I want to stop living in my business, but I don’t have a manager I can count on. I go on vacation for a few days, and I have hell to pay when I get back. I know I’m not the only one in this boat. How do I get out of it?
You are right, Dominic: You aren’t alone. But it’s time to get out from behind the apron and work ON your business, not IN it. That’s a big step towards freedom. You know, the reason you went into business for yourself in the first place. I wanted to make sure my managers were fully committed. I did so with various incentives. One winning idea is to give them a piece of the pie. Regardless of how you do it, I recommend you make your managers read and sign a written “Manager Commitment Agreement.” Below is a copy of the one I used in my pizzeria.u
Your Pizzeria Manager Commitment Agreement
The first thing that I will ask of all managers is to take some time to consider if this is the job for them. Do you like being a manager? Will you be able to do what is necessary? Do you have what it takes to get the job done? If you answer no to any of these questions, I ask that you do not sign this form and pursue employment elsewhere. There will be no hard feelings, I completely understand that some jobs are not for some people.
• I understand that being a manager is something that I feel that I am cut out for. I feel that I have what it takes to keep Your Pizzeria going strong and smooth.
• I understand that a portion of my pay is tied to store performance (such as labor cost, food cost, and delivery times) in the form of a monthly bonus. I feel that this is fair method to ensure that I and my fellow managers will do our jobs.
• I promise to give 110% at all times I am on the clock.
• I will hustle at all times.
• I will demand nothing less than 110% from all the employees that work for me.
• I will have one goal while working.
• I make the absolute best pizza, as fast, profitably, safely, and fun as possible.
• I will leave all of my personal problems at the door.
• I will come to work with a positive attitude everyday.
• I will come to work on time everyday.
• I will treat all employees with respect and fairness, but I will also demand their respect.
• I will not engage in petty arguing, gossiping, or back biting.
• I will not turn a blind eye to any unacceptable behavior or performance.
• I will report any theft, abuse of power, slacking, or the like immediately.
• I will spend all my time productively while on the clock.
• I will answer my phone when on call.
• I will cover shifts as needed.
• I will conserve utilities, conserve labor, and use food wisely.
• I will do everything within my power to keep Your Pizzeria a profitable, lean, efficient, fun, and fast paced company.
We feel that it is invaluable for both of us to be chefs first and owners second. We feed off of each other’s ideas. And with us working side by side with our staff, it ensures quality and instills a very strong work ethic. We only expect our staff to work as hard as we do.
Presenting our customers with a seasonal menu allows us to bring new ingredients to the menu and take advantage of the local ingredients that are available certain times of the year. It also gives our customers new items to try and feeds our creativity.
Anytime new items are brought to a menu for a short period of time it certainly can affect food cost, but we never want to stop creating and we want to continue offering our customers something new. We both have extensive pastry backgrounds, so offering special desserts to our customers gives us a great opportunity to display the talents we have acquired over the years.
Every month we have a Facebook contest set up where our customers can send their pizza suggestions using six or less ingredients. We then pick the most interesting pizza, and that customer has their pizza run the last week of that month. We have had great response and it really gets our customers involved. They get to feel more of a part of our restaurant.
We developed our menu to work with a wood-fired oven. We wanted to offer a wide variety of items besides pizza, so we had to use our experience and alter our techniques to achieve an exceptional menu. We have not found many limitations with our oven. We quickly figured out where each item that went into the oven cooked the best whether it be pizzas, wings, sandwiches, pastas or shared plate items.
Our oven is self-contained with over three feet of fire brick and multiple slayers of insulation. Our oven is built to run 24 hours a day for thirty years without any fatigue or weakness in the materials. We regularly clean our venting system by a trained professional to ensure proper working order.
41 percent of consumers report eating pizza at least once a week, according to Technomic, Inc.
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America’s 50 largest pizza companies control approximately 28,800 stores.
48 percent of U.S. pizzerias serve beer
/// Places That Rock // Vero Amore / Supino Pizzeria / Yia Yia’s
3306 N. Swan Road #105
Tucson, Arizona 85712
Vero Amore takes the art of pizza making so seriously that the pizzeria received VPN certification. It’s the only VPN-certified Neapolitan pizza in Tucson, Arizona. In fact, its two locations have become neighborhood spots, as well as great date night options. The Neapolitan staples are prominent on its menu like the Marinara ($9.50) and the Margherita ($10.50). Vero Amore also features the Quattro Formaggi with gorgonzola, Parmesan, regular and smoked mozzarella, olive oil and garlic ($11.50) and the Pizza Ruspante with tomato sauce, chicken sausage, mixed bell peppers and mozzarella ($12). During its lunch service the pizzeria expands its offerings to include paninis. Our favorite is the Salami with spring mix tomato, onion, smoked mozzarella and basil pesto ($8.50).
2457 Russell Street
Detroit, Michigan 48207
Supino gets high marks for packing so much into a tiny Eastern Market neighborhood spot in Detroit, Michigan. The pizzeria attracts crowds at times that line the sidewalk for it thin-crust New York style variations. It’s cozy and inviting with dark wood paneling that meets deep red walls, high bar seating and metal fixtures. The pizza menu is split between red and white. Red standouts include the Mismark (aka “one egg”) with fresh mozzarella, prosciutto and egg and the City Wing Thing with City Wing’s smoked turkey, smoked Gouda, cherry peppers, mozzarella and roasted garlic. The white spotlights El Greco with spinach, feta, onions, mozzarella and kalamata olives and The Affumicata (aka “Smoky”) with speck, roasted garlic, chopped parsley, mozzarella, smoked Gouda and ricotta. A 12-inch runs $10-$11 and an 18-inch runs $16-$17.
1423 O Street
Lincoln, Nebraska 68506
Yia Yia’s gives its customers international flavors with its “Around the World” pizzas — 16 different pizzas representing the culinary appeal spanning the globe. The pizzeria has some interesting pizza topping combinations. The Francais features olive oil with walnuts, blue chees and mozzarella ($18.99 for a 16inch). The Polynesian brings together marinara and BBQ sauce with cranberries, jalapenos, black olives, pineapple, bacon, pepperoni, cream cheese and provolone ($19.99 for a 16-inch). There is also The Plains with red pesto, broccoli, almonds, corn, tomatoes, red onions, turkey and cheddar ($19.99 for a 16-inch). Yia Yia’s also highlights its baked potatoes like The German with white sauce, sauerkraut, hamburger, black pepper, garlic, onion, and Parmesan with a side of honey Dijon mustard ($5.49).
Coal/wood fired oven. When making artisan pizzas, these ovens are typically operating at 600 to 800 F resulting in a baking time of right around 2 minutes or a little less. Because of the very short baking time there is little opportunity for the top of the pizza to dry off, so care must be exercised to limit the amount of vegetable toppings used. The high oven temperature will result in very good oven spring of the dough so it will have a nice, light and open structured edge on the crust, much like that of an English muffin. The bottom of the crust will be well browned with a fair amount of charring. The raised edge will be spotted with charred spots as well as browned or even charred bubbles. All of this adds to the character of the finished pizza flavor and texture. This might not be the best pizza for a buffet or delivery/carryout operation as the crust will not maintain its crisp for a very long time, but the flavor is great, so for dine-in, it is hard to beat, and the oven adds a lot of ambiance to the dining experience.
Deck oven. When baked in a deck oven at 550 to 600 F, our artisan pizza would require closer to 3½ to 4 minutes to bake (assuming a deck bake), and a lot of the physical characteristics of the baked pizza would be very similar, though possibly not quite as dominant, as those achieved from baking in the coal/wood fired oven. One of the main differences that I’ve seen in comparing these two types of ovens is that the coal/wood fired oven will typically exhibit top heat/baking properties over the average deck oven, so the char on the top of the crust is generally not as intense. The cell structure porosity, eating characteristics and flavor are all very comparable, though. Due to the longer baking time required in the deck oven, the bottom of the crust will typically have a somewhat thicker, browned area resulting in a finished crust/pizza that tends to maintain its crispiness for a slightly longer time, possibly making for a pizza better suited to a buffet or carryout/delivery operation. While some of these ovens are available with a brick front to give the oven a great rustic appearance, they generally don’t provide quite the ambiance of the coal/wood-fired ovens.
Conveyor ovens. Conveyor ovens (using air impingement technology) are the true work horse of today’s retail pizza industry. The most recent technology innovations in these ovens has improved the baking and operating efficiencies by a significant margin over older models, and when combined with advances in baking platforms (disks) we now have conveyor ovens fully capable of replicating many of the hearth baked pizza characteristics achieved previously only with a deck or coal/wood fired oven. With the new generation of air impingement ovens operating at temperatures between 475 and 515 F, with a baking time of approximately 4½ minutes, and using a baking disk specifically designed for the application, our artisan pizza can come from the oven with a fair amount of char on the bottom, but without the hard “pizza bone” outer edge characteristics commonly found on pizzas baked on different platforms.
Since the top bake is fully controlled on these ovens, we can achieve at least some char on the top of the crust too, giving the finished crust a lot of the visual characteristics, as well as essentially the same, open porous, internal crumb structure characteristics as pizzas baked in most deck ovens, and some coal/wood fired ovens. As an added benefit, the airflow to the top of the pizzas has a drying effect upon the pizza, providing for a drier pizza, especially when heavily topped with moisture-laden vegetables. These ovens are well suited to buffet as well as carryout/ delivery pizzas or any operation where oven ambiance is not a prime focus.
Multiple technology ovens. These ovens bake through the application of multiple baking technologies, such as air impingement, convection, conduction, radiation (infrared) and, to some extent, magnetic resonance (similar to micro waves). The idea behind the application of these combined heating technologies is to utilize their individual, unique heating properties to achieve a faster, more thorough bake. While some of these ovens have demonstrated their ability to bake our artisan pizza very similarly to a deck oven –– with a good, solid bottom bake, some char, and a well baked top –– others provide a solid bake, but without the unique char spots on the bottom and spotty charring on the top. The internal crumb characteristics are generally quite good and are characterized by an open, porous crumb structure and crispy bottom characteristics that hold up quite well, making them well-suited to buffet and carryout/delivery stores where oven ambiance is not of prime concern.
Our example of an artisan pizza, when baked in any of the above mentioned ovens which has been properly set up to achieve a hearth style bake, will provide a finished pizza with comparable internal quality characteristics such as an open, porous crumb structure, crispy eating properties when fresh from the oven, and an attractive overall appearing finished pizza. Where the differences primarily appear are in terms of the thickness of the bottom crust bake and the amount of bake char present on both the top and bottom of the crust, which can and will affect the flavor profile of the finished pizza as well as the artisan or rustic appearance of the pizza.
Artisan pizza is booming right now thanks to an influx of upscale ingredients that are more readily available than ever before. One of the latest trends which I believe is here to stay is to “buy local” in areas that we can, especially when it comes to local farming. The community –– your customer base –– loves to support local businesses that support local businesses. It makes perfect sense. I recently started buying from a local dairy, and you won’t believe the response from my community. I’ve recently discovered a whole community of farmers who have gotten together to market locally grown produce. Now I know some of you out there are in communities where this has been going on for years, but the concept is growing in popularity in places that aren’t your typical farming communities. I suggest you jump on this bandwagon –– or should I say the vegetable cart –– ASAP.
Artisan pizza is more of a craft when it comes to creating amazing pizza, where sometimes the “less is more” mentality fits perfectly. This is especially true when a high quality thin crust pizza is baked in a hotter-than-average pizza oven topped with carefully selected premium toppings. Although there is an amazing array of meats and cheese that could and should be used on this type of pizza, high-end vegetables shouldn’t be overlooked. This transcends the run-of-the-mill peppers, onions, mushrooms, tomatoes and olives. Let’s focus on some different upper echelon vegetables that can certainly be found from your local farmers. I suggest cooking your vegetables ahead of time to keep your crusts in tip-top shape. I love roasting, grilling or caramelizing veggies because it brings a whole new dimension to their flavor and texture. Caramelizing onions is as simple as cutting your onion uniformly (thickly sliced is fine). Simply get a sauté pan or small pot crazy hot with just a very small drizzle of oil and then add your onions and keep them moving by stirring. Don’t burn them, but simply cook them down until they are golden to dark brown. Now don’t go adding any sugar to sweeten them because onions have plenty of sugar in them and you won’t find that sweetness until you cook and caramelize that onion. The same goes for garlic cloves! Try it and you’ll see how incredibly these will enhance your pizza.
Let’s talk about grilling some vegetables. As a chef, for years I would prepare steamed asparagus. But once I discovered grilling fresh asparagus, I wouldn’t cook it any other way. Once you remove the white ends from the stems, drizzle a little olive oil over the asparagus. Then lightly sprinkle it with some salt, pepper and garlic. Now you simply need to lay them across a char-grill, rolling them so they don’t burn. If your grill is hot enough this process will only take 60 to 90 seconds. Make sure you get at least a little char on it. I prefer the thinner asparagus when it’s available because it’s more tender. This is amazing to eat and looks fantastic on a pizza. Grilling zucchini and eggplant planks are quite spectacular as well. I like to coat the veggies with oil and seasoning just like the asparagus, but keep in mind eggplant is like a sponge and will need a little bit more oil than any other vegetable. I like to cut these vegetables lengthwise into half-inch-thick planks. When I grill them, I like to cross-hatch them to get some nice diamond marks on them (just as I would a steak) to give that visually stimulating appearance.
While we’re talking about grilling veggies, I’d like you to grill some corn as well. Obviously, peel the husk back and clean the corn well and give it a very light spritz of olive oil — then grill it until you get some light char to it. Once it cools, use a knife or one of those fancy corn-removing tools and now you’ve got another beautiful, colorful and flavorful topping for your artisan pizza. Finally, let’s move on to one more method of preparing veggies for our artisan pizzas –– roasting them. Washing, peeling and then roasting some fresh beets in the oven for about 20 minutes truly brings out the natural sugar and is great on artisan pizza. I’d slice or dice the beets for use. Also, an awesome winter squash that is perfect for roasting is butternut. You’ve got to get that thick skin off and seed it, and then you can dice the squash, give it a light drizzle of oil and a dusting of salt and pepper and roast them just until they start to become tender. You don’t want them over roasted or they will become too soft. If you accidentally over cook them, don’t worry. Just add a little butter, brown sugar and cinnamon, mash them up and invite me over, because that is one vegetable that I like to make taste like dessert. At Thanksgiving time I make a pizza that I call “the Great Thanksgiving Pizza.” I make a special batch of stuffing-flavored pizza dough by adding some chicken base and ground sage. Then instead of pizza sauce, I puree some cranberry sauce and use that as my base. I add some cheddar to my pizza cheese and then add diced cooked turkey breast, caramelized onions, cranberry raisins and roasted butternut squash. Sprinkle with a little garlic salt and sage, then top with just a little more cheese blend and celebrate with this awesome pizza! So get into the garden or get to the farmer’s market and start creating some amazing Artisan Pizza and become the talk of the town. u
Jeff Freehof owns The Garlic Clove in Evans, Georgia. He is a frequent contributor to Pizza Today and a speaker at the Pizza Expo family of trade shows.
There is an ever-present theme that weaves its way through Sacramento, California-based Paesanos’ 16-year-old operation: evolution, revolution even. Co-owner Mark Scribner and Director of Operations Dana Scarpulla showcased its original Midtown location during a recent Pizza Today visit to talk about Paesanos’ concept and its growth. When the first Paesanos opened in the trendy Midtown area, Scribner says: “We wanted it to be affordable. We also wanted it to be a dining experience at the same time.” It surrounds creative pizzas and pastas and an urban theme with an open kitchen, dining area and bar, brick walls with mirrors and funky art, high ceilings with large, dark wood beams and fun, eclectic music.
The Midtown store set a benchmark for the following years of success. Last year, the single Midtown store pulled in more than $2.8 million in sales. But its volume is merely the beginning of Paesanos prosperity. In 2005, Paesanos opened a location in Elk Grove, a bedroom community of Sacramento and in September 2011, the company took its concept to the college town of Davis, California. Each new location has added another $2 million to $2.8 million in annual sales. At Midtown, Paesanos initially generated about half of the volume it does today. “We’ve had to retrofit it as we’ve gone because of the volume,” Scribner says. “Every year we’ve added something to it.” The restaurant has optimized all of its available square footage, even leasing office space from a neighboring business. While the Midtown store exudes a natural, old building characteristic, Scribner says they’ve tried to emulate that in the Elk Grove Paesanos that was built out from scratch. “We tried to recreate that in a strip center by bringing in faux finishes and doing murals on the walls,” he says. Elk Grove also attracted a different crowd than the Midtown’s young urbanites. Scribner says that subtle changes, like a more family-friendly playlist of music, helped win over suburban families. Scribner was somewhat surprised by the patronage of the newly opened Davis Paesanos. Retirees have added to the mix of families and the college community prompting them to think beyond the university, Scarpulla says. “You have to get past the seasonality because summer and winter breaks 25,000 people leave the local area,” she says, “so you really do have to build that local clientele.” The strategy was even more vital with a fast-casual concept that Paesanos introduced to Davis in 2008. Paesanos’ by-the-slice pizzeria and bar, Uncle Vito’s, backs up to its pasta restaurant, Pronto. Combined, Uncle Vito’s and Pronto generate another $2 million in annual sales. But when the lulls comes, Scarpulla says, “it’s a matter of being smart about it and adjusting your staffing levels in anticipation of that.” After three years, Scribner adds: “We really can see the ebbs and flows.”
Though the concepts’ finances are controlled separately, Paesanos, Uncle Vito’s and Pronto are operated together. Owners Scribner and David Virga have a corporate management team consisting of a director of operations, executive chef and dining room manager with a management team at each store reporting to them. A key to Paesanos’ quality control is Executive Chef Jason Sondgroth. “All of our recipes he has either adopted or he’s created on his own,” Scribner says. Sondgroth has created a master book with standardized recipes and prep procedures, freeing him from being tied to a single kitchen. “Being able to have an executive chef in the position to float around from store to store and oversee kitchen operations has really helped us maintain consistency,” Scribner says. Sondgroth’s flexibility, training practices and reference guides also have helped Paesanos keep a handle on its food costs. Scribner says there is one other factor that has really driven food costs down. “We linked together with a group of people a few years back for buying power,” he says of the Leverage Buying Group. “We’ve gone out and put to bid our broad line vendors and produce companies, credit card processing, anything that costs us money.” With 60 restaurants in the group, Scribner says it’s been a great tool for the business to control costs. After joining the affiliation three years ago, Paesanos’ food cost dropped below 20 percent.
Scribner says he believes in creating strong partnerships. Paesanos helped initiate the creation of the Handle District in its neighborhood last year. Still in its infancy, he says the district will provide many benefits to area businesses. “It is a small tax that goes on the bill for every business owner in the district and that money goes towards graffiti abatement, security, marketing, and special events,” he says, adding that once the district is in full swing the revenue potential will be substantial. The Handle District joins area businesses together as a joint marketing vehicle. Scribner says money has started to filter into the district. “It is going to start blooming soon,” he says. Paesanos rarely invests in traditional advertising. Instead, the pizzeria focuses its efforts on in-store marketing and social media. Brightly colored boards are placed strategically throughout the restaurant, highlighting anything from its $4 Happy Hour appetizers and house made sangria to its specials menu. Scarpulla, who handles the marketing, says the signs are subtle but effective. “It’s something as simple as putting this brightly colored sign up,” she says. “It’s a focal point.”
Paesanos is known for its Sangria, which accounts for sales comparable to its liquor sales. All three Paesanos do about 25 percent in bar sales, while its Uncle Vito’s concept generates nearly 40 percent bar sales. Scarpulla says the suggestion of sangria really gets patrons to take advantage of it. “The specials board — we change these up about four to five times a year,” Scarpulla says. “We focus on seasonality in our specials.” During the Pizza Today visit Paesanos’ specials board featured a Little Italy Burger at $9.95, Sage-Butternut Pizza at $10.95, Four-cheese Lasagna at $10.95 and Braised Beef Short Ribs at $12.95. Offerings change seasonally and sometimes make their way onto Paesanos’ printed menu like the Gorgonzola & Fuji Apple Pizza with olive oil, sautéed apples, caramelized onions, spinach, gorgonzola and mozzarella. Sondgoth has brought a bounty of flavors to Paesanos like the Watermelon Prosciutto Pizza with caramelized onions and a balsamic vinegar reduction. His newer creations join menu favorites like the Sicilian with a spicy red sauce, Italian sausage, prosciutto, salami and mozzarella topped with basil, oregano and Parmesan cheese and the Greek with artichokes, garlic, roasted peppers, spinach, red onions, black olives, feta, mozzarella and fresh lemon. Veggies also take center stage on Paesanos pizzas with the Mushroom Formaggio with portobello and crimini mushrooms, smoked mozzarella, Parmesan and rosemary and the Patata y Pollo with red potatoes, roasted chicken, lemon-white wine sauce, mozzarella, goat cheese and rosemary. Pricing is broken down into Mezzo (six slices) at $10.95 and Grande (12 slices) at $18.95. Any pie can also be turned into a calzone at $12.95.
With a full menu, Scribner says, pizza and pasta equally comprise sales. “We are as much a ‘pasteria’ as we are a pizzeria,” he says. Its most popular pasta is the Carbonara, spaghetti with smoked bacon, cracked black pepper, garlic, cream and Parmesan at $8.95. Scribner says there is a great profit margin with its popular starters like its Bruschetta at $6.95 and Polenta Fries that are served with balsamic ketchup and gorgonzola sauce at $6.95. Besides its specials and regular menu, there are 10 to 12 items that regulars know about and can order. “We actually have in our POS system a special screen that is for the secret menu that has all of those items in it,” Scarpulla says. “We’ve been around for so long and our menu had evolved and changed. But many of the things that we’ve done in the past we can still make. They are just not listed on the menu.” Paesanos’ has garnered its share of fans and thrives off of its regulars. Scribner credits its staff, some of which have been with Paesanos from its beginning. “Everyone is family,” he says.
Denise Greer is associate editor at Pizza Today.
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Fox’s Pizza Athens
Stop by Hwy 78 this morning for NEW Fox’s Coffee drinks & don’t forget FREE Upgrade Monday! Big daddy pizza for the price of a large pizza.
Why it works: Mondays are a slow day in the industry and this Fox’s franchise offers free upgrades to entice diners. They take it a step further, though, by offering a signature pizza for the size of a large. They also let customers know they sell more than soda and beer. Coffee is big business, and this franchisee knows how to capitalize on that.
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Why it works: This Tweet linked back to Incendio’s Facebook page and encouraged diners to like it and sign up for their newsletter. Offering an immediate $5 off placed a sense of immediacy on the offer, but Incendio let followers know their newsletter offers information about the restaurant as well as recipes. We love it!
PizzaToday.com >> RECIPE >> Spinach alfredo with 4 cheese
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Brooklyn’s Pizzeria 50 cent pizza and salad buffet every Sunday! Kids ages 1-12 pay .50 cents year. So a four year old eats for 2 bucks...over twelve still the best deal around 7.99 for all you can eat pizza, salad and soup! Check out Brooklyn’s for the best deals in the Burg! Call for more info or for pizza delivery 925-9855
Why it works: This Facebook post encourages dining on Sundays, typically a slow day in this industry. It also gives parents an option for cheap eats –– a tool to boost business in an ailing economy. Don’t want to dine in? Brooklyn’s added their phone number for delivery, making it easy to order. Nice job!
Metro Pizza Bring in any losing ticket from yesterday’s lottery and get $5 off of any large pizza. (Not valid on delivery. Limit 1 per person. Original tickets only--no phone pics or photocopies.) Sorry, but if you won the jackpot you have to pay full price.
Why it works: Instant coupon, no printing required! When the Mega Millions jackpot hit $640 million, folks flooded gas stations and minimarts for their piece of the pie. The result? A lot of losers. Metro Pizza saw an easy way to turn those into winners, and without a lot of prep or work. Everyone’s a winner at Metro Pizza!
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