Photos by Rick Daugherty
I’m ready to do it, Dave. After attending International Pizza Expo and reading the magazine for a year now, I feel like I’m learning what it will take to succeed with my own pizza shop. I’m scared to death. Should I be?
Like many things in life, you just don’t know how complicated opening a pizzeria is until you actually do it. I have opened seven for myself and dozens for clients, and I’m still learning! Every operation, you see, is unique. But they also all share similarities, and that’s where we’ll start with this question today.
Do you have a name in mind for your pizzeria yet? If not, make sure you come up with something
unique. Frank’s Pizza isn’t exactly going to cut it these days. But I’m going to work under the assumption that you already have a name in mind and that you want some real nuts and bolts information here. Like creating a capital budget, for example.
You’ll be surprised how things like permits alone will eat into the budget — not to mention major purchases. Get inside a pizzeria and partner with a trusted business advisor, be it a friend in the business, a restaurant accountant, a consultant such as myself or a particularly helpful business banker, and start poring over all the data.
There’s nothing worse than running out of money during the build out, so make sure your budget is realistic from the start. In fact, you are going to need an all-around reality check daily for quite a while once you really start in earnest on this project. Let me give you a very small preview:
1. There is no such thing as a perfect opening.
2. Things will go wrong.
3. Things will go right.
4. Customers are forgiving.
5. You will be scared to death.
6. Something will break.
7. You will laugh and cry at the same time.
8. You will live to fight another day.
9. You will not sleep for the first week.
10. Your body will hurt all over.
11. You will need to shower your staff with praise, especially early on.
12. You will learn from your mistakes. Try not to repeat them. u
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.
It was always my favorite part of International Pizza Expo — the five minutes I stole away from the crowd and the madness and sat down with my friend Pat Bruno for a reprieve. Being gluttons for punishment, we always started our conversation with our beloved Chicago Cubs. “I’ll never see them win a World Series, and I doubt you will, either,” said Pat, who was 42 years my senior. That inside joke of ours always blossomed into other jokes. You see, most of you don’t know that Pat was also a comedian. And I mean that in a literal sense. At one point well into his life he actually flirted with trying to make a run at comedy for a bit.
There’s probably a lot you don’t know about Pat, such as the fact that he invented the pizza stone that is found in so many homes across America today. Or that he was born in 1933, during the Great Depression, and therefore witnessed firsthand the pizza boom in America. He was 12 when World War II ended and American soldiers who had spent time in Italy returned home and brought with them a craving for pizza. He was in his 20s during the 1950s when pizzerias began opening in small towns all across the nation at a blistering rate. He watched pizza franchises come to be and proliferate. He witnessed their massive boom and their cutthroat battles in the 1980s. He predicted and then enjoyed the current surge of artisan pizzerias that are now taking over the landscape.
Pat Bruno, simply put, knew pizza. He lived it. And when it became evident over the past year that the brain cancer he was battling was going to end his life, he found a private way to let me know how much he enjoyed working with Pizza Today and me over the years. I didn’t quite realize at the time that it was his way of saying goodbye.
The pizza industry will miss Pat Bruno’s contributions greatly. His recipes and insights have helped independent operations grow for decades. I’ll miss working with him on articles, tapping his kitchen expertise and assigning him the task of creating exciting new recipes for our readers. But most of all, when International Pizza Expo rolls around in just two months, I’m going to miss commiserating with him about the lowly performance of our dear Cubbies.
Thank you for everything you’ve given to this great industry, Mr. Pasquale “Pat” Bruno, Jr. You are missed already. May you rest in perpetual peace.
“Stress does not exist in
the presence of a pizza.”
– Pat (Pasquale) N. Bruno, Jr.
January 8, 1933 – October 30, 2012
We embody the ‘family’ atmosphere of our business by ensuring that our business philosophy is what truly motivates us to be in business. Our primary purpose is to be a
blessing to all that come in contact with Christianos Pizza. If we all have that goal in mind, we will serve our customers at a very high level, treat our employees with great respect, and have meaningful relationships with the many who in some way interact with our business.
We manage the three restaurants together. We work very hard to withhold a high standard of service, quality of food and cleanliness at all three of our locations. Daily conversations between restaurants help us to work together, keeping our goals and standards at the top of the priority list. We have a great team of leadership that really sees the importance of our business philosophy and uses that as our motivation everyday. We greatly understand the importance of all three of our locations having a high level of consistency.
Our birthday club allows our customers to sign up through our Web site to receive a free personal pizza on their birthday. It’s a great opportunity for individuals that have never had our pizza to try it or just another reason to come celebrate with friends and family on their birthday. Not only is there an opportunity for a birthday individual to bring in other paying patrons, but we also understand the great emotional value for our customers of celebrating important moments in their lives at our establishments. We want them to create memories with Christianos Pizza.
Our double crust pizza is simply two dough balls together to create more of a hand tossed crust rather than our traditional thin crust. Our double crust is mostly popular with the younger generations or those who enjoy a couple of specific specialty pizzas that we have. Our Mediterranean and BBQ pizzas are both made on the double crust and are very popular. Our Mediterranean is made with a creamy red pepper sauce, spinach, shrimp, and mozzarella.
Our partially baked pizza is our pizza just partially baked in our brick ovens. We cook the pizza about half way. This allows our customers to finish baking their pie at their convenience. Many will pick up a “par” bake while they are out and cook it later that evening. Cooking instructions are simple. Preheat oven to 425 F, bake for 5 to 10 minutes or until crust is golden brown.
We can honestly say we have some of the best gelato in the country. Our gelato is real artisan gelato made by an artisan gelato maker who studied in Italy. There are no mixes, powders or flavor bases. Our gelato is created using nothing artificial. Every flavor you taste is the real deal. We have our gelato displayed in nice glass cases when you walk into our restaurant. For us, it is our lobster tank. Once it catches your eye its hard to resist.
According to a 2012 Global Security Report by Trustwave, the food and beverage industry accounted for 44 percent of data breach investigations in 2011. It was the highest percentage of all industries.
International Pizza Expo is just two months away, March 19-21
has 412 pizzerias
The Big Four
America’s four largest pizza companies combine for $22.1 billion in worldwide sales
2035 Metairie Rd.
Metairie, Louisiana 70005
Mark Twain’s not only offers a gluten-free pizza, but customers also build it themselves at the table — a big hit for cautious diners to see the pizza made right in front of them. Any pie on the menu can be made with the gluten-free crust. Additionally, Mark Twain’s offers a handful of specialty pizzas, including The Mysterious Stranger with spinach, feta, Canadian bacon or charisee sausage and choice of vegetable
(12-inch for $15.99). The Innocents Abroad features genoa salami, Italian sausage, tomatoes, artichokes and fresh basil (12-inch for $15.99). True to its Cajun roots,
the pizzeria also offers a Creole Pizza with shrimp, Andouille sausage, crab meat and zucchini (12-inch for $16.99), as well as a variety of Po’ Boys and it’s New Orleans’ Muffaletta.
1625 Mesquite Ave.
Lake Havasu City, Arizona 86403
Mudshark is comprised of a pizzeria, brew pub restaurant and an off-site brewery. While the brew pub restaurant is a big draw in this small, tourism-strong, desert city, the pizzeria is known as the place the locals go. From food bank donations to raising money for area scholarships, Mudshark backs its community. The pizzeria features more than a dozen specialty pizzas (14-inch for $15.99) like the Polynesian Style with sweet ’n sour sauce, three cheese blend, ham, bell peppers, red onion, pineapple and cashews and the Mediterranean with pesto cream sauce, three cheese blend, artichoke hearts, green olives, spinach and feta. Mudshark also highlights its craft beer, offering UpRiver Lager, Dry Heat Hefeweizen, Scorpion Amber Ale, and 2012 Scotch Ale for
$3.25 for a 16-ounce draft.
312 Kittson Ave.
Grand Forks, North Dakota 58201
What began as a summer smoothie stand has grown to a three-unit pizza company. Rhombus Guys drives mid-day sales with its Happy Hour specials — half-priced Cheesy Bread, Quesadillas and Rhombus Sticks and drink specials from 3-6 p.m. There are dozens of Rhombus original thin-crust pies, including the Pulled Pork with Jerk sauce, red peppers, tomato, onion, pepperoncinis and cheddar (medium at
$21.99); the Tuscany with mustard Tuscan sauce, garlic, chicken, onion, red pepper, tomato, mozzarella, ricotta and oregano (medium at $19.99); and the Amalfi Coast with olive oil, arugula, tomato, goat cheese, basil, prosciutto, Kalamata olives and mozzarella (medium at $21.99).
Photos by Josh Keown
Q: We are making a thick-crust pizza but it doesn’t maintain any crispiness after we put it into the box. What can we do to make a crispier pizza?
A: One of the most commonly encountered causes for a thick crust pizza to lack or loose crispiness is lack of sufficient bake. Sure, you can “bake” a thick-crust pizza in five minutes, or a little more, and it will probably work well for you in a dine-in application, but when the pizza goes into
a box, it is a whole different game played by a different set of rules. Nothing much good happens to a pizza when it is placed into a box, and it is even worse when that box is placed into an insulated delivery bag for 20 minutes or more. This is where the longer baking time at a lower temperature comes into play. Due to the number of different oven options available, as well as the number of different baking profiles (air impingement ovens), I can’t give any specific baking directions, except to say that utilizing a longer bake time at a lower temperature will give you a thick-crust pizza that will hold up better to the rigors of delivery and carryout. Keep in mind, too, that when using an air impingement oven, you may need to alter the top finger profile to allow you to bake the pizza longer for a crispier eating characteristic without over baking the top of the pizza.
Q: We are opening a new store that will be primarily delivery and carryout. What are some of the things that we could do to our pizzas to provide our customers with the best possible product?
A: There are a number of things that can be done to enhance delivered or carryout pizza. while addressing these issues won’t assure you of the best del/co pizza ever made, it will give you the peace of mind that you are doing all you can, with what you have, to provide your customers with the best quality pizza available from your store.
- Try to limit the amount of vegetable toppings used, as they can be responsible for releasing water onto the pizza, resulting in a wet, soggy pizza. If you must use a lot of vegetable toppings, an oven that provides good top heat that will help to evaporate moisture from the top of the oven can be beneficial.
- Set your oven up to provide a longer bake as this will both help to allow for evaporation of moisture from the top of the pizza and to develop
- a thicker, crispier bottom crust characteristic that can tolerate the rigors of delivery and carryout without becoming overly soft too soon after the pizza is placed in the box.
- Allow the pizza to set on a wire rack or screen immediately after baking for a minute or so, allowing the pizza to “steam-off”beforecuttingandboxingit.
- Utilize one of the mats designed to hold the pizza up off of the bottom of the box and provide for some airflow under the pizza to prevent or slow down the steaming of the bottom crust.
- While this might sound a bit silly, make sure your pizza boxes have steam vents, and that the vents are opened.
Q: Is it true that there is a difference in crust flavor when yeast from different manufacturers is used?
A: No, it is not true. The yeast manufacturers go to great lengths to make sure their product is compatible with that of their competition in all aspects. There have been cases where an “improved” yeast is developed and commercialized, but in those cases the new yeast is given a new or different name.
I’ve had some operators swear that when they used fresh yeast (aka compressed yeast) they saw differences in both flavor and fermentation activity between brands, but when further investigated we found the differences to be due to the age of the yeast, not specific to the manufacturer. To this, I might add that there was one major yeast manufacturer, who for years was thought to have the most active yeast of any of the major manufacturers. So being curious as we are in research, we tested the different brands of yeast against the proclaimed superior product using the latest industry accepted procedures. what we found was that there was no significant difference in fermentation capability between the different brands tested,but why were people saying that they saw a difference? Surely they couldn’t all be wrong.
What we ultimately discovered was that the said to be superior yeast was packaged in 17-ounce, one-pound bricks. That’s right, 17 ounces to one of their bricks, while everyone else used the accepted weight of 16 ounces to the pound. but didn’t that cost them in the end, just giving away so much extra yeast? No, not really because it explained why this particular yeast manufacturer had an advertising budget that could be covered by a schoolboy’s lunch money. A pretty neat trick I would say!
Tom Lehmann is a director at the American Institute of baking in Manhattan, Kansas.
There’s something for every pizzeria owner and operator at International Pizza Expo, whether you’re an industry veteran or just opening your first store. If you haven’t already preregistered to attend, you better start making plans now. International Pizza Expo continues to be the premier industry event for education, new products and technology, networking and business boosting ideas.
Have you ever heard the saying, “Education is the key to success?” We feel so strongly about continuing education that we’ve decided to expand our pizza specific education component to include more than 85 seminars, workshops and demonstrations. We’ve added several new pizzeria operators to our speaker lineup, and they’ll advise you on how to react to the challenges and issues facing our industry today. Our team of experts will educate you on how to prosper in today’s economy. You’ll learn how to improve customer service, increase profits through your menu design, build a winning mobile marketing strategy and put together a profitable craft beer program that will boost your bottom line.
March 18 has been designated as “New Operator Monday.” This intense 6 ½ hour education program is FREE to all registered attendees. Are you looking to take your pizzeria to the next level? If you are, then you need to check out Power Panel 1 featuring four super-successful operators, all of whom bring in $1-million-plus in annual revenue from a single unit. They’ll share methods — and a few trade secrets — for out competing the big chains and establishing a dominant marketing position.
Or maybe you want to explore the frontiers of social media marketing? If you do, check out our Power Panel devoted to social media. This panel features three promotions-savvy pizza professionals who continue to explore the frontiers of social media marketing ... and they’re willing to pass along their new found knowledge. Best of all, you’ll be able to compare your efforts with theirs in this rapidly evolving and vital marketing arena.
Whether you make pizza as a labor of love or just for the money, we’ve got a contest to suit both ambitions. Now in its sixth year, the International Pizza Challenge is bigger and better than ever. Do you think your pizza is the best in town? If so, you need to act now and enter the competition.
There are four divisions filling up with challengers competing for big prize money and unparalleled notoriety: traditional, non-traditional, American pan and Italian style pizzas. Your best pie will fit in one of them!
First-place money runs from $4,000 to $7,500, with second- and third-place checks up to $2,000. And the winners of each division will qualify for a final, mystery-ingredient bake off for an additional $5,000 and the title of World Champion Pizza Maker of the Year.
Lastly, do you like to party? If so, make plans to attend the World Pizza Games Finals and Rockin’ Party on Wednesday, March 20. It’s a once-a-year stage show designed exclusively for pizzeria operators— with music, awards and an expected cameo appearance by the nation’s newest dough-tossing prodigy. You don’t want to miss the Freestyle Acrobatic Dough Tossing finals, where the pizzaiolo-jugglers who have advanced from preliminary competitions put on a show for you and the judges. Routines from past winners have made network television, and you’ll see why as you sit back and enjoy a cocktail or other cold beverage and munch on hors d’oeuvres.
The bottom line? There will always be winners and losers, but only those pizzeria owners who arm themselves with industry knowledge and are willing to take action for positive change will have the ability to position their businesses for future growth and success.
It’s all pizza, and it’s all for YOU!
Executive Vice President
Photos by Rick Daugherty & Josh Keown
Hot, hearty and comforting, baked pasta will assuage any winter blues. John Coletta, executive chef/managing partner at Quartino in Chicago, Illinois, has prepared and served many baked pasta dishes for nearly seven years.
The most popular is lasagna al forno, made with bolognese meat ragu,house-made ricotta and tomato sauce. he creates the pasta in-house, making the traditional meal the way he grew up eating it. “The lasagna is prepared individually allowing for a highly personalized food experience,” he says.
Coletta also prepares baked capellini with fresh ricotta and baked orecchiette with house-made sausage. He enjoys preparing the pastas, saying, “baked pasta dishes are comforting and impressive expressions of the chef.”
Angel Fabian, corporate executive chef for Vero Amore Restaurants, which has locations in Tucson and Marana, Arizona, prepares baked linguini marinara, composed of house-made mozzarella, house-made marinara and is finished with Parmesan.
The Vero amore lasagna is a popular two-meat, three-cheese lasagna. his baked bowtie pasta and cheese elevates macaroni and cheese with the inclusion of Piave and sharp white cheddar cheeses and prosciutto.
“We take our time with these dishes to ensure the best possible flavor, tex- ture and appearance,” says Fabian. “We bake our pasta dishes slowly to allow all of the flavors to develop. we use only the highest quality local and imported ingredients available.”
Cedric Arwacher, chef/owner at Pasta Folies, in Miami, Florida, pays tribute to world flavors through his baked pastas. For example, Thai fusion lasagna incorporates shrimp, shallots, soy sauce, basil, red pepper, bean sprouts, paprika and lime. The indian fusion lasagna marries carrots, zucchini, onions, eggplant and red peppers, together with creamy curry.
“Baked pastas are great for the restaurant business because you can do a lot of prep work ahead of time and the flavors become richer as you let them marinate,” says Arwacher.
Generally, baked pasta dishes have comparable food costs to non-baked pasta dishes. however, labor costs tend to be higher with baked pastas due to the time needed to produce consistent dishes.
“There are many precautions needed in order to achieve moist and flavorful baked pasta,” says Coletta. He recommends placing the completed pasta and its serving vessel into a water bath and then into the oven; covering the casserole with oiled aluminum foil, and baking at 375 F to prevent the pasta dish from drying and/or burning.
Operators must remember that there is carry over cooking when the baked pasta is removed from the oven. “Pasta is always best eaten al dente,” says Coletta. “It is always best to under cook the pasta realizing that the pasta continues to cook even after being removed from the oven.”
When it comes to serving baked pasta, Coletta says that the “ideal scenario” is to assemble the pasta at the moment when ordered by a customer. An alternative is having several baked pastas assembled in advance prior to baking.
Fabian prepares the dishes’ components and stores it separately until the dish is ready to be cooked to the customer’s order. “Air is dough’s biggest enemy. Keep the pasta covered and dry,” he says.
To keep pasta from becoming chewy, diligence with your prep and following the recipe exactly is necessary. “when using fresh pasta, allow it to rest according to the recipe, be sure not to over work the dough and serve immediately,” says Fabian.
Different pasta varieties offer different textures. while Coletta prefers using fresh baked pasta, he says dried pasta made from durum wheat semolina, and dried pasta made from grano tenero flour are nice alternatives to using fresh pasta.
Fabian prefers using hearty pastas such as dumplings, gnocchi and macaroni. Thicker pastas tend to absorb flavors and sauces better than thinner versions. “I stay away from thinner delicate pastas like angel hair pasta,” he says.
“And,” Fabian continues, “try to be patient. You can’t rush a good pasta dish.”
Baked Capellini with Fresh Ricotta
Recipe courtesy of John Coletta, Quartino
Yield: 4 to 6 servings
1 tablespoon salt
1 pound dried capellini
4 cups Besciamella Sauce
9 teaspoons grated Parmigiano-Reggia- no, divided
Salt and pepper
4 large eggs, beaten and strained 3 tablespoons whole milk
¾ cup fresh whole-milk ricotta
Preheat oven to 375 F. Lightly grease a 13- by 9- by 2-inch baking dish with butter.
In a covered pasta pot over high heat, bring water to a boil. Add salt and capellini. Cook, uncovered, until pasta is almost al dente. Scoop out about 1 cup of the pasta cooking water and set aside. Drain pasta.
In a large sauté pan over low heat, combine 1/3 cup reserved pasta water and 2 cups of Besciamella sauce. Simmer. Add capellini and, using pasta tongs, toss to coat evenly. Add 3 tablespoons of Parmigiano-Reggiano and toss. Season with salt and pepper.
Remove from heat. Add eggs and toss to mix well.
Sprinkle dish with 3 tablespoons Parmigiano-Reggiano. Add capellini. Whisk milk into remaining Bescia- mella sauce and spread evenly on top. Distribute ricotta equally over top and sprinkle with remaining Parmigiano- Reggiano.
Bake until top is golden, about 35 minutes. Serve immediately.
Baked Ziti with Sausage
2 tablespoons olive oil
½ cup onion, coarsely chopped
1 pound sweet Italian sausage, casing removed
3½ cups tomato puree
2 teaspoons dried oregano 2 teaspoons dried basil
8 ounces ricotta
1 teaspoon salt
¼ cup chopped flat-leaf parsley
½ cup grated Parmesan
1 pound ziti or penne pasta
½ pound mozzarella, shredded (about 2 cups)
In a large sauté pan, warm olive oil over medium-high heat for 1 minute. Add onion and sauté, stirring for about 2 minutes.
Add Italian sausage and cook for 5 to 6 minutes, or until sausage is cooked through. Remove from heat and drain off excess grease.
Add tomato puree, oregano and basil. Cook sauce at a steady simmer while preparing the rest of the dish.
In a large bowl, combine ricotta, salt, parsley and Parmesan. Set aside (refrigerate if any unused for longer than 30 minutes).
Cook pasta in plenty of boiling salted water until about half cooked. Drain pasta and set aside to dry further if you have time.
Add pasta to ricotta cheese mixture and stir well to combine. Pre- heat oven to 400 degrees.
Remove sauce from heat and allow to cool about 5 minutes. Add sauce to the pasta and ricotta mixture and combine well.
Pour pasta sauce mixture into a 4-5 quart ovenproof dish.
Level top with the back of a spatula or spoon. Spread mozzarella evenly. Bake until cheese is golden brown. May be pre- pared ahead and reheated for service.
Melanie Wolkoff Wachsman is a freelance writer in Louisville, Kentucky. She covers food, business and lifestyle trends.
Photos by Josh Keown
You’d probably never think of courting disaster by driving around uninsured. Yet, if you’re like many independent pizzeria restaurant owners, chances are you’re unwittingly placing your business in the same kind of jeopardy. How? By not carrying a non-owned auto liability policy — coverage insuring you should one of your delivery drivers have an accident, injure someone, or damage property while using their personal vehicle for work-related duties.
“Non-owned auto liability coverage protects the pizzeria owner in the event the personal auto policy of his delivery driver either denies coverage or doesn’t afford sufficient limits to adequately cover the amount of claim for damages,” explains Keith George, managing director for Camp Hill, Pennsylvania-based AmWINS Program Underwriters, Inc. “The coverage applies excess of any other collectible insurance. Other collectible insurance includes the personal auto liability coverage of the delivery driver’s personal auto policy.”
It’s used to cover the restaurant owner for third-party damages caused by employees driving their own vehicles, says Karen Kiernan, PizzaGuard program manager for Willis Programs, based in Portsmouth, New Hampshire.
“This coverage doesn’t cover the employee’s vehicle for any damages due to accidents,” Kiernan elaborates. “This should be covered under the employee’s personal insurance. Nor does it cover any injury to the employee; this is covered under worker’s compensation.”
The insurance provides for inadequate limits of the employee’s policy and defends the operator/ employer if he or she is brought into a claim, says Michelle Groves, account executive for RH Clarkson Insurance Group, headquartered in Louisville, Kentucky. According to Groves, most non-owned policies start at a $1 million-limit, with higher limits possible.
George says pizzeria operators are “playing a very dangerous game” when they fore go non-owned auto insurance, instead believing the delivery driver’s policy provides sufficient coverage. There are plenty of reasons why this mindset places owners at risk. For one, he says, the driver’s auto policy may not respond.
“Even if it does, it will only respond on behalf of the named insured on the policy,” he says. “This doesn’t preclude plaintiff’s attorney from bringing suit against the pizzeria operator/employer as well, as the pizzeria owner is vicariously liable for their employee’s negligence.”
Some personal insurance policies have a “delivery exclusion,” says Cheryl Downey, senior vice president for San Francisco-based EPIC Insurance Brokers. Also, most drivers lack adequate liability limits, threatening the operator’s assets, she adds.
“And you won’t know if your driver’s insurance is cancelled, putting you at further risk,” she adds. “Without insurance, you’ll have to hire your own lawyer to defend you if your driver has an accident.” (In the event the driver’s policy has lapsed for non-payment, there’s no coverage and it “falls back on the owner for full coverage for damages,” explains Kiernan.)
Depending upon the claim’s magnitude, the financial impact for the operator could be huge, says Groves. “In most cases, the attorneys go after the deep pockets,” she says. “They won’t go after the lowly employee; they’ll go after the business owner, and the restaurant could go under.”
Yet, Groves says it’s common for single-site owners and small chains to fore go this insurance (it’s required for big franchised or company-owned chains).
“One deterrent is these policies can be expensive, but it’s more expensive to operate without one; it’s not something you ever want to do,” she says.
But are these policies always necessary? George says yes, if you’re delivering product via employees, you should carry this kind of coverage. But what if you use company-owned vehicles for delivery?
“If the store owners only have and use (company-owned) autos for delivery, then liability arising out of an accident caused by an employee using one of these owned vehicles would be covered (by the owner’s insurance) for any loss, unless excluded, up to the policy limits,” says Kiernan.
However, Downey believes that even when using company-owned vehicles for delivery, non-owned auto liability insurance is a must since it also provides coverage when employees run errands for you using their personal vehicles. George says this is also why pizzerias not offering delivery service should nevertheless have this coverage. The only exception, he adds, is if the pizzeria operator uses a company- owned vehicle for all deliveries and all errands, and that the cars are insured on a business auto policy, rather than on a personal auto policy.
This illustrates one of the advantages of utilizing company-owned vehicles; the knowledge that their policy will respond in the event of an incident, says George, adding that this is only true as long as the vehicle is titled to the named insured and listed on the business auto policy. Company-owned vehicles also eliminate the need for the business owner to monitor the employee’s insurance coverage. (On the other hand, there’s the expense of purchasing and maintaining the vehicles to consider, and because it’s full coverage rather than “excess” the insurance may be costlier, says Kiernan.)
Regardless of whether you’re utilizing company-owned or employee-owned vehicles, investigating non-owned liability policies makes sense, says Downey.
“Why would a restaurant operator risk losing his assets when delivery insurance is available, and relatively inexpensive, to protect those assets?” she asks.
Improving Your Odds
Being proactive will help you reduce the number of delivery- related incidents, or avoid them altogether, says Cheryl Downey of EPIC Insurance Brokers. Along with hiring experienced drivers with good records, she advises conducting a thorough safety/operation inspection of the employee’s vehicle (lights, brakes, tires, seat belts, etc.).
u Be sure the employee has a current auto ID card showing the vehicle they’re using is the same one shown on the ID card, suggests Karen Kiernan of Willis Programs.
u Make sure the employee’s insurance policy is active and that their license is too, says RH Clarkson Insurance Group’s Michelle Groves. Also request a driving history (a DMV report can be run with permission).
Remember that as an employer, it’s your responsibility to ensure your employees have acceptable driving records, says Keith George of AmWINS Program Underwriters,
Inc. “Allowing an employee with a poor driving record to deliver makes it difficult to defend the employer in the event” of a lawsuit, he says.
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.
Photos by Rick Daugherty
When most folks think about Orlando, it’s traditional New York pizzeria before relocating to Orlando Markaj moved down the theme parks, conventions and tourism that readily come to mind. but for Bronx-native Johnny Markaj, the bustling downtown district is where he has carved a niche for his pizzeria, Anthony’s Pizzeria & Italian restaurant.
Nestled downtown on a street lined with trees, small businesses and homes, it’s a far cry from the chains and hotels his city is known for. and he wouldn’t have it any other way.
Markaj spent his formative years working for his uncle, Anthony Marku, who owned a traditional New York pizzeria before relocating in 1986. Markaj moved down in 1997 and began working in his uncle’s new pizzeria and in 2001, he bought in as 50-percent owner before taking it over completely a few years ago.
Today, there are several other Anthony’s in the area, and all are independently owned and operated by Marku, other family members and friends. each has its own recipes. Markaj’s store on Summerlin avenue (check) is located in historic Thornton Park, and “it’s a great little neighborhood.
it wasn’t that great years ago,” Markaj says. “when we opened up, (it) was right when it started to turn a little bit. People thought we were nuts for opening up here (but) it worked out well for us. We’ve made ourselves part of the community. Ninety percent of my customers are all repeat customers.”
Annually, the restaurant brings in $1.2 million and employs 16 to 22 people. The majority of its business –– 65 percent –– is dine-in. Delivery makes up about 10 percent, with carry- out about 25 percent.
Orlando is home to hundreds of restaurants both chain and independent, and “competition is healthy,” Markaj says. “I love competition. You never heard Michael Jordan say ‘oh, sh--! Here comes the nix. Competition keeps everybody on their toes … Especially in the past four or five years.”
To increase business amidst Orlando’s changing restaurant landscape, “two years ago, when the economy took a dive, I started to deliver. I’d never delivered before,” Markaj says. “I do a lot of marketing in that aspect –– a lot of guerilla marketing (like) coupons for delivery. There are no dine-in coupons for that. It’s all for delivery to boost sales when we slow down a little bit.”
Although delivery is a challenge, he says adding it was necessary to increase business. “I don’t enjoy delivery,” he admits. “It raises all my costs across the board, but you make more money.”
Pizza accounts for 65 percent of sales, which is a big amount to push out in Anthony’s limited space. “I have an extremely small kitchen,” Markaj says. He places distribution orders three to four times a week to ensure freshness and maximize space, but the traditional new york-style pizzeria doesn’t require an extensive menu. “We run a lot of specials depending on what day of the week it is,” Markaj says, “but I don’t generally run them on a Friday, Saturday or Sunday when we’re really busy. We just don’t have the room.”
Aside from daily specials, Markaj says he hasn’t changed the menu in seven or eight years –– he hasn’t needed to –– but the menu will soon receive an overhaul to accommodate some physical changes he plans to make to the restaurant.
“I keep my menu short, simple and the best that we can make it,” he says. “But everything’s made fresh daily.”
Much is made by hand, including dough, sauces, cutting and breading chicken and slicing vegetables for pizzas and salads. “My labor costs are high,” he says. “Kitchen and labor run the highest (up to 30 percent) but it’s necessary unless I want to get back there myself seven days a week, which I don’t. I don’t have the time.” (he also runs a Mexican restaurant nearby and took on a partner, Eri Lulo, with plans to expand both concepts in the future. although they maintain separate menus,operating two restaurants in close proximity gives him more buying power.)
Pepperoni and classic cheese are, of course, the company’s top sellers, but he plans to experiment with gourmet pizzas with his new menu. “I think i’m going to do them in one size. Keep them smaller,” he says. Although there hasn’t been a customer demand for it, “I’m going to teach them about it.”
Although Anthony’s has made a name for itself in the community, Markaj favors guerilla marketing tactics over more traditional advertising outlets.
“I’ve tried everything (from) newspapers to magazines, but I don’t really think that works that well,” he says. “It’s mostly guerilla marketing and social media. it’s a lot of door-to-door, hanging flyers and coupons as far as delivery goes (and) social media and word-of-mouth for the dine-in side. I really push my staff on getting their friends in there … To come in and hang out. We’ll give them a small discount to entice them to come in instead of running coupons.
“We also have a lot of beer specials for the games –– bucket specials and happy hour. That’s mostly word of mouth.”
The restaurant initially sold beer and wine before obtaining a liquor license in 2007. That proved challenging because Anthony’s is in close proximity to a school, but today alcohol accounts for a whopping 18 percent of sales.
Although Markaj and his partner do plan concept growth in the future, immediate focus will be on renovating the current Anthony’s location first and finding the right people to grow his concept. At one time, he had multiple units but found it difficult to manage them single-handedly and his staff was spread too thin. “A big thing for me is maintaining quality,” he says. “Do I want to sell out and become a Papa John’s or a Domino’s, or do I want to stay an independent and make it the best that I can? I’m all about quality and service and I like being a part of my community.
“If I get any bigger on the pizza aspect –– a hand-tossed, new york-style pizza –– to keep it real and original, you have to have the right staff,” he says. “I can’t just put a machine back there to make the pizzas, you know? If your staff is not trained properly, then don’t even start a pizza shop.”
He does daily one-on-one meetings with staff, and “most of my guys have been here forever and the ones that have left have left to open up their own
places in town. … They’re successful on their own, and they learned that from me,” Markaj says. “I taught them how to make a pie. Staff training is no. 1. I can only do so much. … All that other stuff –– marketing, etc. –– none of it matters if your staff is not trained properly.”
When it comes to expansion, Markaj doesn’t expect an overnight explosion of units and has no pressing plans for franchising the Anthony’s concept.
Orlando was hit hard by the economic downturn (once surrounded by mortgage brokers and realty companies, Anthony’s lunch sales was especially hit hard by Orlando’s real estate fall) but Markaj wants to grow smart rather than fast. “Like everything else in life, you’ve got to be committed,” he says. “This is a business that you have to be committed to.”
Mandy Detwiler is managing editor of Pizza Today.
Photos by Rick Daugherty
After my fifth sub-$1 tip, I decided to stop keeping track altogether. I wasn’t doing this for the money, but if I were I would have been horribly disappointed. I was delivering pizzas for one of the Big Three national chains. Despite being a huge fan of all things pizza, I had never actually worked in a pizzeria — so last winter I initiated a long-term project of working a variety of jobs within the industry. First, I worked the line at a neighborhood pizzeria on a busy Saturday night. Then I slung slices at a New York pizzeria during the lunch shift. But the job that surprised me the most had little to do with food. Over the course of three weeks I experienced the ins and outs that come with being the pizza industry’s unsung hero –– the delivery driver.
My first shock was that I was being paid more than the folks who actually made the pizza. As I got to know my coworkers, I realized that older staff members were making deliveries, while students and other part-timers with fewer bills were in the kitchen. This sent a clear message that delivery was important to this company. With most orders being placed via mobile devices and online, the delivery driver was often the pizzeria’s only direct point of contact with a customer. What I always thought of as a menial position was turning out to be far more valuable than I anticipated.
The financial benefit of my gig quickly decreased when I realized how much of the money I was making would end up going into auto maintenance, but some unexpected responsibilities arose as I worked more shifts. Customers would ask questions normally directed toward an in-store manager, but since I was flying solo in the delivery car I was forced into a crucial position.
There were several instances in which my limited training left me unprepared to tackle problems, and the worst time to seek guidance from my superiors was on those busy Friday nights when I needed them the most. Management may have thought I was just a delivery boy, but in reality I was the company’s sole representative on the doorstep of every customer.
The stereotypical disheveled pizza delivery boy I’d always seen in movies driving a beat-up car with candy bar wrappers on the floor who couldn’t care less about the three large pies and two bottles of soda he’s dragging across town was far from the reality of my job. As much as the pizza snob in me hates to admit it, I even felt a sense of pride while wearing my uniform. It made me feel like part of a team, rather than a lowly messenger.
A delivery driver is not only part of your team, but in many ways the most crucial position when it comes to non-kitchen staff. Do as much as possible to prepare them to represent you out on the road and the benefits will be felt throughout your business — especially in the driver’s tip cup.
Scott Wiener owns and operates Scott’s Pizza Tours in New York City.
‘Business as usual...’ is what I used to say when people would ask how things were going. It simply meant that I was making a living. It meant that, on any given day, I could tell you within a 10-percent margin of error what my days sales were going to be, which employee I could count on to be on time, and which customer would be in to get his weekly usual. Sometimes, it also meant that I could send out a mailer or insert and be guaranteed an increase in sales. Usually it meant that most of my awesome staff were grateful they had a job and wanted to keep it. Customers were excited to see what we were up to and they loved to hear about our pizza travels or watch us on television. My patrons bought my pizza because they loved it — price was always secondary.
But that was before the recession. Now I see huge daily sales swings. This week a Tuesday may be $4,000 and next week it might be $1,700. Traditional marketing is dead. Customers are short on money and will not tolerate any price increases. At one point, a customer broke down in tears upon realizing that our pizza prices had gone up.
My annual turnover has gone from a handful to dozens and I can’t get a decent application to save my life. Money means little to today’s worker. My pizza makers make nearly $12 per hour if they complete their training, but most won’t because as they have told me in the past: “I don’t want to work that hard because you will expect it from me all the time.” Wow. Even a single word of correction or discipline and the employee walks.
Much of my marketing has revolved around the accomplishments of my pizzerias and myself. I have been fortunate enough to be able to travel the world competing and have been on numerous television shows. One online review of my pizzeria said that we were our town’s “Claim to Fame.” Many patrons now take their business elsewhere, because they think I am out of touch with them.
So, after nearly 20 years in the pizza business, I think I can safely say that things are now upside down. We must start adapting and start thinking way, way outside the box in order to survive. Alternative marketing methods like social media, networking and cross promotions are now the cornerstone of my marketing.
My trainee hats are printed with “Newbie” in big bold letters. They can move up only by completing training. Pay raises won’t motivate them, but trading that Newbie hat in for what ends up ultimately being a“Master”hat sure does. Sadly, I am also finding ways to operate with less employees. I am building a smarter menu with higher value perception to help keep my prices down. I am finding cheaper packaging and buying more in bulk. I still refuse to reduce portions or quality.
My communities have been hit hard by the bad economy. Capitalizing on my newsworthiness was a great marketing practice in the past, but not today. Anti-capitalist and anti- establishment sentiment are growing and customers are paying close attention to how my pizzeria spends its money. We have to be aware of the social and political atmosphere of our communities. Say or do the wrong thing today and people will take their hard earned pizza dollars elsewhere. It almost seems like I am learning how to be in business all over again. Welcome to the “new” business as usual!
Photos by Josh Keown
When restaurants get lax on ice machine cleaning, the results can be chilling — from a failed health inspection to gross news headlines about black mold clogging an ice machine at a local eatery to, in the worse-case scenario, sick customers.
Experts say that’s because ice machines provide an ideal environment for microbes to flourish. “You’ve got wet, cold conditions and sometimes infrequent cleaning,” says James Marsden, distinguished professor of food safety and security at Kansas State University, who has studied ice machines and health. “So, bacteria, mold and viruses can colonize in ice machines and when that happens, the ice itself can become contaminated.”
There are a number of microorganisms that have been found in dirty ice machines, he says, including salmonella, e. coli and shigella, all of which are bacteria, as well as a virus called norovirus. These microbes, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, can cause a range of gastrointestinal symptoms such as vomiting, diarrhea or stomach cramps, depending on the germ.
Another type of bacteria, listeria monocytogenes, also has been found in ice machines, Marsden says. It can be especially dangerous to pregnant women and their unborn babies — even causing miscarriage or stillbirth — as well as to seniors, infants and people with compromised immune systems, according to the CDC.
One study done at the University of Texas found that bacteria and viruses survive in contaminated ice — even when an alcoholic beverage is poured into the glass, Marsden says. And the health risk is not theoretical. There have been actual outbreaks of illness caused by contaminated ice. “Once the pathogens get in the ice, they do pose a real human health risk,” he says.
But the chance you could make your customers ill isn’t the only problem that can be caused by an ice machine that hasn’t been cleaned often enough. There’s also another issue: taste. “Maybe the most common thing to find in an ice machine is just plain mold,” Marsden says. “And nobody wants ice that tastes moldy.” Scott Deshetler, director of marketing for the Denver, Colorado, ice machine manufacturer Ice-O-Matic, agrees. “If you’re putting ice in soft drinks and that ice machine hasn’t been cleaned in a while, it will definitely impact the taste,” Deshetler says.
As part of the solution, in addition to regular cleaning and sanitizing, Marsden recommends restaurant owners consider using an antimicrobial device in the ice machine. For example, he did proprietary research for a company in Florida that was having problems with its ice machines. he found that using a sanitizing device that fit into the machines and used ultraviolet light to produce very low levels of hydrogen peroxide vapor solved the problem.
“It works 24 hours a day, seven days a week and creates an environment inside the machine that doesn’t allow bacteria or mold spores or viruses to survive,” he says. Also, because the hydrogen peroxide breaks down quickly, no residue is left behind.
Another benefit is that kind of device can reduce the frequency of cleaning and maintenance, he says. The company Marsden worked with, for example, went from having to clean their machines every few weeks to once a year. “The return on investment would be in a matter of months,” he says.
This could be especially important for pizzerias, because yeast used to make the pizza dough can fly through the air on particles of flour, get into ice machines and grow. “If you’ve got yeast floating through the air, even if you cleaned the ice machine 10 minutes ago, you’ve got it in there again,” Marsden says, noting that yeast is a microorganism related to mold, and also would be kept in check by a sanitizing device.
Even if you do use an antimicrobial device, regular cleaning, sanitizing and maintenance still are crucial, experts say. “Cleaning is important not only from a health and safety standpoint, as well as taste and quality, but also because it extends the life of your machine,” Deshetler says. “There’s an economic benefit to the operator as well.”
Cleaning can be a chore, however, and Marsden says it’s crucial to get your machine 100 percent cleaned and sanitized when you do the job, because certain bacteria — such as listeria monocytogenes, for example — can form a biofilm that acts as a protective shell. “You can pour sanitizer right on top of it, and it can’t get through the biofilm to kill the bacteria,” he says.
Restaurant owners who don’t want to deal with the hassle have several options. They can set up a regular schedule for a professional ice machine cleaning company to service their machines, they can lease a machine, or they can use a subscription service. Heidi Alberti, marketing director for Easy Ice, says a subscription service can have several advantages. For example, the burden of preventive maintenance, routine cleaning and filter replacement falls on the subscription company. There’s also 24-hour customer service and some companies even guarantee that if a machine breaks down and can’t be fixed within six hours, the company will provide bagged ice for free.
“This way, a pizzeria owner doesn’t have to scramble around remembering when the ice machine needs to be cleaned, when the water filter needs to be swapped out, when maintenance needs to be scheduled,” Alberti says.
Allie Johnson is a award-winning freelance writer covering personal finance, business and lifestyle.She lives in Kansas City, Missouri.
Photos by Josh Keown
Q: Do you use the same flour in your starter as in your batch?
A: Not necessarily. In some cases I may not use a Caputo starter with a Caputo batch. I might use a Central Milling starter, “Keith’s Best”, and use 20 percent of the starter in my batch. It really all depends on your final product and what tastes best. There is no real right or wrong when it comes to the flour you choose for your starter. Some flours taste great together and others don’t. It is up to you as an operator to decide what tastes great.
Q: Is oil necessary in making dough?
A: Not always. Historically, pizza was a peasant food. Since oil was very expensive, it was left out. Several places, like many New Haven, Connecticut, pizzerias, don’t like to use oil because it is a fat. One advantage to using oil in your recipe is that it helps emulsify and bind your dough together. It also helps with the manageability and the elasticity of the dough. In some styles of pizza (namely Sicilian), as well as foccaccia, oil is extremely important and is one of the major components. When it comes to putting oil on the outside of your dough while it sits on trays or in boxes, that’s not really necessary. If your containers are air-tight, it does not matter if you use a wooden box or a metal tray to hold your dough. Oil will not be necessary and can become costly to use. In some cases the use of oil can leave a residual flavor that can become very unappealing. In your dough recipe, olive oil is not the only fat that can be used. Others include: lard, butter, vegetable oils — ranging from soybean to corn and nut oils, including pine, walnut, almond and pistachio. All of these can be used in replace of olive oil but can become quite costly, depending on the flavor profile you like.
Q: Is water that important?
A: Yes! Water is very important in making dough. Ideally, moderately hard water is best. If your water is too hard the dough will become very dry, unconditioned, and may make the dough snap back when you attempt to open it. I would also check the Ph levels of your water. Between .05 and .07 is best. Chlorinated water should also be avoided. To counter or correct problems with your water you could use a filtration system, reverse osmosis, or even bottled water. At my restaurant in Sacramento, Pizza Rock, we use reverse osmosis to correct any issues with the water. Another rule of thumb is that if your water is too hard, or high in minerals, you can cut back slightly on the amount of salt in your recipe. These are a number of ways which should help countering any problems with water, but always remember … If you won’t drink the water don’t use it when making your dough.
Photos by Josh Keown
Why bother roasting? Roasting intensifies an ingredient’s natural flavors. it also cooks away the rawness and pulls out some of the moisture that can result in a soggy finished pie.
It is a cooking method where the vegetable is exposed directly to the hot, dry heat in an oven. it promotes browning. There is also a caramelization in which the sugars from carbohydrates turn brown, giving off a unique flavor profile.
Peppers, onions, potatoes, zucchini, squash, garlic and asparagus lend themselves well to roasting. experimentation is key.
While roasting is seen as a simple method, the variety of pizza ovens can impact outcome. Let’s look at deck, wood-fired and conveyor ovens and three operators who have optimized their ovens, while diversifying their menus.
Clori Rose-Geiger co-owns Mia Pizza and Eats, a small pizzeria in Cumming, Georgia. With a small kitchen setup, she says, it’s more efficient to make use of her deck oven as much as possible. She roasts mainly onions and squash.
“We cut up a bunch of red onions and we will do a little bit of brown sugar, salt, pepper, olive oil and fresh or dried thyme,” rose- Geiger says, adding that the onions go onto a large sheet pan and cook at 500 F until they are caramelized.
The squash is different. “I’ll cut them into small round disks,” she says. “we do salt, pep- per and olive oil. i don’t cook it too much — it’s almost al dente. my whole purpose is I’m trying to take the raw out.”
While Mia Pizza preps the onions in large quantities to use for a day or two, she finds it easier to roast the squash in small batches to keep them fresh.
A wood-fired oven is where roasting gets a bit tricky, says Patrick Thirion, co-owner of Peel Wood Fired Pizza in Edwardsville, Illinois. “It’s not a gas or electric oven, where you can train somebody and set a time and temperature and cook it,” he says. “it’s more hands-on.”
With an active specials menu, Peel has experimented with roasting — from broc- coli, mushrooms, and tomatoes to cauliflower, celery root and even meats.
Each vegetable is treated differently to get a nice browning. Thirion says mushrooms roast well without a flame, but for his butter- nut squash he puts a lot of logs on the fire so there’s a good flame rolling over the dome.
Cutting vegetables to the right dimension makes all the difference. root vegetables should be cut smaller, while more delicate veg- gies should be chopped larger. Keep in mind how the pieces will look on a pizza, Thirion says.
With a 900-degree oven, Thirion says the pans you choose are crucial. For most veggies, he uses a standard sheet pan. For items that require a longer cooking time, like his oven- roasted maple bourbon bone-in pork loin, he went with a thick cast-iron plate, which helps distribute heat evenly and keeps the bottom from scorching.
Darryl Reginelli, co-owner of the nine-unit Reginelli’s Pizzeria in New Orleans, Louisiana, maximizes his conveyor ovens — roasting eggplant, red peppers, tomatoes and garlic. One run through the conveyor takes about 6 minutes at 525 F.
Peeled garlic cloves are drowned in olive oil with salt, pepper and rosemary. They run through the oven on a sheet pan twice. The garlic can be spread like butter afterwards.
The red peppers and tomatoes are roasted whole, with six to eight passes through the conveyor. They have two applications: skinned and added to the prep line and pureed with skins for a spicy roasted red pepper sauce. The sauce is a big hit and would not be the same without roasting, reginelli says. “It sweetens it and gives a great color,” he says. “It gives it that roasted smoky flavor and takes the acidity out.”
Reginelli offers an efficiency tip: cook the peppers and tomatoes in the morning during prep — place them in the oven, turn off the conveyor and don’t forget to set a timer. a few quick tricks of the trade from rose- Geiger, Thirion and Reginelli:
Keep seasonings basic (salt, pepper, olive oil) to bring out the vegetable’s natural flavors
Keep careful watch while roasting
Test shapes of veggies for optimal cooking time
Offer roasted items across the menu to limit waste.
Now get roasting!
Roasted Vegetable pizza
11/2 pounds red and yellow bell pepper
11/2 pounds Roma tomatoes
1 pound zucchini 1 pound red onion 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil Salt to taste
Fresh rosemary to taste
Fresh oregano to taste Fresh basil chopped to taste
1/2 cup fresh garlic, coarsely chopped
1/2 cup whole milk mozzarella, shredded
Garlic/herb/olive oil sauce
Place vegetables in a bowl. Add salt, herbs and olive oil. Completely coat vegetables with mixture.
Place vegetables on a roasting pan in 400 F oven for 45 minutes. (Oven temperatures may vary. Vegetables may need longer or shorter cooking times.)
Place pan on a cooling tray, about 15 minutes, until steaming stops. Place vegetables in cooler until ready to use.
Throw out fresh pizza dough. Using a pastry brush, brush on garlic-herb-olive oil sauce, covering the dough. Layer vegetables (reserving leftovers) and lightly sprinkle on cheese, Then bake.
Roasted Pepper & Tomato Pizza
1 12-inch pizza shell
1/2 pound shredded Asiago or fontina cheese (about 2 cups)
6 (3/4 pound - 1 pound) large fresh plum or Roma tomatoes, sliced crosswise 1/4-inch thick
2 tablespoons grated parmesan cheese
3/4 cup roasted red bell peppers cut into strips
15 (about) leaves fresh basil Extra-virgin olive oil
Sprinkle half the fontina evenly over the pizza crust. Arrange the tomatoes evenly over the cheese. Sprinkle on the Parmesan. Lay the bell pepper strips in a pattern on the pizza. Add the remaining cheese. Bake the pizza.
After the pizza comes out of the oven tear or snip (with scis- sors) the basil leaves and scatter them over the pizza. Drizzle some olive oil over the pizza.
Denise Greer is associate editor at Pizza Today
Photo by Rick Daugherty
Walk the average commercial block and you may notice a lot more digital signage about.The retail sector, including restaurants, has seen a surge in digital displays.
Raf Vanreusel, managing partner at TelemediaVision in Baltimore, Maryland, says retail is one of the fastest growing markets for digital signage. The QSR industry was an early adopter of digital menu boards.
With commodity cost fluctuations, digital menu boards have allowed them to adjust pricing easily and without the hefty printing fees.
In the cases of fast-casual, full-service and fine-dining establishments, digital menu boards may not reflect the concept that pizzeria operators are going for. Digital signage encompasses abroad array of digital screens — from menu boards and promotional displays to kiosks and interactive channels — that may be more suited for different types of concepts. Nino Perna, owner of Nick & Nino’s Coal Oven Pizza in Monroe, Michigan, had 24 flat-screen TVs installed throughout his restaurant when it opened three years ago. Four of the screens are dedicated as the pizzeria’s channel. The screens display photos of menu items,specials and promotions, and special events, as well as advertising the restaurant’s heated patio.
The system helps sell items, Perna says, such as the coal-fired baby back ribs he introduced. “at first, the ribs weren’t selling until we started showing the ribs as they came out of the oven on the screens,” he says. “Now they are one of our most popular menu items.” Perna enlists a professional photographer to shoot artistic food shots regularly. he also works with a local marketing company to produce content and update the screens.
Restaurants are going digital for a number of reasons. Bryan Meszaros, founder of Openeye Global in New Jersey, says the biggest draw of digital is the speed to market. “Digital enables them to get their message out a lot quicker and it gives them more flexibility,” he says, adding that there’s also tremendous upsell and promotional potential and enhancements to the customer experience.
Meszaros says that many of the barriers keeping operators from going digital have been broken. “It’s not difficult to install; it’s not difficult
to maintain and it’s not difficult to produce content for,” he says. a digital system consists of screens, a media player (computer), management software, a wireless or network connection and mounting systems.
LCD screens are most commonly used, followed by plasma. Meszaros has seen an increase in the higher- priced LeD displays for their energy efficiency and sleeker frame.
Software varies from intelligent programs that integrate with a store’s POS system to ones that play a continual loop of various videos, animations and images, either designed by the operator or a third party.
The entire set-up is customized for each business and a single system can run $900 to $1,500 on the low side, Meszaros says. a complete menu board system with four-panel display, installation, design, hardware and software may run upwards of $10,000 with buy or lease options. With such a significant investment, VanReusel suggests that when you are vetting for the project, be sure that the suppliers are local.
If something should go down or malfunctions, “you need someone on the ground,” he says. Meszaros and VanReusel say operators also should not be surprised by a monthly fee associated with the system, ranging from $30 to $100 depending on the system. The fees typically cover things like web hosting, maintenance and content changes.
Both Meszaros and VanReusel caution operators not to be lured by the low-priced consumer television market. The Digital Screenmedia association offers guidance for screens. Consumer-grade screens are rated for 20,000 hours of use, while commercial grade extends 50,000- 60,000 hours. Using a retail screen in a business setting often voids the typical one-year warranty, but commercial grade averages a three- year warranty.
When it comes to digital promotional signage, placement is key to success. “You have to be a little more strategic about where the screen is at,” Meszaros says. Point of sale and waiting areas are hot spots for digital signage. In high foot-traffic locations, window displays draw passersby.
The final — and most important — piece of the digital puzzle is the content. The content is dynamic, Meszaros says. “Think of it as a Web page, and it’s pulling information from all of these different sources,” he says, elaborating that sources could include: photos, scrolling text, video, and Facebook, Twitter and RSS feeds.
Meszaros suggests to use a mix of things to help set the ambiance for the dining experience. Keep the content fresh is the best advice Perna says he can give. “If people are accustomed to seeing the same thing, they will stop looking at the screens.” Perna rotates in new content at Nick & Nino’s once a month, changing everything from the images to the colors and backgrounds used.
Ask the Right Questions
Brian Gorg, executive director of the Digital Signage Federation (DSF), says that dynamic digital signage has a place, but does not replace static signage. It all fits together. If you are considering digital signage, the DSF poses questions that you should con- sider asking potential digital signage vendors:
u Is it web-based? Does it stream or upload to the media player?
u If the server goes down or Internet is unavailable, will the media player still perform?
u Do I have to create my own con- tent, or do you provide that service? u Can I perform local content inser- tion, allowing managers to override product pricing/availability?
u Are you able to display multiple RSS feeds on the screen?
u What type(s) of software and/or hardware support do you offer?
u How much training is available to me after purchase?
For a complete list of the questions to ask digital signage vendors, visit www.digitalsignagefederation.org.
Denise Greer is associate editor at Pizza Today.
Learn dough inside and out by taking a look at our extensive Dough Doctor archive at pizzatoday.com/lehmann
Big Dave’s Word
From cheese prices to new year strategies, Big Dave has you covered at pizzatoday.com/big-dave-ostrander
ZPizza Seal Beach
Happy $5 pizza Tuesday to you! Tonight when you buy any pizza, any size, the second one is just $5. Also includes #glutenfree crust!
Why it works: This promotion encourages folks to order a second pizza when they might normally only order one. The post also lets followers know this zpizza location offers gluten-free pizza, and once you get those customers in they’re likely to return.
Pete’s New Haven
Get Pete’s for dinner tonight - 20% of all sales today will be donated to Red Cross to help cover post-Sandy storm relief efforts.
Why it works: Pete’s is using its brand profile — which is growing in the Washington, D.C. area — to help in a time of need makes. This simple Tweet let customers know that recovery is top of mind –– as is Pete’s ability to help. Good karma is good for business!
Pizza Today, Big Dave Ostrander, and some of the most successful independent pizzeria operators in the country have joined forces to create the world’s first School of Pizzeria Management.
IS NOW OPEN!
You can now “LIKE” School of Pizzeria Management on Facebook!
FACEBOOK PIZZA FEEDS
Great Scott’s Pizza Our most popular coupon/deal lately has
been the Family Feast. It’s a 14” Specialty Pizza & a 12” 1-Top- ping Pizza for only $20.00. That’s only $10.00 each and available with free delivery!
Why it works: This post shows that Great Scott’s doesn’t charge a delivery fee in an age when every dollar counts. Plus, the deal is great for families and is priced attractively.
Rosario’s Italian Restaurant The Staff at Rosario’s has decided to donate all their tips and some of their wages on the evening of Nov 27th to Hearts with a Mission. Rosarios will also donate $2 from every meal purchased that evening. Please come out and show your support.
Why it works: This is a staff with a big heart. Not only are the employees generous, but the fact that the restaurant is supporting their cause deserves applause for all.
Photos by Rick Daugherty & Josh Keown
With 130 Domino’s Pizza outlets under his charge, Glenn Mueller signs plenty of checks for delivery drivers. The head of Gulfport, Mississippi- based RPM Pizza, Mueller, a30-year veteran of the pizza world, has watched competitors throughout the restaurant landscape rush into the delivery business with little understanding of its nuance and complexities.
And the delivery business, Mueller contends, is nothing but nuance and complexity.
While running delivery service looks easy to many, it remains a convoluted array of local, state and federal directives, including how drivers — who can be employees paid an hourly rate or tip-credited wages — are compensated, as well as how they are reimbursed for use of their own vehicle.
Adrian Sawyer, a San Francisco- based attorney with Kerr & Wagstaffe LLP who defends nationwide employment class actions, says there are various pitfalls to employing delivery drivers, including the requirement that employers report tips — a process simplified given the rise of credit card purchases and online ordering — as well as regulations in some states that prohibit an employer from applying tips toward a driver’s wage.
Further problems can arise if operations pay their drivers under the table or compensate drivers as independent contractors.
“You have to be careful drivers are being paid the appropriate amount or you can end up violating federal labor laws,” Sawyer says. “The balance here is complying with the law, which imposes significant burdens and requires attention to detail that isn’t readily apparent to everyone, while simultaneously controlling expenses and running a profitable business.”
Under federal law, restaurants are required to pay delivery drivers $2.13 per hour if they utilize the tip credit, though gratuities must push each driver over the $7.25 federal minimum wage. In the event that the $7.25 hourly rate is not met on a workweek basis, an employer must make up the difference.
For instance, an employer using the federal tip-credit rate of $2.13 per hour would pay his driver $31.95 for a 15-hour workweek; yet, that driver’s tips for the week would need to total $76.80 or more to ensure that the operator was meeting the minimum wage requirements ($7.25/hour) of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA).
“If that driver only received $70 in tips, then the operator would need to add $6.80 to the pay period to meet federal requirements,”American Payroll Association (APA) Director of education and Training Jim Medlock explains, adding that many computerized payroll systems compute weekly minimums at the federal and state level to secure compliance.
In addition, Medlock reminds that drivers working more than 40 hours in a given workweek would also need to be compensated at the standard overtime rate of time-and-a-half.
Beyond driver wages and tips, there also remains the issue of reimbursing drivers for use of their own personal vehicles, a particularly thorny subject as fuel costs rise.
Operators can reimburse delivery drivers in one of three ways: mileage logs; a flat-rate policy; or to set the base pay high enough that the minimum wage will be covered even as expenses are accounted for on the paycheck.
According to the internal Revenue Service, the standard rate of driver reimbursement is 55 cents per mile, a tally that addresses fuel, repairs, insurance and automobile depreciation.
Mueller’s RPM Pizza reimburses its drivers by the mile and shifts the number on a weekly basis according to local gas prices from AAA and a third-party agency familiar with local mileage reimbursement rates for food delivery. he says clarity and transparency is key.
“You can’t just be tossing out arbitrary numbers,” Mueller says, adding that state restaurant associations can often direct operators to sound advice on local reimbursement rates. “Our drivers want to know how mileage rates are set and how they will be reimbursed… and appreciate that we’re doing our best to be fair.”
Rather than logging miles and compensating at a per mile rate, operators might set a flat rate for mileage reimbursement that considers the typical distance a driver travels for a delivery and the average tip he receives. A flat rate, Sawyer says, offers operators predictability and maintains fairness to employees.
“Involve drivers in this process, as they know how far they’re going and what they typically get for tips,” Sawyers says.
Furthermore, Sawyer suggests operators also have a policy in place for additional “unexpected” expenses, such as a flat tires or lockouts. While smaller operations might deal with unforeseen situations on an as- needed basis, larger chains might have a defined policy in an employee handbook.
“The idea here is clarity and predictability,” Sawyer says, noting that unpaid driver expenses could spark problems with FLSA compliance.
Finally, there is the lingering issue of delivery fees, which customers can easily — and mistakenly — confuse with a driver tip and, in doing so, bring unnecessary pressure upon operators. Sawyer suggests all pizzerias have a clear message on their menus, Web site, and receipt that details the difference between the delivery fee and the driver’s gratuity.
As one example, delivery kingpin Domino’s shares this message on its homepage: “Any Delivery Charge is not a tip paid to your driver. Please reward your driver for awesomeness.”
Compensating the cross-trained delivery driver
At nine-unit Colorado-based pizza chain Borriello Brothers, management considers drivers back-of-the- house staff who also deliver.
“Our drivers aren’t just drivers and we train them accordingly,” say Borriello Brothers Operations Specialist Adam Rickett. “They’re able to prep food, jump on the register, take phone orders, and so on.”
Rickett says cross-trained drivers builds operational cohesiveness and enhances customer service. For those benefits, however, such job swapping throughout a shift can also leave an operation susceptible to FLSA violations as the tip credit can only be applied to certain staff positions.
To avoid any errors, Borriello Brothers requires its staff to clock in and out for individual jobs. Though sometimes tedious, the APA’s Jim Medlock calls that practice the “safest way” to ensure appropriate employee compensation.
“In clocking in and out, operators know how many hours a staff member worked in different positions of the restaurant that have different pay rates,” Medlock says.
Chicago-based writer Daniel P. Smith has covered business issues and best practices for a variety of trade publications, newspapers, and magazines.
Photos by Josh Keown
In a typical day, Woodstock’s Pizza in isla vista, California, will make about 60 deliveries
across the lunch and dinner dayparts.
To homes, office complexes, industrial spots and the nearby campus of University of California, Santa Barbara (UCSB), a daily staff of 10 Woodstock’s drivers will hit doors across the Isla Vista area. The sheer number of deliveries, including some to less traveled parts of town, Woodstock’s marketing representative Jeff Willis confesses, leaves room for errors, wrong turns and delays.
“When you have that many drivers out on the road, mistakes can happen,” Willis says, recalling one driver who got lost on his return trip from a nearby oil refinery. “he hadn’t been in that area before and mistook a left for a right.”
Fortunately, pizzeria operators and drivers alike have a number of contemporary tools capable of streamlining the delivery process.
With GPS, satellite images, smartphones, and customizable mapping solutions, we’ve come a long way from the rand McNally road atlas. Though
a trusty part of any delivery driver’s arsenal, the traditional printed map has largely given way to tech-charged solutions that make delivery execution more efficient and predictable.
In recent years, many pizzerias, including independent stores like Woodstock’s, have turned to customized delivery maps in which operators identify the center of the map, typically their restaurant, and then select a custom area defined by radius, distance, or drive time. at Woodstock’s, for instance, red lines define different delivery zones and each zone’s accompanying fee.
Featuring large graphics, high detail levels and an a-to-z street directory, these printed maps help staff easily locate an address, verify its place in the delivery area and approximate delivery time. Drivers, meanwhile, can use the map as a large-scale visual tool to plan their route.
Robert Burns, director of marketing at California-based Maps.com, a provider of mapping products to businesses, says that while drivers might utilize a GPS or smartphone to travel from the store to a customer, the customized overview maps assist in the journey’s planning stage and provide a level of detail and reliability absent in digital solutions.
“Print maps provide a quick reference (and) instant answers that digital solutions do not,” Burns says, adding that operators utilizing a Maps.com solution can define the size of their map and finishing treatment. “This really benefits independent and small chains the most, where they have very specific delivery areas or where multiple stores serve adjacent areas.”
At Woodstock’s, Willis has observed a “huge improvement” in driver performance since the store posted its customized map in late 2011. he says many of his drivers use the poster- sized map, which sits directly above the driver’s station, as an easy-to-read reference tool to understand where they’re heading. on the road, drivers can then pull out their smartphone or a GPS unit as necessary.
“Our map has become an essential communication tool. There is now less confusion about driving areas, fewer lost drivers, and fewer mistakes,” Willis says.
Another no-frills, but tech-enabled tool, driver map books provide extensive on-the-go details on specific communities. Often laminated, these portable maps can include a whole territory or different subsets with extensive details for convenience of use.
“These are most popular to break larger territories into smaller pieces and hand out to drivers to keep in their vehicles,” says Jorge Azpilicueta of DeliveryMaps.com, a leading resource for delivery maps and applications.
On the more high-tech side, digital maps can offer the same level of detail and data as the printed options, but be integrated into POS systems.
Digital maps “are very useful for zooming and viewing with more detail any portion of the map,” Azpilicueta says, noting that many single-store operations tend to favor wall maps, digital maps, driver maps or a combination of the three to plan delivery routes, while larger chains invest in more complex applications to automate the routing.
DeliveryMaps.com can also create web applications, the most high-tech — and costly — of all delivery solutions. Typical web applications provide an interactive interface that allows operators to customize delivery routes, provide directions, offer time estimates, and identify alternative routes. Maps can then be created and printed for each delivery.
Azpilicueta says the web application technology is best suited for small chains with five to 10 stores to larger regional or national chains. he adds that operators using web applications have access to a custom-made system to organize deliveries, as well as the ability to match the delivery address against the territories assigned to each store location. The system can then decide which store should receive a given order.
“Clients can improve delivery times, reduce delivery costs, and save all this information for further use analysis,” Azpilicueta says.
As technology continues its charge, Burns says future driver solutions might include enhanced visualizations, as well as mapping of customers and deliveries against demographics.
“This would enable even the owner- operated business to see who the customers are and tailor offers and publicity to suit,” Burns says. “This type of software is currently used by major multiples, but in many smaller stores is the type of data that the owner carries in their head, sometimes inaccurately.”
Chicago-based writer Daniel P.Smith has covered business issues and best practices for a variety of trade publications,newspapers, and magazines.
Photos by Josh Keown
Ricotta is one of the most versatile cheeses that is so abundantly available and incredibly easy to use. if you’re not taking advantage of ricotta and its many uses, it’s time to give it a serious look. over the years through the magazine, Pizza Today web site and Pizza expo, I’ve shown more than a dozen different ways to use ricotta and today I’ll take you on yet another culinary expedition to explore even more creative ways to use this smooth and sultry cheese. here are some quick and easy uses:
Ricotta gnocchi are fun and easy to make. by making ricotta gnocchi, you eliminate need to boil, peel and rice potatoes, which takes time, space and energy. Ricotta gnocchi dough literally takes about two minutes, at most, to mix. roll out the dough, cut them into pieces and drop them in salted boiling water for about three minutes and you are ready to sauce them in the 100 different ways they can be sauced.
Consider using a super fine and smooth impastata-style ricotta for your house-made tiramisu, instead of the traditional mascarpone, which is not always easy to find and when you do it’s quite expensive in comparison to ricotta.
One of the first uses for ricotta that comes to mind is making your own cannoli cream. it takes under a minute to mix up and is better than anything you’ll ever buy. Use impastata-style ricotta, powdered sugar and almond extract.
Create a super-rich ricotta-based alfredo sauce using ricotta, cream, garlic and Parmesan with some cracked black pepper and salt. it is about as luxurious as you’ll get (unless you add some chunks of lobster meat, of course).
For breakfast you can mix some ricotta with an egg and a pinch of sugar and roll that filling into a crepe. Fold in the sides and roll it up and you now have a cheese blintz, which can be pan fried and topped with all kinds of fruit compotes.
Ricotta can be used in calzones and even on pizza. A small amount of ricotta can be the main ingredient in a calzone, but I like to marry other ingredients, which generally come from your pizza toppings. white pizza has many different angles and definitions depending on whose restaurant and region you are in. Sometimes a white pizza means there is no sauce whatsoever. other times, it means that there is just a little olive oil instead of sauce.
One more version of a white pizza has some ricotta cheese smoothed out over the crust then topped with the customer’s choice. and ricotta can be used as a mozzarella substitute by dropping spoonfuls of it onto the pizza and bake as normal.
Ricotta Fritta Pizza
¾ cup of superfine ricotta 3 eggs
¼ cup Parmesan
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon granular garlic
¼ teaspoon black pepper 3 ounces diced ham
3 ounces diced roasted red pepper 4 ounces chopped cooked spinach
4 ounces shredded or diced mozzarella provolone blend
Stretch the dough onto or into a 14-inch screen or pan. Make sure you leave a little bit of an edge to this so the mixture doesn’t spill out while baking.
Mix the ricotta, egg, Parmesan, spinach, roasted peppers and ham together with the salt, pepper and garlic. Pour it onto the dough. Sprinkle the mozzarella and provolone over the top. You’ll notice that this is much less cheese than a regular pizza (and that’s how I like it since there is ricotta in the filling already).
Bake as you would normally bake a pizza and serve as soon as it comes out. You’ll notice this pizza resemble the flavor of a good quiche.
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.
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