carmelo Oliveri, Civico, Verona, Italy - Wild Card
The Non-Traditional Division of the International Pizza Challenge™ had the following regional winners and wild cards that advanced to the finals:
• Leah Scurto, Pizza My Heart, Los Gatos, CA –– Western Region
• John Gutekanst, Avalanche Pizza, Athens, OH –– Mid-American Region
• Joe DeVellis, Giove’s Pizza, Shetland, CT –– Eastern Region
• Shawn Randazzo, Cloverleaf Pizza, Roseville, MI –– Open I Region
• Luigi Vianello, Jungle Pizza, Venezia Italy –– Open II Region
• Bryan Getz, Bill’s Pizza, Prescott, AZ –– Wild Card
• Doug Ferriman, Crazy Dough’s Pizza, Boston, MA –– Wild Card
Carmelo Oliveri won the World’s Best Traditional Pizza and $10,000. Luigi Vianello won World’s Best Non-Traditional Pizza and $10,000.
Following the finals of the International Pizza Challenge, the top two finishers in each division squared off in the Pizza Maker of the Year competition. Joining Carmelo and Luigi were Pasqualino Oliveri and Doug Ferriman. Contestants were presented with a table of ingredients from which to choose. There were no restrictions for toppings, but all contestants had to use the secret ingredient — Frank’s® RedHot® Sweet Chili Sauce. Carmelo Oliveri walked away with the title of World Champion Pizza Maker and an additional $5,000.
The Winners in the World Pizza Games® were as follows:
Pat Miller, A Slice of New York Columbus, OH
Masters Division Freestyle Acrobatics
Eric Corbin, Tony’s A GoGo
San Francisco, CA
Brittany Rowe, Michael Angelo’s Pizza Kenton, OH
Fastest Box Folding
Justin Stokes, Sparky’s Pizzeria
Pat Miller, A Slice of New York
Kazuya Akaogi, Aromavita, Japan
Start making plans now to attend International Pizza Expo® 2012, which will again be held at the Las Vegas Convention Center March 13 – 15.
Executive Vice President
Anne Keller owns The Hot Tomato Café with business partner Jen Zeuner in Fruita, Colorado. The café is situated in a cycling Mecca and the two have incorporated their own passion for riding into their business.
Q: You’ve spent time carefully crafting a brand for Hot Tomato. What was the main impetus behind that?
A: Yes, we certainly spent time creating our distinct brand. Both my business partner and I came from backgrounds in the cycling industry. Neither of us had previous food experience but what we did have, though, was extensive experience with the idea of brand marketing, which pretty much drives all aspects of the outdoor industry. Coming from that background gave us a bit of a “leg up” in this regard, mostly as we understood how vital it is to create a strong image for your company, and we were able to take that understanding and apply that in our restaurant.
Q: Why is a sharp Web site important to your business?
A: I think a sharp Web site simply adds to that brand creation and reflects the image we wanted to portray. For us, a big part of that image was retaining a sense of fun and irreverence, so we purposely set out to create a Web site that captures that. On a similar note, I look at our Web site as a sort of “permanent advertisement.” I think that with the decline of traditional print advertising, a good Web site becomes such a strong selling point for getting your word and image out.
Q: You offer some atypical branded merchandising, like cycling jerseys and belts. How does your merchandising appeal to customers?
A: We have so much fun with our merchandise! Because we live in a cycling destination, and because we are cyclists, we set out to offer merchandise that would appeal to that demographic. It appears to be working –– we have days where soft-good sales make up a full quarter of our day! Plus, the creative process of determining what to sell involves the very serious operation of drinking some beers with friends and dreaming up what to offer next, which is never a bad thing.
Q: We love your signature pizza menu. What’s your top seller?
A: Our top seller is by far the Granny’s Pesto. It’s actually pretty simple, which is maybe part of the appeal –– just pesto, mozz, tomatoes, garlic and feta. We live in a fairly rural area, and it took some prodding to get our regulars to initially try the “green pizza” (which is now what we affectionately call it). But now, five years in, it is our most popular pie.
Q: Now that you’ve got a great menu, branding and regional acclaim, what plans do you have for growth?
A: World domination of course! Just kidding. We are slowly plugging along on a franchise package. I don’t foresee pursuing this growth on a massive scale, mostly our idea involves offering the Hot Tomato to other cycling destinations so we can keep the same fit and feel of our place. Plus, checking up on our franchises would be so much more fun with bikes involved.
Photos by Josh Keown
Think breaded chicken, and the ubiquitous chicken tender may come to mind. Yet many pizzeria operators find that breaded chicken also fits nicely in entrées and salads — and even as specialty pizza toppers.
At Casa Del-Dio Pizzeria and Italian Kitchen in Orlando, Florida, breaded chicken appears in traditional dishes such as chicken parmigiana and over salads. Guests also enjoy entrées such as chicken Del-Dio, which is a breaded chicken cutlet layered with ham, ricotta and mozzarella that is baked in a casserole dish, garnished with fresh parsley and served with pasta.
Breaded chicken need not be limited to entrées, salads or appetizers. Kyle Markott, owner of Gio’s Pizzeria in Coram, New York, offers breaded chicken on pizza. “Breaded chicken on pizza is one of our most popular toppings,” he says. “Our most famous pizza and biggest seller is our Chicken Bacon Ranch pizza. Customers go nuts for it! We also make a killer chicken Parmesan pizza as well.”
The Chicken Bacon Ranch pizza starts off with a dough baked with a cheese bottom. After baking, it is topped with breaded chicken cutlet,
bacon, mozzarella and American cheese. It returns to the oven to finish cooking. Once done, it’s drizzled with ranch dressing. “The smell encompasses the entire pizzeria,” says Markott.
Gio’s offers a full variety of breaded chicken, from buffalo and barbeque wings to chicken cutlets.
“We mostly offer traditional breaded chicken items,” Markott says. “(Yet), a lot of people add breaded chicken to their entrées, like penne vodka. It turns into a nice up-sell item.” Markott charges diners $2 extra to add chicken.
The best way to prepare and cook breaded chicken? Markott recommends the right amount of egg product and seasoned breadcrumb mixture. “A trick to the standard breadcrumb is to simply make it yourself,” he says. “You have the ability to add more seasoning instead of just buying them from your bread distributor. Definitely add Parmesan cheese to your breadcrumbs. Be sure to change your fryer oil on a regular basis for the best tasting chicken.”
Markott prefers to use fresh chicken. “We make our own chicken fingers, which many pizzerias buy frozen,” he says, adding that they also use fresh chicken wings.
Elisa Delgardio, operations and marketing manager at Casa Del-Dio Pizzeria and Italian Kitchen, says the best way to prepare breaded chicken is to pound out the cutlets, making sure they are not too thin. Then dip the cutlets in an egg wash made out of a mixture of egg and heavy cream. She drenches the cutlets into seasoned breadcrumbs and deep-fries the cutlets until golden brown. Delgardio prepares the breaded chicken per order.
Delgardio prefers to use fresh chicken versus frozen. “I find fresh chicken tastes better, and it’s easier to control the consistency,” she says.
Fresh isn’t best for every operator. Frozen chicken may be the preferred choice at high-volume establishments where less prep work and longer shelf life is valued. Utilizing frozen chicken tenders, for example, is an easy way to enhance an existing appetizer menu with little planning.
At Straw Hat Pizza and Restaurant, fresh chicken is placed on pizzas and salads. But, for the breaded chicken strip appetizers and kids’ meals, the company favors using a frozen product citing ease-of-use, says Jonathan C. Fornaci, president and CEO. “It’s very easy for Straw Hat. The strips come in frozen, and we pull them from the freezer and put directly in the pizza oven, cook for five minutes and serve,” he says. Since it is for a discounted kids’ meal, Fornaci says the food cost for the chicken is 28 percent.
Markott finds fresh chicken affords him better quality and control of food cost. Although he admits fresh chicken prices change frequently. Currently it costs $1.39 per pound. “Let’s face it, the more items you can prep in house without having to purchase in a box, you inevitably save money,” he says.
Five Breaded Chicken Pizza Possibilities
Need inspiration for your own specialty breaded chicken pies? Consider the following combinations:
1) Chicken Parmesan (breaded chicken, tomato sauce and mozzarella).
2) Chicken-Bacon-Ranch (cheese, bacon, breaded chicken and tomatoes with buttermilk ranch dressing drizzle).
3) Tex-Mex Chicken (either red or green enchilada sauce topped with corn, diced breaded chicken, chilies, cheese, cilantro and drizzled in salsa).
4) Barbecue Chicken (barbecue sauce topped with cheese, breaded chicken, bell peppers and onions).
5) Buffalo Chicken (breaded chicken, bleu cheese, red
onions and mild buffalo sauce).
Melanie Wolkoff Wachsman is a freelance writer in Louisville, Kentucky. She covers food, business and lifestyle trends.
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Several of my employees have had cancer strike their families as well. We are going to have in-house fundraisers for them. If possible, it would take someone with more connections than me, I would like to see something like a pink ribbon promoting cancer awareness for either an entire month or even an entire year included on pizza boxes. A Web site or phone number on where to find info on cancer awareness and to make a donation could be placed on that pink ribbon. Or perhaps even the boxes themselves could be tinted pink for a time to promote it. Good luck with your endeavor. We will do what we can locally.
East of Chicago Pizza Company
Thanks for your interest, Tony. You have some really good ideas. A pink box would be very cool (hint, hint manufacturers). We are making “Slice of Hope” stickers that will be given to pizzerias that donate money to our breast cancer research fundraiser. Our hope is that thousands of pizzerias across the country will proudly display these stickers on their front doors or windows. Imagine the powerful change we can make as an industry if we can get America’s 70,000 pizzerias pointed in the same direction. See the commentary on page 3 for more info.
I heard that some pizza dough recipes are prepared with milk. Is this true? What does adding milk do for the crust?
Yes, this is true. Milk can either be added in liquid or powder form. Though it isn’t that common, some places do in fact do it. Essentially, milk helps brown the dough. Sugar does the same thing much more cheaply. To get milk to add real flavor to the dough, you would have to use a lot of it. Replacing the oil in the dough recipe with butter would do the same thing more inexpensively. So, let’s cut to the chase: from our point of view, milk is a completely unnecessary ingredient for your dough formula. Skip it.
The Show of Shows
My name is Brandon Hunt, you don’t know who I am and I don’t think we have ever had the pleasure of meeting, but I wanted to send you a quick e-mail to let you know how much all you and your team’s effort is very much appreciated. Last year my brother and I attended the Pizza Expo in Vegas and got to meet some great people who have been helping us open our first pizza venture. With the help of the expo we have gotten the help of Tony Gemginani, Big Dave and Glenn Cybulski.
Last year, we were on our own and in over our head a little. This year, after two expos and a lot of Pizza Today reading we are getting closer to opening and more
confident than ever. This year we had an even bigger blast meeting even more people and trying some great products. Glenn Cybulski’s seminars really hit close to home and helped out a ton. I don’t have a lot to say other than thanks for putting on such a great event, thanks for making it a lot easier for the little guys and thanks for keeping the pizza world a tight community. We look forward to continuing our growing efforts and hopefully one day helping others in the future. Everyone has been so great to us and the event, two years running for us, has been worth every penny and more. Thanks for the great job you guys do and it is not going unnoticed. I look forward to next year’s events! Thanks.
Thank you, Brandon! This year’s International Pizza Expo was indeed a winner. We look forward to seeing you there again next year.
When Pizza Today rolled into Macon, Georgia, to visit Ingleside Village Pizza, we weren’t quite sure what to expect. Macon is more college town than big city, and the area isn’t known for a specific style of pizza that garners its own attention.
The existing restaurant sits across the street from its original location –– opened in 1992 –– in a converted gas station that offers proprietors Trevor and Tina Dickson a better internal configuration and 40 seats on the attached patio. Knickknacks and antiques line the ceiling –– including chandeliers, a neon sign of the restaurant’s signature jester (brought to life by Tina’s sister) and old gas signs, some donated by friends. “I did not want checkered tablecloths,” Tina Dickson says. “Evey time I go to those places, the tablecloths are sticky and it’s just one more thing. I wanted a place that I wanted to work in. I didn’t set this place up to earn a million dollars. I want to work. And I wanted to work in an environment that I liked.”
It’s kitschy, sure, but the company’s sales (just under a million annually) and its awards indicate that the Dicksons’ ideas of good food in a comfortable enviroment are working. As a fledgling restaurateur, Tina had an idea of what she wanted in her own establishment –– and what would work. Not only does she hold a degree in hotel, restaurant and travel adminstration, but she also worked for Domino’s Pizza in Atlanta at both the franchisee and corporate levels.
After her corporate job was downsized, Tina moved back to Macon and began waitressing and bartending and “figuring out what the heck I wanted to do.”
She began formulating a plan to open her own restaurant, and “Macon didn’t have any good pizza,” she says. “It was all corporates stores, and I knew we could do better. And nobody had a real beer selection. Heineken was the biggest import we could get.”
Ingleside is open for lunch and dinner, but Tina says dinner sales are better. Ingleside uses counter service over table. “I did not want to use tableservice,” she says. The reason? “I used to be a waitress,” Tina laughs. “I like counter service. It makes the customer more responsible for their own dinner.” In all, Ingleside employs about 18 people, many of whom have been with the company for more than a decade.
On the weekends, carryout accounts for 40 percent of sales. “But, on a regular weeknight, it’s more dine-in,” Tina says. When asked why Ingleside doesn’t deliver, she laughs. “I did Domino’s for three years. No, thank you! I will certainly have it ready for you to come pick up, though.
“If somebody calls and they have a really big order and they give me enough notice, I could set something up, and I have before. But I’m not going to do day-to-day toting food to an
office full of people.”
Pizza is king at Ingleside Village, and “having it by the slice was important,” Tina says. “We get that all-day long.” Nearly 75 percent of sales is pizza-based. Ingleside offers 12- and 16-inch pies as well.
Dough is made daily and vegetables are chopped in-house. Although they used to shred their own cheese, they now buy it preshredded. The top seller is the Ultimate Village (pepperoni, sausage, ham, mushrooms, onions, green peppers, green and black olives, fresh garlic and cheese at $14.50 for a large) and the White Pizza (ricotta, spinach, mushrooms, garlic and cheese at $14.50 for a large). The breadsticks (topped generously with butter and Parmesan cheese and priced at $3.50) are also favorites.
Wine is available, and Ingleside offers about 90 beer varieties by the bottle.
“You need a variety, and it’s a draw,” Tina says. “We’ve got the biggest beer selection in town. We still sell more Bud Light and Miller Lite than anything else, but we sell enough of it that we turn it over.”
Despite the three college campuses located in Macon, Tina says that families are their primary demographic “and that’s just fine by me,” she adds. “That’s a much earlier evening.”
There is a second Ingleside Village Pizza at Mercer University run by a franchisee.
“The president called me three years ago begging me to open,” Tina says. At the time, she had another location open at a
theater, but operations there proved challenging and it eventually closed. Mercer’s campus officials were insistant, so Tina eventually allowed a franchisee to use their name. “Everybody thinks (in franchising) it’s going to be money, money, money until they realize you got to work,” Tina says. “You don’t just sit here and count the money.”
Tina got the franchisee up and running using her recipes, and customer input helps her ensure consistency at the second location. Tina drops in occasionally to spot check for proper operations and cleanliness, but the Mercer location runs autonomously.
Beyond that, would Tina be willing to franchise further? “I’m good. I really am,” Tina says. “I’ve done that (with Domino’s). ... It’s more time and energy than I’m wanting to put into something. ... Our sales have climbed every year and then they leveled off (last year), and I’m good. I’m fine with that. If you look at our prices, it’s not a luxury to come and eat here like you could at one of those (fast-casual) chains. A family of four can come and eat here pretty
reasonably. Pizza is not a luxury
anymore. It’s dinner.”
Mandy Wolf Detwiler is managing editor at Pizza Today.
Photos by Josh Keown
Last year, I ordered pizza from no fewer than 350 restaurants. The bulk of it was the result of my involvement with a statewide survey of pizzerias in New Jersey, performed on behalf of the state’s largest newspaper. The mission was unprecedented. Over the course of six months, we visited roughly 10 percent of the state’s pizzerias — and we followed the same protocol every single stop.
With the help of our trusty GPS, we called each pizzeria when we were three miles away, in hopes of placing our order anonymously while still arriving in time to catch the pizza as it emerged from the oven. The routine was simple: one large pizza, half cheese/half sausage, and one large pizza based on the pizzeria’s suggestion. Sounds simple enough, but I was shocked at how hard it was to get a clear recommendation.
The usual answer was something to the tune of, “We have a buffalo chicken pizza” (a violation of our no chicken rule) or even worse, a list of all the usual toppings available at every pizzeria on the planet. In those cases, we often threw the phone operator a bone by asking about standards like a Margherita pizza or Sicilian pizza. The response was so poor it made us wonder if these people had ever eaten at their own restaurants.
The real kicker came when we arrived and the owner realized we were reviewing her pizzeria, only to discover that we had ordered the wrong pie (i.e., the pie she wished we would review). Usually, the owner would try to convince us to taste the shop’s golden goose — but we had to decline. We had our orders, and rules are rules. After all, we called our order in like anybody else, ate like anybody else and paid like anybody else. In short, we were real customers.
Not only did many pizzerias show their lack of coordination by revealing disconnects between the phone person and management, but they also missed out on a great sale. Think of all the marketing dollars you put behind your business with the simple hope that someone will pick up the phone and place an order. Don’t drop the ball and lose them at the most critical moment. If your staff is informed about your unique ingredients, special preparation, featured dishes and culinary accolades, they’ll be well equipped to complete the sale in the most effective way possible. The more they know about your product, the more comfortable I, as a customer, will be with their recommendation.
We all know food preference comes down to personal taste, but it’s still possible to guide your customers when they ask you for advice. When I ask for a recommendation, I’m giving you the opportunity to sell me the pizza you eat after closing time and secretly wish everyone would order.
And don’t forget that anyone with a mobile phone is a veritable food critic, beaming photos and descriptions instantly to a sea of your potential customers. Make sure your team is ready to help people like me have the best experience possible — because you can be sure everyone we know will hear about it.
Scott Wiener is Pizza Today’s ‘Man on the Street.’ The most enthusiastic pizza fanatic you’ll ever meet, Scott owns and operates Scott’s Pizza Tours in New York City. His column will appear regularly.
“An ounce of loyalty is worth a pound of cleverness.” –– Elbert Hubbard
Wouldn’t it be great if we didn’t have to keep coming up with witty marketing angles? How can we attain customer loyalty? It is defined as faithfulness or a devotion to a person, country, group or cause. Businesses seek to become objects of loyalty in order to have their customers return. Brand loyalty is a consumer’s preference for a particular brand and a commitment to repeatedly purchase that brand when faced with other choices. Businesses may also establish loyalty programs, which offer rewards to repeat customers and often allow the business to keep track of their preferences and buying habits.
Author and motivational speaker Zig Ziglar stated: “The foundation stones for a balanced success are honesty, character, integrity, faith, love and loyalty.” Communication is imperative to building a loyal relationship with customers. As in any relationship, we must express our needs and offerings and listen to those of others. One good way to do this is to utilize electronic newsletters (e-newsletters). The e-newsletter will contain an offer addressing WIIFM –– what’s in it for me? –– along with items of local relevance. E-mailing these few concise points of interest to my database shows my concern for common interests and promotes recipients’ awareness of my business and their loyalty to me.
Diana Coutu of Diana’s Gourmet Pizza of Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada, is an advocate of loyalty programs. Coutu sends out a monthly newsletter, The Pizza Press, which yields an astounding 230 percent ROI. This is done in conjunction with her rewards program. For a rewards program to really build loyalty, it goes beyond handing out discounts and freebies. Coutu’s program gathers information about the special moments in people’s lives such as birthdays and anniversaries and then acknowledges them with relevant offers. Janet Robinson, an American publishing executive, once said that “Repeat business or behavior can be bribed. Loyalty has to be earned.” Coutu earns her customers’ loyalty by associating her business with the lives of her customers. This rewards program shows a whopping 451 percent ROI.
Why wouldn’t it? According to the National Restaurant Association, nearly seven out of 10 adults visit a restaurant on their own or someone else’s birthday, making that, by far, the most popular occasion to dine out by nearly 2 to 1. Numbers don’t lie. The impersonal traditional forms of advertising don’t stand a chance against a personal offer. Aside from celebrations, positive local press also keeps restaurants top-of-mind –– and encourages repeat business. The NRA claims that 52 percent of adults said they are likely to make a restaurant choice based on how much a restaurant supports charitable activities and the local community. What has your business done to support the local community? Easily implemented ideas are to promote a fundraiser or a school night. Choose an organization you and your customers care about (such as breast cancer awareness). Look for opportunities to host an event and get out in the community and be caught doing good. Participating in the Slice of Hope, sponsored by Pizza Today, would be a fantastic start.
I’m helping organize the four-day cycling event that is designed to raise breast cancer research money from pizzerias. It’s definitely a cause that your customers can relate to and get behind (see page 3 for more info). Just bear in mind that loyalty is an essential part of the relationship between a business and the consumer –– nurture it and grasp the benefits.
Scott Anthony is a Fox’s Pizza Den franchisee in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania. He is a monthly contributor to Pizza Today and a frequent guest speaker at Pizza Expo.
Established in 1994, Cornerstone Pizza is owned and operated by my partner, Dave Shearn, and me. Cornerstone is a small delco shop that specializes in pan-baked pizza. On December 28, 2010, I received a call from a customer at the Philadelphia airport. She said, “How fast can you get 50 pizzas to the airport? Can you get them by 2 p.m.?”
Mind you, it was 1 p.m. I asked if she could give me until 2:30, and she agreed. Still, it was going to be a tall task. I began by entering the order in our system when she requested: “We need another 100 pizzas around 6:30 tonight.” As soon as I hung up the phone, we began to rip out 50 pizzas. Our manager, Keith Allen, called in off-duty employees. That initial order of 50 was delivered on time, as promised. But getting the next 100 pizza order out on time was going to be a challenge since we had to get new dough ready for same-day use.
Once we made the dough, we allowed it to rest at room temperature for a few hours (covered, of course) to speed up the proofing time. Then, we sheeted it into the pans and gave it 60 to 90 minutes to further proof before baking. With our crew coming in earlier than usual, we were functioning like a well-oiled machine. But more orders were pouring in due to a rescheduled NFL game. I assisted with the delivery at 6:30 p.m. to express our appreciation. To my surprise, she wanted another 300 pizzas delivered the next day: 150 at 10 a.m., 150 at 6:30 p.m.
While I was excited about the orders, we had a problem: it was 7 p.m., and we had gone through all the flour in the shop. We had an order coming in on Wednesday, but not before noon. We called another pizza shop in town and they were gracious enough to lend us three bags of flour. In the meantime, I called our food supplier sales rep at 8 p.m. to explain that we needed product ASAP the next morning. His response showed me just how dedicated he is to good customer service. Not only did he say, “No problem,” but he went to the plant first thing in the morning and filled his personal vehicle with flour, sauce and cheese. He dropped it off at 9 a.m. Wednesday morning.
On Tuesday night, a couple of us stayed into the wee hours prepping for Wednesday. I returned at 5 a.m. to find one of my valued employees, Kamal, still there making sauce and prepping various items for Wednesday’s normal business. He had been there since 1 p.m. Tuesday. The morning order of 150 pizzas went out without a hitch. Then, around noon, our customer stopped in at the shop and asked to add 30 pizzas to the evening order of 150. She also asked us to repeat both orders again Thursday — 150 pizzas at 10 a.m., 180 at 6:30 p.m.
Again, distributors replenished our supplies. We even had to fill blanks in the inventory at the grocery store. With much help from our cooks and delivery drivers, we successfully completed all the orders. Believe me, it took some managerial juggling to make sure our regular business was not neglected. Our entire crew stepped up big-time. They worked extra hours, they came in early, they stayed late ... you name it.
Local newspapers and our ABC affiliate covered our big order, which resulted in Cornerstone receiving a lot of good publicity. You can find the stories at our Web site, www.cornerstonepizza.com.
As I wrote this column two months later, we were still experiencing quite an upswing in business as a result of the publicity we received. It has been quite a ride.
My Turn is a monthly guest column. This installment is written by James Villas, founder of Cornerstone Pizza. If you are interested in submitting your own column, e-mail Jeremy White [email@example.com] and let him know what you want to say and what qualifies you to say it!
Photos by Rick Daugherty & Josh Keown
Bill Brunner, owner of Brunner’s Eatery in Hamburg, New York, is a man in love — with his electronic menu board, which he’s had two years. “It’s wonderful. People come in and they’re so impressed when they see it,” he says. “I can make changes on it instantly and from home; I don’t need to be in the restaurant.”
Brunner has used a variety of menu boards during his 32 years in business; the one he had prior to his current electronic version was a vinyl panel with vinyl lettering. When changes were
required, he had to call in the company to make them –– “If I could get the guy to come in at all,” he adds.
“Plus it was expensive,” Brunner says. “Just to change out the prices was several hundred dollars; and if I had to change an entire panel, it could run as high as $1,500.”
Consequently, the board was typically more outdated than current, and menu/price changes were announced on various pieces of paper taped here and there.
That approach is pretty typical when restaurants rely on static menu boards, says Mark Evans, CEO/president of ElectroMenu LLC, a Garnet Valley, Pennsylvania-based manufacturer of digital menu systems. When it comes to menu boards, most restaurant operators don’t think strategically enough, he says.
“It’s not that they don’t pay attention to their menu boards; they just don’t plan for how much room and the flexibility they’ll need,” Evans explains. “What ends up happening is that it becomes a tsunami of paper and Scotch tape.”
Where many operators err is in thinking of their menu boards as just a place to list items and prices instead of also being a marketing tool, says Terry J. Duckworth, president/CEO of Menu-Cast, a manufacturer of digital menu boards headquartered in Maize, Kansas.
“They fail to realize the suggestive selling that high-end digital boards will create,” he says. “They often make the menu board the last thing they consider purchasing when opening a restaurant; it gets whatever is left over in the budgeting process.”
But this is a common failing among operators no matter what kind of menu board they have, says Linda Lipsky, president of Linda Lipsky Restaurant Consultants, a Broomall, Pennsylvania-based consulting company that focuses on the operational aspect.
“Just like a printed menu, a menu board is a marketing tool that will help you drive sales,” she says.
Lipsky has seen her share of menu board mistakes like misspellings, broken slates (in the case of slider boards), bad photos and boards that are hard to see and even harder to make sense of (especially if they are covered in flyers). Menu boards must be direct and to the point, she explains. They must have sufficient color contrast and glare, and reflection must be avoided. Order is also important; the board should follow the proper standardized sequencing as a printed menu, starting off with appetizers, salads, etc., leading into the main menu items and ending with desserts.
“The most important quality is flexibility,” says Lipsky. “I’ve seen people pay a lot of money for sliders and then clip a piece of paper over it to
announce a special or some change.”
This is why Brunner opted for an electronic board and why Tyler Duncan, president of Rusty’s Pizza Parlor, did the same. Duncan, who has restaurants located in Santa Barbara, Bakersfield and Ventura, California, was using slider boards — fine if you have just a few locations, but challenging if you have multiple sites, he says.
Now “we are able to communicate with customers and update pricing faster than ever,” says Duncan, adding that portions of their boards also highlight community outreach programs.
Menu boards should boost sales, says Duckworth. Brunner thinks his board has done just that, particularly because he’s now able to display photos of his food on the board — another reason why he went digital. Brunner has four panels, each of which has related photos that change approximately every four seconds (he has about 45 photos in all). These have helped drive add-on sales, he says.
In fact, Evans says that because they’re easier to read and present the information in an enticing way, electronic boards can increase walk-in business by anywhere from 10 to
20 percent or more.
Duncan thinks electronic boards are the future arrived now.
“Gone are the days of sliding plastic, replacing fluorescent bulbs, and food photos that have turned green,” he says. The boards “are fast, flexible and real-time. It’s a tool that will give us a competitive advantage for years to come.”
Pamela Mills-Senn is a freelancer specializing in writing on topics of interest to all manner of businesses. She is based in Long Beach, California.
Building a better board
Regardless of what kind of menu board you’re considering, consultant Linda Lipsky suggests you keep the following pointers in mind:
Don’t make them overly descriptive. “You can’t go into too much detail, but you do need to mention key characteristics and common
allergens like eggs or peanuts,” she says.
Consider how cost-effective the board is to change, update and maintain, and if you can do this yourself or must rely on the company to handle this.
Make sure the board fits physically within your dimensions and parameters, that it’s visible from all areas of the restaurant and glare-free. Remember that kids need to see it, too.
Proof and proof again. Don’t rely on the company to catch spelling errors. “It’s your menu and your spelling,” she explains. “They won’t know what to fix because the spelling could be unique to your restaurant.”
Photos by Josh Keown
Chuck Wilburn was already a veteran Shakey’s Pizza Parlor operator when he watched a new restaurant open across the street from his Redlands, California, store several years ago. The restaurant was good, and the business flourished quickly. But Wilburn wondered how long the good times would last when the owner’s spending habits changed drastically amid that honeymoon period.
“He’s only just opened and he’s already living large,” says Wilburn, who has been in business 25 years. “One day he comes riding in on a new Harley, and then I see him in a leased BMW. The next thing you know, I hear there’s trouble.”
Word on the street revealed the operator wasn’t sending his employee withholdings to the government, plus he was dipping into the business’s surge of cash flow to fund his power toy habit. When suppliers began cutting him off, the restaurant died.
“I’d been in business long enough by that time to know you can’t drain the business of its cash,” Wilburn says. “Heck, I remember the days when I was hoping just to have a really good night so I could cover payroll. You learn to set a lot of money aside and take very little out.”
Tom Kohler, a certified public accountant and owner of Premier Accounting Services in Louisville, Kentucky, says the failed operator’s story is not only too common, his problem likely was tied to a misunderstanding of how best to pay himself. Since most small businesses are structured in such a way that owners don’t receive a salary, many owners mistakenly use the business’s cash flow and profits to pay themselves an owner’s draw without understanding the tax implications.
“The phrase ‘owner’s draw’ sounds simple, but in reality the concept is complex,” says Kohler, who specializes in bookkeeping and tax assistance for restaurant groups. “As the owner, you can draw that money out, but that draw has to be labeled clearly so the IRS can tax it properly. That it’s called the owner’s draw is part of the problem: it’s just too vague.”
Knowing how to classify each draw derives from whether a business is an LLC (which can be taxed either as a partnership or S-Corp), a partnership, an S-Corp or a C-Corp. (For truly detailed advice on business types, seek advice from an attorney, bookkeeper or tax preparer.) That means the owner’s income will be taxed either at a personal tax rate, the business’s tax rate, or as wages if that owner is listed as an employee of the company.
For example, in many S-Corps and LLCs (taxed as S-Corps), draws made on profits are not considered an expense to the company. Such draws are subject to federal and state taxes, though not FICA, Medicare, Medicaid or unemployment.
But in both S-Corps and LLCs (taxed as S-Corps), the owner can simultaneously be an employee and have any draws taxed as wages. Unlike money drawn as an owner, those wages are subject to all federal and state taxes, including FICA, Medicare, Medicaid and unemployment. But those wages also are considered an expense to the company and reconciled differently than draws at the end of the year.
Overall, says Kohler, the tax impact is usually lowest when an owner draws on profits rather than setting himself up to be paid a wage. But how much one draws out can make things tricky.
“Let’s say yours is an S-Corp, and you have $100,000 in your account. You might say, ‘Well, I’ll take it all out as an owner’s draw and avoid paying Social Security and Medicare,’” Kohler began. “Sorry, but no! If you withdraw all your money from an S-Corp as an owner’s draw, the IRS will reclassify all or part of that money as wages, and then you’re taxed differently. That can be a significant amount of money...”
Partnerships, while modestly simpler, are taxed solely on the business’s net income. For
example, if a company’s revenues are $100,000 and its expenses are $20,000, it has a net income of $80,000.
“So even if you draw $50,000 or $70,000, you’re still taxed on $80,000,” Kohler says. “That $80,000 is subject to all taxes except federal and state unemployment; you still pay that 15.2 percent for FICA and Medicare.”
Michael Shepherd founded Michael Angelo’s Pizza as an S-Corp, but later repositioned it as a C-Corp to lower his personal tax burden.
“The difference for me was paying 15 percent tax versus 28 percent tax,” says Shepherd, whose pizzerias are in Kenton and Rushsylvania, Ohio. Based on profits and cash flow throughout the year, Shepherd raises or lowers his draw. “There are times when I choose to pay myself more and be taxed at my pay rate rather than let the company pay a corporate tax rate on that money. You have to watch it closely.”
Watch it closely –– while also looking toward the future, says Robert Langdon, CPA, author of Managing your Business for Profits, and a regular financial speaker at the International Pizza Expo. Too few operators — and especially new ones — take the time to forecast their sales and expenses in order to ensure the business is properly funded.
“Most people, when they start a business, either overestimate sales or underestimate expenses, and sometimes both,” says Langdon. “They’ve got to let the business build up cash before they even think of taking money out of it.”
If a business has operated two or more years, its history will provide a picture of expected expenses. If it is profitable, Langdon says that owner should only then consider drawing some money out of it — and just some, he stresses.
“You don’t want to draw so much out of the business that you have nothing to fall back on when something unexpected happens,” he says. “The goal is to keep cash flow up.”
Steve Coomes is a former Pizza Today editor and freelance writer in Louisville, Kentucky.
Photos by Josh Keown / Rick Daugherty / Steve Brown / Amanda Kinnaird
The 27th annual International Pizza Expo turned out to be one for the ages. According to tradeshow officials, the 2011 event set records for attendance, exhibits, contest prize money and educational sessions.
The Las Vegas Convention Center hosted the Expo March 1-3, and a total of 6,452 attendees hit the bustling show floor to visit more than 900 exhibiting booths. These attendees had the opportunity to sit in on more than 80 educational seminars and view a wide range of competitive events.
“We had more educational sessions and demonstrations than ever before,”
says Bill Oakley, Executive Vice President of Macfadden Protech, LLC, parent company of Pizza Today and International Pizza Expo.
As always, the Beer & Bull idea exchange, the International Pizza Challenge and the World Pizza Games Finals and Rockin’ Party were big draws. Hot topics at Beer & Bull ranged from the viability of gluten-free pizza to commodity prices to marketing.
In the International Pizza Challenge and World Pizza Games, hundreds of competitors went head-to-head to
determine who had the best pizza making — and tossing — skills in the world. A breakdown of the winners
from each contest category can be found in the “Expo News” column in this month’s issue (page 10).
“This year’s show was simply
unbelievable,” says Pizza Today editor-in-chief Jeremy White. “This great industry of ours is so vibrant right now. The attendees I spoke to indicated that they expect to experience positive growth in 2011, and that’s exciting.
“There’s just really nothing like International Pizza Expo. It was three days of pizza magic.”
Next year’s show is scheduled for March 13-15 in Las Vegas. For more info, visit www.pizzaexpo.com.
“We’re working now to make it even better next year,” promises Oakley.
Organic Pizza Co
Enjoy the #Colorado sunshine today on our patio for lunch – a slice of scrumptious OPC pizza and @Oogave soda for $3.99
Why it works: This tweet lets Twitter followers know that the restaurant’s patio is open for business while at the same time highlighting a daily special featuring a local soda. The only thing missing in this post is the all-too-important contact number or Web site. The shop does offer its Web site as part of its profile description.
Want to join our mobile rewards program, just text ‘XPizza’ to 56687 or click here to join… http://bit.ly/anQ5Le
Why it works: Kudos goes to Extreme for linking directly to a sign-up page instead of its homepage, encouraging registration for its loyal rewards program. It also offers Extreme’s location and phone number.
Find this amazing recipe and many others at www.PizzaToday.com.
Facebook Pizza Feeds
Cloverleaf Pizza: Get an $8.99 Large Deep Dish Square One Topping Pizza Special from the Carryout & Delivery locations today – Don’t wait promotion ends March 31st! Saint Clair Shores 586-445-2810 or Clinton Twp 586-286-9030
Why it works: Cloverleaf is right on target with this post. It makes an offer at a great price, gives an expiration date, provides a call to action and gives phone numbers for each location.
360 Pizzeria: Last month our Beer Dinner sold out…don’t miss your chance to attend this month’s. We’re hoping for the same enthusiasm this time around, so call 360-260-3605 to reserve a spot!”
Why it works: Letting fans know that an event was so popular that it sold out is a great way to establish excitement and a “can’t miss it” vibe. Providing the phone number also entices fans to call right away or risk losing out. One crucial piece is missing — the date for the next beer dinner. Even without a date, this post is still buzzworthy for beer lovers.
Photos by Josh Keown
Imagine this: never asking your sales representative the cost of cheese or the price of any other ingredient ever again. You quit the weekly dance we call placing the order. In fact, you personally delegate that task to an employee. You stop writing a check for deliveries. And finally your food cost drops 3 to 5 percent and your checkbook is always in the black. Your relationship with your rep is a deep and trusting friendship and you cover each other’s backs.
This model is absolutely attainable. In my 30-year career of owning Big Dave’s Pizza & Subs, I evolved from being a purchasing bully to a profit partner with my food distributors. When I was young and full of myself, I pitted all my salespeople against each other. It was a weekly way that got my macho on and flexed my purchasing muscles for the sake of power and ego. I had the power and I wasn’t afraid to make you sweat for the order or wait until the last minute before I paid you. What a major waste of time and energy.
Food service distributors have myriad responsibilities that range from furnishing, automating and equipping a huge big box building to providing a fleet of refrigerated delivery trucks and company vehicles for sales reps to maintaining, insuring and replacing all hard assets. All the while, they provide service and appropriate price levels to keep your business.
Contrary to outward appearances and perceptions, the majority of food service distributors run on very thin margins. They all have one thing in common: they seek to do business and build long-term relationships with top-shelf restaurants.
The fastest way I know to reduce your food cost and get the best pricing is to allow a distributor to make more profit or margin on your account. If you do your part, your overall invoiced pricing will go down. The more food, the bigger the drops, the higher the margin for your supplier. If you are a cherry picker, like I was for 10 years, you will constantly have a distrustful relationship with your distributor. You will be forced to have your guard up at all times.
There are new rules of the road for buying food from a distributor. In fact, there are rules for them and rules for you. Buyers and sellers have a very co-dependant relationship. One is just as important as the other, even though you may have been taught otherwise.
Rule No. 1 — Choose your supplier carefully. What do other restaurateurs have to say about them? Do you share common goals? Do you like and totally trust your route rep? This is a biggie. If the chemistry isn’t there, the relationship starts off on the wrong foot.
Rule No. 2 — Don’t ever lie. A good rep worth his laptop has heard
every lame fabrication in the book. Don’t think you can snowball them. This may be the hardest thing to change. Two-way truths are a wonderful thing. This concept may mean you let go of the “I’m the customer, you’re my servant” mindset.
Rule No. 3 — Respect their time. Be organized and never make them wait for an order or check. Time is money. From time to time schedules get messed up and there is a valid explanation. Don’t make it the rule. The last
10 years I owned Big Dave’s I didn’t write a check to my supplier or call an order in. I trained an employee to inventory and place all of the orders. He was in high school and made extra pay for owning inventory responsibilities. Since I was rarely around when my rep came in looking for a check, I had his signature added to my checking account. He wrote his own check every week. I didn’t make them chase the money.
Rule No. 4 — Treat your delivery drivers with deep respect. They will treat you very special, rotate your stock and be considerate of your time. Buy them lunch (or at least a beverage). If they are great, let the company know. If they are weak, let the company know that, too.
Rule No. 5 — Enter into a written Prime Vendor Agreement. Every major restaurant chain has one thing in common: they buy all of their food from one distributor. That gives you one point of contact and cost-plus pricing. You write one check. In return, you retain the right of audit to confirm price-plus pricing is being honored. You will get better service if you are loyal.
Rule No. 6 — Get the ground rules right out in the open from the start. No one likes to be surprised with new rules or terms. Right from the get-go talk about terms, delivery days, food specifications, customized boxes and minimum order levels. The sales rep is not your gopher. If his company has an out of stock item, they own fixing the problem. If you forget to order it or blow out of an ingredient, don’t force him or her to run to the warehouse for a take-along. If you created the problem, you fix it.
My parting shot this month is this: through thick and thin, for better and worse, relationships built on trust
endure the test of time. If you want to get the most from a supplier, be their favorite customer. It’s just human
nature and the right thing to do.
Big Dave Ostrander owned a highly successful independent pizzeria before becoming a consultant, speaker and internationally sought-after trainer. He is a monthly contributor to Pizza Today.
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