Ask Big Dave: Start-up worries

pizzeria interior

Q: 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?

Phil Cross
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

A: 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.

Big Dave Ostrander owned a highly successful independent pizzeria before becoming a consultant, speaker and internationally sought-after trainer. He is a monthly contributor to Pizza Today.

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