September 20, 2012 |

Complancency in Non-Pizza Items

By Jeremy White

Recently, I was visiting a pizzeria and discussing its menu with the owner. He does a New York-style hand tossed pizza, and he does it well. It’s the workhorse of his menu and he’s very proud of it. When the conversation turned to his appetizer list, he became dismissive. Though he recognizes appetizer sales are red hot right now, he insists he wants to be known for his pizza.

As well he should. But at what price? In today’s market, having great pizza may not be enough. The operator I was speaking with seemed to agree with that point to a small degree. He had a complete menu, but he seemed to treat the non-pizza items as unwanted stepchildren. Case in point: I asked him about his chicken wings.

“Oh,” he said, “those are just on there because people expect us to have them. But we don’t really sell many of them.”

“Hmmm,” I replied. “Most places do. Have you tried having your servers push them a little?”

“It wouldn’t matter,” the operator responded. He then named a competitor up the street. We’ll call the place Dave’s Pizza for this commentary. “Dave’s has much better wings, so people go there when they want those.”

I asked what made Dave’s wings better. The operator answered that they were larger and just flat-out had better flavor. I couldn’t help but ask why he didn’t upgrade his wings to be more competitive. He more or less dodged the question and said he was thinking of taking wings off his menu altogether.

I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. If you try really hard to sell a product and just can’t move it, then, by all means, take it off the menu. But this was a different story altogether. The operator in question admitted he was serving an inferior product and he didn’t care because he had great pizza and that was enough for him.

As for me, I believe that an operation should strive for perfection on every menu item. Sure, you want the best pizza in town. But you also want the best wings, the best hoagies, the best carrot cake … you name it. If you’re going to serve it, do it right. Otherwise, don’t do it at all.