Photo by Josh Keown
If you had the opportunity to sit down with the man who predicted the stock market crash of 1987, the fall of the Soviet empire, the bursting of the dot com bubble, the real estate collapse, and even the bottled water and gourmet coffee craze, what would you ask him?
Well, I asked Gerald Celente, founder of Trends Research Institute, the man behind the predictions, this question: “If you owned a pizzeria right now in this economy — and you couldn’t sell it or burn it to the ground — what would you do to make it successful and provide a reliable income for you and your family?”
Gerald calmly said: “Those offering great quality at an affordable price will thrive in this economy. They will attract those who still desire a slice of the good life, but are watching their budgets.” He went on to say that “now is a great time to be in the pizza business. It’s the best positioned segment of the market to benefit from an economic downturn.”
Is that so? Right here in Las Vegas, where I live, Gerald Shlesenger recently dropped a pretty penny opening Ciao Ciao. I met him at last year’s Pizza Expo, and assisted him a bit with marketing. And rather than point at pricing, he talks about what goes into the pizza and how it’s baked at 900 F in a wood-fired oven. He talks about his imported Italian ingredients and aged pizza dough.
His place is first class all the way. From the wood burning oven, the topnotch ingredients, and the fl at screens lining the walls, it’s a very comfortable place to hang out. Prices are reasonable for the caliber of the restaurant — and the place is booming. He’s tapped right into the very niche people are hunting for right now. They want a great experience without breaking the bank.
“Pizza is the number one food in America,” says Shlesenger. “It’s a value priced meal that is right for the times. Despite the current economic downturn, this is the perfect time to open a restaurant like this that allows families, couples and individuals to enjoy their favorite food prepared like they have never tasted before.” His pizzas are priced from $9.95 to $17.95.
Gerald is also the front man being featured in the ads. This brings personality and a human connection to the business. Instead of a faceless pizza joint, guests get to know “Gerald.” When your face is on the ad, it shows pride.
Take a peek at Jeremy White’s column in the recent January issue. A favorite pizzeria switched to a cheaper cheese … and lost a customer. So, while the urge is to cut costs, the right move is to keep quality up and prices reasonable. Use value-added offers instead of money-off discounts.
Back in the roaring ‘90s I was jacking up prices and flaunting the most expensive pizza in town. That worked well at that time. But times are different. Belts are tightened, and people are unemployed. Even in the worst of times, people gravitate to activities that provide an escape from reality. A good movie replaces a more expensive outing. A great pizza replaces a steak dinner.
I’ll leave you this month with a quote from Charles Darwin: “It is not the strongest of the species that survive, nor the most intelligent, but the ones most responsive to change.” ❖
Kamron Karington owned a highly successful independent pizzeria before becoming a consultant, speaker and author of The Black Book: Your Complete Guide to Creating Staggering Profits in Your Pizza Business. He is a monthly contributor to Pizza Today.
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