What’s up with the whole ‘Artisan’ pizza movement?
Sarah Matchell Des Moines, Iowa via Twitter
In my entire lifetime of living in the world of pizza, I cannot remember a time like the present. Our industry is in the middle of a revolution. From coast to coast and around the world, cutting edge pizzaiolos and the public have turned back to the basics. The basics with an upscale edge, that is.
I see our industry at a tipping point. I can always envision traditional pizza being the mainstay. Not much has changed since my favorite Uncle Ralph surprised my family with a pizza party over 50 years ago. I can still recall that “Oh, Wow” moment when I took my second bite. I didn’t know it at the time, but that moment was defining for me. Ten years later, I was making and baking pizzas at a new place on Seven Mile Road that opened in Detroit in the mid 60’s. A few years later, I somehow managed to open my own place. Back then, pizza truly was Artisan. Dough was made every day from flour and water and a few basic ingredients. Sauce was seasoned and spiced using carefully guarded recipes. We shredded or diced our cheeses every day. Remember the aromas in the kitchen? Pepperoni was not even available pre sliced. We sliced it on meat slicers or through a cutter that attached to the front end of our dough mixer. All of our veggies were hand cut with real chef’s knives in the backroom every day. These pizzas of yesteryear are getting harder and harder to find.
Pizza’s popularity drove the industry to invent new ways to make and bake more in less time. The pizzaiolos were slowly replaced with assembly line persons that topped prepared dough and baked them through a tunnel in an automated oven. The industry could barely keep up with the demand. Big multinational franchises started to own the market and positioned their style of pizza as the norm. School kids everywhere were conditioned to accept cookie cutter, pre-prepped pizza as the real deal.
The passion for the product was almost lost. However, a small group of old-school pizza makers refused to lower the bar on the product by taking every short cut imaginable. Today, thankfully, there’s resurgence in this very direction.
Can you remember the last time you made an ‘Oh, Wow’ pie? I truly hope it was today. Your customers are becoming more and more sophisticated with their expectations. Sure, people will always buy belly fillers — but once you get a craving for a truly hand-crafted, Artisan Pizza … Well, everything else becomes second and third choice.
When I think Artisan, I think of scratch-made, handcrafted and all natural. Artisan, to me, simply means treating food the way it should be treated each step of the preparation and baking process and never taking shortcuts that compromise the food in any way. It takes time to develop flavor. When companies focus on production efficiencies rather than quality, that product will never win 1st prize in any of the contests I have been in. Period.
As my good friend Tony Gemignani says, “Respect the Craft ... and the Craftsman.”
Now is the time to start experimenting with new offerings and creating some truly “Oh, Wow” pies. Your customers are hungry for 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.
PHOTOS BY RICK DAUGHERTY & JOSH KEOWN
No business is more vulnerable than a cash-only business. Record- keeping is often sparse. Every day, there are hundreds of transactions that can’t be traced. The lure of taking money out of the till is great. Unless the company maintains a series of checks and controls, there’s little oversight. In time, the motivation to be scrupulous fades. The IRS knows this and targets such concerns as their most frequent audit choice.
In part, that’s because the IRS recovery rate with cash-only business is extremely high. No one knows the exact statistics (the IRS keeps this information strictly confidential), but one IRS agent tells me that if you’re a cash-only business, you have three times the chance of being audited and five times the chance of owing some money to them.
The interesting thing is that the IRS has set forth very little requirements for cash-only business. There is no dictated procedure for record- keeping, no preferred system of taking in cash, no computer requirements and no designated forms to use. One reason for this slackness is that the cash-only business involves everything from mall booths to food carts. For these low-end concerns, it’s difficult to create uniform standards and to require universal compliance from these diverse concerns.
As a first step, if you are a cash- only business, realize that your audit risk is high. Check payments and charge receipts leave paper trails. Cash doesn’t. That’s why there’s a lot of suspicion. Auditors might select your company in their random audits. A few business auditors might decide to concentrate on cash- only operations and scour the pizza industry for potential candidates. A computer-checking program might be set up to select cash businesses to audit. Yet another method of triggering an audit is a disgruntled ex-employee calling the IRS and pointing the finger at your concern. So you are on their radar –– probably, one day, it will be your turn. The question is, how will you handle the investigation?
The general rule is maintain scrupulous records with backup proof. If you keep books through Quicken or another computerized system, keep backup tapes to substantiate monthly figures. You could keep monthly file folders with 30 tapes, each tape clearly dated. If you keep a ledger account book, devote a page to each day. Have the total cash sales. Scotch tape in the cash register tape. Include any backup information you need.
Another excellent form of backup is to deposit the take in your bank every day. Then the bank deposit slip is the backup, which, of course, you will save in a monthly folder along with the bank statement. If you just keep a cash box, then come up with a method of correlation. Have two employees sign a form that the revenue is accurate every day of the work year.
Back-up is the essential component. Without backup, the IRS has to take your word for the figures and they don’t like to do that. They want some tangible evidence that your figures are accurate. In an IRS audit, the burden is on you to prove your case. The IRS can simply disallow your figures and create their own figures. They will do that if they don’t have confidence in your numbers. They might investigate your business variables — sales to cost of product, sales to labor, etc –– and if the numbers don’t tally, this could be a sign that something is not correct. A lifestyle audit might be further evidence that your figures aren’t honest. If you live like a king but earn the profit of a prince, that might set off an alarm.
What you do not want to do is hand the auditor a shoebox of paperwork. Don’t make him work to assemble the data. Have everything laid out in a clear, easy-to-understand format. Total every column. Neatness counts. Make his job easy, or he or she will make it tough on you.
In one case, the IRS examined records that had no backup. The owner insisted that his figures were accurate. The IRS went back to the office and checked in their files to see that solo pizza operators typically had a 30- percent cost-of-goods sold figure. So why did this outfit have a 45 percent? That led them to investigate. An employee gave them information, which led to a full-scale audit. The pizza operator wound up owing several thousands of dollars.
In a cash business, there is always the temptation to take money out of the till. It’s easy, it’s tax-free and it’s tempting. But there are two good reasons not to do so. For one thing, it distorts the business. The numbers — cost of good sold, capital investment, labor percent — won’t gibe. In time you will make decisions based on the unwarranted withdrawals, not on the business basics. That is a time-proven formula for remaining a small business. If you took the time you spent thinking up cash pullout strategies and applied it to running a solid concern, your business would thrive. You would eventually be making more money running an above-the-board operation than in operating a personal cash cow.
The second reason you shouldn’t pull out money is the chance of being caught. Already mentioned is the high probability of audit. But, even worse, once suspected of finessing the books, you will not only face scrutiny of that year. The IRS agent, finding questionable records, can go back several years to assess underpayment. Business graveyards are filled with tombstones of people who got caught. To offer just one example, one profitable business owner decided to not file his taxes. He determined he could go under the radar. When the IRS finally caught up with him, it was eight years later. Because he could not furnish records, they constructed what his income and expense figures might have been (based on previous returns and their own liberal estimates). Result: a $135,000 assessment. Collapse, loss of house, divorce, bankruptcy and fleeing the country followed.
Don’t let that happen to you.
Howard Scott is a former business owner and longtime business writer. He has published 1,600 magazine articles and five books.
We’ve been discussing craft beer around the Pizza Today office quite a bit recently. You see, as beer enthusiasts many of us have a few favorites that we like to introduce to our friends. More than that, however, we all recognize (like many of you, no doubt) that beer and pizza go along as well as peanut butter and jelly. They were truly meant to be together, it seems.
I know a few pizzeria owners that have breweries on site. In fact, I’m pretty friendly with some of them — they’ve even contributed articles to Pizza Today in the past. Operating a brewery, though, is a monumental task. It takes a significant up-front investment, hoards of space and the expertise of a certified and dedicated brew master. Sounds like too much trouble to the average pizzeria owner to me.
That’s where craft brews come in. While there’s a place for pedestrian budget beers like Budweiser and Coors Light, the real truth of the matter is that the American consumer has become increasingly sophisticated and demanding. Point blank: they want a better beer. And they’re willing to pay for it.
For those of you who offer craft beers in your establishment, I want to hear from you. How many do you carry? Bottle or draft? What’s the markup like? How do you market them? How do you market them without compromising your identity as a pizzeria and not confusing people into thinking you’re a bar? Which specific craft beers are selling the best for you? Why?
If you have opted to stay away from craft beer and only offer the big boys like Bud Light and Corona, why is that? I want to hear insights from you as well.
SLICE OF HOPE UPDATE: I’m pleased to announce that Domino’s Pizza, Tutta Bella Neapolitan Pizzeria, Farrelli’s Wood-Fire Pizza, Smith & Greene Company and Kenda Tires have all once-again decided to be primary sponsors for Slice of Hope 2012. Last year Slice of Hope raised a touch over $100,000 for the Karen Mullen Breast Cancer Foundation. Let’s top that this time around!
A Slice of Hope pledge form is now available at PizzaToday.com (see page 13 of this issue for more information). Simply fill out the aforementioned pledge form and e-mail or fax it in to our attention. We’ll add you to the list of donors that we’ll begin publishing in the magazine each month starting with our next edition.
Slice of Hope is a chance for the pizza industry to come together and collectively fight a common cause. It’s a worthwhile endeavor if ever there was one. Last year approximately 200 pizzerias took part. Pizza Today has 40,000 readers. This industry can do better, and the time is now!
Best, Jeremy White, editor-in-chief email@example.com
THE PIZZA GUY AGAWAM, MASSACHUSSETTS
Robert Aversa and his wife, Karen, own The Pizza Guy, a small carryout and delivery brick-oven pizza shop in Agawam, Massachusetts. The Aversas grow a garden behind the pizzeria to provide fresh herbs and produce.
From the beginning, we always wanted to keep the menu small so we could concentrate on making a few items exceptional as opposed to making many items just mediocre. We take pride in the fact that we have a relatively small inventory, yet have been able to create a variety of menu items by using our ingredients interchangeably. Simplicity is also reflected within our recipes, which was recognized by judges during the 2011 Valley Food Championship Playoffs. They referred to our pizza as “Simple Done Right” — a phrase we have since adopted as our motto.
We think that having the garden behind the pizza shop has definitely added to our reputation as it has has peaked customer interest from miles away. During the growing season, our customers get fresh basil and peppers that have literally been picked moments before their pizza is served. Unfortunately, living in New England, we have a very limited growing season. Therefore, we count on our distributors to provide us with the same fresh ingredients during the offseason. Although we do save a small percentage of costs, it is more gratifying for us to know that we can provide our customers with fresh ingredients that we grow ourselves.
We make our dough fresh every day and wanted to offer it to those pizza enthusiasts who like to experiment in the comfort of their own homes. The main instruction we always give our customers is to make sure they have a really good pizza stone and to heat their oven (with the stone inside) to the highest temperature for at least 30 minutes. We give them other options as well, such as making fried dough, stromboli and calzones. We also recommend grilling the dough — a personal favorite of ours. On average, we sell 25-30 dough balls per week.
Offering brick oven pizza for takeout and delivery — we believe it is a combination of the formula of our dough in conjunction with the searing heat of the brick oven stones (which can get up to 800 F). These two factors work together to create a crust crispy enough to withstand pickups and deliveries.
Since winning the 2011 Valley Food Championship Playoffs, it can be up to a two-hour wait on the weekends, which we see as an unbelievable compliment. The increased volume of business has certainly posed the question of whether or not we should expand. As of right now, we take great pride in being the small neighborhood pizza shop that won such a big contest. We feel that expanding beyond our current space may take away from the more personal atmosphere, which our customers have grown to love. What is next for The Pizza Guy? Well, we are certainly enjoying our newfound fame and are currently researching the proper channels to distribute our dough locally.
Feel free to tinker with the design of the QR codes you use in your marketing — only 30 percent of the code is used to make it work.
Delivery accounts for approximately 35 percent of U.S. pizza sales.
Slice of Hope 2012 takes place
Friday, October 12.
Last year the initiative raised over $100,000 for the Karen Mullen Breast Cancer Foundation.
/// Places That Rock // Wolfman Pizza / Verde Coal Oven / Harry’s Pizzeria
106-B S. Sharon Amity
Charlotte, North Carolina 28211
Aaahoo, werewolves of Charlotte — this monster-themed restaurant has three locations in North Carolina’s principal city, with one of its stores currently undergoing renovations. Wolfman’s has a black 1950s Ford Fairlane station wagon decked out with red flames prowling the streets with deliveries. The pizzeria serves up California style pizza. Any pizza can also be made into a take-and-bake pie. Specialty pies include the White Wolf with garlic butter, mozzarella, swiss and Parmesan cheeses, Roma tomatoes and basil ($16.59 for a 16-inch) and the Chickenstein with diced chicken breast, sun-dried tomatoes, Roma tomatoes, basil, mozzarella, goat cheese and sun-dried tomato pesto ($17 for a 16-inch). A different take on an appetizer, Wolfbites are bite-sized rolls stuffed with gruyere cheese and Buffalo sauce, served with a bleu cheese dipping sauce ($6.49)
254 Irving Avenue
Brooklyn, New York 11237
Talk about a pizzeria with a great story. Contractor Charlie Verde was in the midst of restoring a Bushwick Brooklyn, New York, building when he discovered a 1907 coal-fired oven in its basement. An artisan pizzeria was born and became a reality in 2011. Its list of pizza offerings is small but packed with Italian flavors like the Margherita or Cariofilla with artichokes, ricotta and mozzarella ($12). The menu also features the Brocoletta Salsiccia with sweet Italian sausage, broccoli rabe, mozzarella, tomato and garlic ($15) and the Diavolo with hot sopressata, hot peppers, mushrooms, mozzarella, tomato and basil ($12). Baking bread in-house fresh each day, the sandwiches like the Mortadella with Italian bologna, mozzarella, mixed greens, lemon juice and black pepper ($10) or Veggie with roasted seasonal vegetables and basil pesto ($10) are inviting. And the coal-fired biscotti? It’s become a house favorite.
3918 North Miami Avenue
Miami, Florida 33127
Harry’s has earned hip points for hosting national- and world-renowned chefs once a month for culinary events. Tickets to these “chef pop-up guest” dinners like May’s event with Kevin Sbraga, winner of Bravo’s Top Chef in 2010, go for $129 and include a family-style meal and autographed goodies. The pizzeria also partners with its cinema neighbors to do a dinner and a movie series. Its menu boasts locally sourced ingredients for pizzas like the MGFD Bacon with fingerling, caramelized onions, cave aged gruyere and arugula ($15); the Rock Shrimp with grilled lemon, manchego, scallion and cilantro ($15); and the Slow Roasted Pork with fig, grilled onion, fontina and arugula ($14). Salads are also a hot item. The Peach & Frisee is topped with hazelnuts, blue cheese and honey vinaigrette (9) and the Orange and Radish is dressed with green olives, shaved fennel, arugula and piave ($9).
One aspect of pizza dough production that just doesn’t go away is that of flavored or herb infused dough. A number of years ago, several of the big box chains offered herb-flavored doughs. Then a lot of the independents got into the act, too. The trend waxed and waned over the years, but this time it appears to have come with some baggage –– today, herb and flavored doughs have captured the attention of industrial suppliers who want to make the use of various herbs and flavoring materials easier and more flavorful than ever before. If successful, flavored doughs may take on a whole new personality and level of acceptance in the months to come.
When making flavored doughs we must keep in mind that both garlic and onion need to be used in moderation as they can soften or weaken the dough. It is suggested that the combined level for both of these ingredients not exceed 0.15 percent of the total flour weight in the dough. To find what this weight should be, use your calculator and enter the flour weight –– preferably in ounces –– and then press “x” followed by 0.15. Next, press the “%” key and read the answer in the display window. Remember, it will be expressed in the same weight measures that the flour was given in. For example, if you are using
25 pounds of flour, the calculation would look like this: 25 x 16 = 400-ounces of flour; 400 x 0.15 press the “%” key and read 0.6 ounces of combined onion and garlic powder. If a level greater than this is added, you will need to make adjustments to the way you handle and manage your dough to accommodate the increased softness and weakness. If you are already using an L-cysteine, or dead yeast-based dough softener, you should be able to replace all or a portion of it with the onion, and/or garlic powder, thus getting the flavor and dough softening all at the same time and (possibly saving you a few pennies in the process).
No such precautions need to be taken with any of the other ingredients commonly used to flavor the dough/crust such as oregano, basil, pepper, sun-dried tomato, Parmesan cheese, Romano cheese, olives, rosemary, red and green peppers, etc. Sun-dried tomato is the only one of these that comes to mind as needing any special handling or treatment prior to addition to the dough. These need to be presoaked in oil (preferably olive oil) for several hours or overnight. Failure to do so will result in the tomatoes having all of the textural properties of little pieces of leather in the dough. Any of the other herbs can be added just as they are. They will hydrate from the moisture in the dough and give off a wonderful flavor and aroma as a result of the baking process. All of those little pieces of red and green will also provide an interesting and somewhat rustic appearance to the dough that compliments its unique flavor.
There is another side to flavoring of doughs that we don’t hear about, or even see very often, but deserves mention. That is the use of traditional flavoring materials such as cinnamon, nutmeg, vanilla or even butter or butter flavorings. Cinnamon is the one flavoring material that takes consideration because it can dramatically slow down or even stop the yeast activity when added directly to the dough. This is the reason why we see such things as cinnamon swirl bagels, and cinnamon swirl bread. In both of these cases, the cinnamon is added to the dough as opposed to being incorporated into it. This greatly nullifies the adverse effect of the cinnamon on the yeast. In a pizza dough we can blend the cinnamon with a butter flavored oil or plain salad oil and add it to the dough during the last 30-seconds of the mixing time. This will allow the cinnamon paste to be swirled through the dough, creating a cinnamon swirl crust that might be just the ticket for making a dessert pizza. Or, you might find that blending the cinnamon into a quantity of melted butter to make a thin paste consistency can be easily spread onto a regular dough skin and then topped with pieces of fresh fruit, or drained fruit cocktail.
On an even easier note you can simply take one of your regular thin- crust dough skins and brush it with water, then sprinkle on a combination of cinnamon and sugar (16-ounces of granulated sugar and 1½ to 2 ounces of cinnamon). Dock the dough well and bake until it is set and just begins to brown. Cut the baked crust into strips 1 to 1½-inches wide and about 3 inches long and serve with a simple powdered sugar-water dipping icing to which a little vanilla flavoring has been added for a very fast and easy dessert offering.
While we’re on the topic of dough for dessert pizza, the addition of vanilla flavoring to the dough is often overlooked, or in many cases never even heard of. Vanilla or a blended vanilla-butter flavor can be added to the dough to create a unique and rich tasting crust flavor for any of your dessert pizzas. No other dough changes are needed, just portion out the needed amount of flavoring and process the dough in your normal manner. Due to the vast differences in the concentration of vanilla flavors, it is recommended that you experiment with a reputable brand product to find the amount that works best in your specific application.
When using fresh or dried herbs in your dough, begin using them at 10 percent of the flour weight and go up from there to a maximum of about 25 percent. Depending upon the composition of the herb mix that you elect to use, you will probably find that the best flavor, aroma and appearance characteristics are had at around the 15 percent level. If cheese is the only material being added to the dough, the best levels seem to be around 8 to 12 percent of the flour weight. And if cheese is included in an herb blend, you will probably find that an addition level of 15 to 20 percent works well. When fresh herbs such as fresh basil, oregano, onion or garlic are used in the herb blend, it is not uncommon to see the blends being used at levels approaching the 25 percent level. Like everything else though, you will need to experiment to find what works best for you in your specific application.u
Tom Lehmann is a director at the American Institute of Baking in Manhattan, Kansas.
Pizza Expo® has something for everyone –– whether you’re looking for new ways to create revenue or just want to find out about the latest industry trends and products. The one thing that really separates Pizza Expo from all of the other general foodservice shows is the fact that there’s only one tradeshow where you’ll find over 80 industry specific seminars, workshops and demonstrations, 450 exhibiting companies and 1,000 booths all devoted to pizza … and that’s Pizza Expo. Throw in the best networking event in the industry –– the Beer and Bull Idea Exchange –– along with all of our other great contests and competitions, such as the World Pizza Games, International Pizza Challenge, and the Great $20,000 Mega Bucks Giveaway, and you can see why industry veterans call Pizza Expo the “Show of Shows.”
This year’s Expo shattered all of our previous attendance records with nearly 7,000 attendees and 4,000 exhibitor personnel. And the international presence was astounding, with attendees from Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, Finland, Germany, Italy, Japan, Mexico, Mongolia, Norway and Spain –– just to name a few –– making it a truly worldly experience for everyone! Pizza is indeed a universal food, and there was plenty of it to be found on our show floor that measured over 5½ football fields.
If you didn’t get the chance to attend this year’s show, you still have the opportunity to listen and learn by ordering recordings of some or all of the 50-plus educational sessions that were offered. You can order a Multimedia DVD-ROM or download directly to your iPod by going to the InteliQuest Media website at www. intelliquestmedia.com. It’s also a good way to revisit a seminar to hear what you missed or listen to one you couldn’t attend –– and we know there were several you probably wish you could have made it to during the show.
In addition, I want to thank everyone who attended this year’s Expo. Without the continued support of pizzeria operators, suppliers, manufacturers and industry experts, we could not have achieved the measure of success that makes International Pizza Expo the must- attend event of the year.
It’s never too early to start making plans for next year’s show, slated for March 19 – 21, 2013, at the Las Vegas Convention Center, so save the date! We’re already making plans for next year’s Expo, and we think you’ll be pleased with the changes we’re making. If you have any ideas or suggestions on how we can improve the show, please give me a call at (800) 489-8324 or drop me a note at BOakley@PizzaToday.com.
Last but not least, please remember International Pizza Expo is a tax- deductible working vacation.
It’s all Pizza and it’s all for YOU!
Executive Vice President
In his new hip restaurant where seasonal artisanal pizzas are delivered from a wood-burning oven, Mike Isabella wanted just one thing: exposure.
Isabella, who appeared on season six of Bravo’s “Top Chef” in 2009, opened Graffiato in June 2011, in the Chinatown section of Washington, D.C. He deliberately sought a place to expose the building’s bones, including the ceiling. “For me, it’s the feel of the building,” Isabella says.
Isabella found it in a former printing shop constructed in the 1950s.
“I was looking for wood beams, that urban feel, that city building feel you get when you walk into the space. So I left everything alone –– the brick walls, the concrete walls. It was a cool old building that was just a shell, and I thought I could put my concept in there,” he says. The two-story, 130-seat Italian restaurant features an open ham bar on the second floor and on the first floor, a large wood oven tucked behind a U-shaped counter.
One of Isabella’s favorite features is the exposed ceiling over the 4,500 square feet of space. Before
opening, Isabella had it scraped and cleaned, even the nooks and crannies of pipes overhead. Every so often, they get a dusting. As for the noise level, it can get pretty boisterous. But that’s how Isabella likes it.
“We want it to be noisy; that’s the mentality of it. Everything is loud –– the music, too. That’s the vibe. We want it fun and exciting, loud, upbeat, energetic, electric, all the urban things I wanted to hit.”
If you envision making a “Top Chef” personality splash with an exposed ceiling like Isabella, it can be done. But before you rip out panels and drywall, remember these caveats from Liz Toombs, an interior decorator and owner of Polka Dots and Rosebuds Interiors in Lexington, Kentucky, and architect Ed Shriver, Principal at Strada LLC in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania:
u It’s incredibly unpredictable (both aesthetically and cost-wise) if you’re ripping out an existing ceiling, Shriver says. “You’ll see ducts, pipes, electrical conduits, all sorts of junk hither and yon. If I design a space so that it doesn’t have a ceiling, I have mechanical and electrical guy lay it out so it will look organized. But in a retrofit, you’ll find that they ran the ducts wherever they wanted.”
u Dirt requires paint, paint and more paint. “When you have exposed duct work and pipes, you have to paint it. Don’t leave the colors as they are,” Toombs says. “It should be black, brown and grey to blend everything together. Now that’s a lot of labor –– a few thousand in labor and materials. And you don’t just paint the underside –– all of it has to be painted. But the benefit is, after you do all of that, you mostly can leave it alone. You can hide the potential dirty look with the darker color.”
As for cleaning, use an industrial company. “For one thing, it’s a risk to put someone on a ladder as an employee. You need a commercial cleaning company that is equipped,” Toombs says.
u Hot air rises. This has as much to do with your utility costs as with fire safety, Shriver says. “The way sprinkler heads work, hot air rises to the ceiling, and the ceiling holds it close to the sprinkler head so it goes off. But with an exposed ceiling, the sprinkler head doesn’t have anything to bank the heat against, and it sets off much later. You have more fire damage. So you have to point them up to set it them off sooner. It’s a code issue,” Shriver says. This is easy to fix, although it’s an expense most people don’t anticipate. A sprinkler contractor can loosen and twist pipes in the right direction.
As for utilities, use ceiling fans to offset costs. Keep in mind, though, a regular ceiling cuts bills by five to 10 percent, Toombs says.
u Don’t forget wires for lighting. “That’s a lot of feet to run cords down,” Toombs says. “Run it so it’s below where
the lowest pipe and vent is. Otherwise, you’re casting a lot of shadows. The benefit is it creates an ambient feel, a darker and intimate feeling.”
u Are you prepared for sound? Noise levels rise exponentially with an exposed ceiling, Toombs says. The benefit “is that it makes everything busy and bustling. In the back of customers’ minds, this is a hot spot,” she says.
If you want to control sound, float sound panels. “They can look like an interesting piece of art. They can be flat above you or angled. You can do it in different colors. They bounce the sound off, and customers can hear the people they’re dining with,” Toombs says. Large specialty manufacturers produce sound panels for offices. “They’re made of a certain material with a nice fabric that is meant to absorb that sound.” u
THE EXPOSED CEILING: A “SUPPORTING PLAYER”
When deciding whether to expose your ceiling, think of your restaurant like you would a theater, says interior decorator Liz Toombs. The ceiling shouldn’t detract from the main performance: interesting things at the customer’s table level or activity in the restaurant.
“You want everyone to focus on things at their eye level. The ceiling is not the focal point, but a supporting player. It’s not the main focus. It’s ironic, because it’s so costly to get it looking great!” she says.
Chef Mike Isabella says his exposed ceiling contributes to his restaurant’s overall performance. “For me, an exposed ceiling gives texture to the space,” he says. “If I had a regular dropped ceiling, it’s boring like an office. It’s a quality. I love it, I enjoy it, I’m very into the whole feel and space. It gives the character I wanted, and there has definitely been talk from people saying it’s a cool space.”
Heidi Lynn Russell specializes in writing about the issues that affect small business owners. She is a regular contributor to Pizza Today and lives in Wilmore, Kentucky.
Sitting down with the senior management team at Colorado-based Borriello Brothers is like sitting down with family. Several pizzas flank the table, everybody’s got a plate and no one’s shy about digging in. And that’s precisely how they run their nine-store operation: it’s all-hands on deck.
Borriello Brothers was founded in 1999 in downtown Colorado Springs. In 2001, current owner Mike Clemente joined the founding brothers, who were looking to exit the business to head back to the Big Apple. He bought the original location with Rob Raia, who had been a food supplier and in 2006, customer demand prompted the opening of their second location. Raia says he had been “collecting equipment for a few years” in anticipation of potential growth, and soon after, partner Bill Stein joined the company as it added its third store. By that time, “people were almost lining up outside before we were even open,” Stein says. “People would stop in as we were building. It was funny –– we never even did a grand opening. It was all word-of-mouth.”
Today, Borriello Brothers operates nine stores with $10 million in sales. Clemente says the key to growth has been control. “The economy hasn’t been as cooperative as it (once had) been, but we’re running lean,” he says. The company brought on Bill’s son, Chris Stein, as its business manager just before the sixth and seventh stores opened to “solidify the back end and to standardize operations and build the corporation across all of these locations,” Chris says.
Borriello Brothers is built on a fast-casual concept using counter service, and it caters to the many transplants brought to the area by the nearby Army and Air Force bases. Its traditional New York pizza is familiar for many East Coast military families. “We get them as close to home as we possibly can,” Clemente says.
“The original location downtown was just kind of a traditional New York-style pizzeria, so that’s what we’ve always done, and it just seems to have worked,” Raia adds.
Chris says Borriello Brothers’ key philosophy is to offer quality food at a price that’s comparative to national chains. “I think that’s what makes us popular,” he says. Eighty percent of the company’s sales is comprised of pizza, and the stores do nearly equal shares delivery, carryout and dine-in. It divides carryout and pick-up into separate divisions –– those who call ahead and place an order and those who spontaneously stop in.
Cheese and pepperoni slices, the company’s top sellers, are sold all day with a specialty pizza slice sold through the lunch day part. Its Five Boroughs (pepperoni, sausage, mushrooms, green peppers and black olives) is Borriello Brothers’ best-selling specialty offering. Customers like the ease of ordering from a list of specialty pizzas. “If you make their decisions for them, it works better,” Raia says.
“It’s suggestive selling,” Clemente adds.
They also offer gluten-free pizza, catering to a population that wouldn’t otherwise be able to enjoy pizza. Careful consideration went into the addition, and Raia says they keep gluten-free dough separate, even going so far as to bake it separately. To date, they’ve had no issues with cross contamination. “There’s a following,” Bill says, and Mike agrees. “If you offer it, they’ll find you,” he adds.
Aside from pizza, Borriello Brothers menus appetizers, wings, salads, calzones, hero sandwiches, a handful of plated dinners and desserts. It’s an ambitious menu, but one that is manageable by using the same ingredients across a number of items. They’re not immune to industry trends and have added artisan ingredients, such as feta cheese, and convenience items like boneless wings and take-and-bake pizzas, to compete on a national level with other chains –– a move that will help it grow in emerging markets.
Beer and wine are available, but comprise only two percent of sales. “We are not an alcohol factory,” Stein says. “If you read the sign, it says the beer is there to complement the food.”
For years, Borriello Brothers made its own dough at the individual stores, but as the company grew, it moved to a commissary concept before outsourcing it completely. “We have a refrigerated truck, and we used to deliver dough to every store every day,” Stein says. “We’d make it in one of the stores every day, and it got to be overwhelming.” The distance to deliver dough on a daily basis became challenging as the company grew, and “consistency, of course, was the main goal,” Clemente says.
They also worked with a major sauce vendor to create a private label for their signature marinara-style sauce to sell to consumers, a move that helps brand recognition beyond the local stores.
The company’s management team has begun to streamline its operations, including utilizing portion control, building a recipe book for standardization (a critical tool for growth), developing an organizational chart and creating training videos. Technology continues to play a key role in its success, and they credit Colorado Springs’ tech-savvy consumers for the push toward emerging technological trends, such as online ordering.
A call center –– staffed by 15 and open during dinner hours –– was added earlier this year, and the owners cite rising costs of outsourcing as a factor. They had originally looked at an in-house call system in 2007, but technology available at the time wouldn’t maintain the volume produced by the stores, and they didn’t have the space to hold the equipment, so they outsourced it. “When you have a restaurant that’s a little busy, and you’ve got the phones ringing and a line in front of you with people trying to order, it’s not fair to the customer,” says Stein. During the busy summer season, they can receive up to 900 calls on a weekend night, but they now have the space and capability to handle that high volume on their own.
While grassroots marketing utilizing social media works well for Borriello Brothers, they also use available technological efforts like text couponing and e-mail marketing. They’ve even created their own iPhone app, a move that puts them ahead of their competitors. Traditional radio and print advertising work well, but advertising in the annual Entertainment Book, a book of local, regional and national coupons sold online and through community organizations, is especially successful. So are fund-raising cards sold through schools and churches. “People seem to love these,” Chris says. “They see a great value because they’re supporting the schools, which is also important to us.”
That community involvement builds goodwill and expands the company’s name beyond traditional advertising outlets. They have used their mobile pizza kitchen –– which is cleverly built into a fire truck –– to feed nearby military families and the homeless, but they also use it to give them a presence at local festival and fairs, continuously building brand awareness as they consider franchising.
As the company has grown to nine stores, operations has become challenging for its senior management team. The benefit of having hands-on owners is that they are able to be in more than one place at a time, says Raia, and that allows them to stretch out management duties. They are currently working to better define their individual roles to avoid overlapping responsibilities.
Future expansion will be done through franchising, and they have started that lengthy process by drawing up a master agreement and federally registering their trademark. Traveling to and from regional locations –– like their store in Denver –– is becoming time-consuming, so they’ll look for potential franchisees who prefer to be as hands-on as they are. “On a Friday night, it’s nothing for me to go into a store and hop on the oven,” Stein says. “Mike can run over to the prep table, and Rob does everything … I go in sometimes (and) if there’s a pile of dishes, I’m in the dish pit for an hour and washing dishes because that’s what needs to be done. That’s the type of business we’re in.”
They’ve created a prototype for their restaurant design, and their master recipe book and training program will help with consistency. Still, they don’t worry about taking the uniqueness out of their product, which they say stands on its own.
“A cardinal sin, for us, it to use the word ‘style,’ ” Chris says. “Everybody says that they’re ‘New York-style pizza’, but we’re not New York-style pizza. This is New York pizza. This is what you get when you go to a pizzeria in New York.”
Says Stein: “We want you to get the same product –– the same exact product –– from store to store. I don’t want someone coming to me and saying, ‘Hey, you know, it was different over at this store, or ‘It was better over here.’ That’s the worst thing that I could hear.” u
Mandy Detwiler is managing editor of Pizza Today.
Some people were born into pizza making; others hone the craft through blood, sweat and tears. For retired Air Force Colonel Dave Brackett, opening a pizzeria offered a creative outlet for the lifelong amateur chef and a source of income after his 31-year military career ended. He modeled Pizzeria Rustica after the Old World trattorias he visited on tours of Europe, and today, the Colorado Springs-based restaurant is a study in successful independent operations. Brackett has infused two modern ideologies into Pizzeria Rustica, however: the restaurant is certified by the Associazione Verace Pizza Napoletana (AVPN) as well as the Green Restaurant Association. As a result, it is garnering attention on a national level for both its Neapolitan pizza and its environmental initiatives.
After Brackett retired from the Air Force in 2006, he made his way back to Colorado Springs, where he had completed two assignments and still owned real estate. Noting a lack of quality pizza in the area, he took matters into his own hands and opened Pizzeria Rustica in 2008.
“We decided after finding no good wood-fired pizza in a town of half a million people that we needed to create it,” Brackett says, so he studied Neapolitan pizza at a school in California and perfected the art of making mozzarella cheese and Neapolitan dough. He then had to adapt that to Colorado’s high altitude. “The (classic) dough recipe for Neapolitan pizza for California is sea level, Naples is sea level, New York is sea level –– it’s a totally different thing when you go up to 6,000-plus feet.”
Instrumental to Pizzeria Rustica’s brand is a proprietary flour blend that allows its pizza to be baked at high altitudes in a wood-fired oven. The custom-built oven is fueled by pecan wood and burns at 875 degrees. “Everybody says that it’s the closest to Italian pizza that they’ve had in the US,” Brackett says. As a result, Pizzeria Rustica has become so popular that the restaurant nearly seats by reservation only. There is no delivery, and only five percent of sales stems from carryout. After all, this type of pizza is best right out of the oven. “We explain to people that our pizza doesn’t travel well,” Brackett says.
They make 200 to 220 dough balls daily, and when they’re gone, they’re gone. “We’ve got a really small kitchen –– it’s 12 by 12 (and) smaller than most home kitchens –– but we do 350 covers a day out of there in the summertime,” Brackett says. He intentionally sought out a small space for the restaurant because Colorado Springs is a seasonal town and in the colder months, the restaurant is usually only full on the weekends. They have a patio that more than doubles their seating during warmer months.
When it comes to the menu, less is more. They have no fossil-fuel appliances, so that means no fryers or gas ovens –– just the wood oven, an induction burner to heat water, cooling equipment and a slicer. That streamlines their menu to antipasti and salads, pizza and desserts, but much is made by hand and Pizzeria
Rustica sources many of its seasonal ingredients from local farms and food organizations.
The signature pizza is the Rustica, topped with crushed San Marzano tomatoes, handmade mozzarella, Grana Padano, Parmesan, prosciutto di parma and fresh arugula. “We also stuff one corner of the pizza with garlic-spiked ricotta cheese so you get the saltiness of the prosciutto, the bitterness of the arugula and you get the sweetness of the ricotta,” Brackett says.
Other ingredients include soppressata and fennel salami, wood-roasted garlic and zucchini, house-made basil pesto and white Italian anchovies. Brackett says food costs sit at 27 to 28 percent. “We obviously have higher food costs than a lot of other people in this industry because we’re using ingredients like high-quality imported San Marzano tomatoes and Caputo flour. We use the highest- quality imported salamis, 20-month aged prosciutto di parma … plus the farmers’ ingredients are more costly,” he says.
While Brackett admits fresh and handcrafted ingredients increase labor costs as well, he reduces operating hours during the off months and closes completely on Mondays and Tuesdays in the winter. “You kind of habituate your customers to those hours and what happens is you get a nice big pop (in sales) on Wednesdays after being closed for two days,” Brackett says. The restaurant employs about 20 in the off-season and up to 35 during the summer, many of them local culinary arts and college students. He says employee turnover surprised him during his fledgling years, but Pizzeria Rustica now utilizes a three-tier interview process to find the best employees. A manager initially meets the applicant, and then he or she undergoes a peer-to- peer interview with a current employee. “That’s as much about having the candidate find out what the job’s really like from someone who’s doing it and learn what they like and what they don’t like as it is to see if they’re going to be able to hack it,” Brackett says. Finally, he or a second manager interviews the potential employee. “We don’t hire off of Craigslist. We don’t hire off the street. We work almost 100 percent on referrals,” he says.
Brackett also owns and operates a tapas restaurant that is just a few blocks away. Having two restaurants in close proximity allows them to share products and labor if needed. “We have a couple of people who work at both restaurants, so they’re cross-trained,” Brackett says.
Aside from the emphasis on handcrafted, organic and locally sourced foods, Pizzeria Rustica has also been praised for its green initiatives. But the restaurant doesn’t just pay lip service to environmental sustainability by simply recycling or avoiding Styrofoam –– it has earned a three-star Green Restaurant Association certification for its efforts, which include sourcing 100 percent of its electricity from renewable energy (like wind, solar and geothermal), composting 90 percent of the restaurant’s waste and biodegradables and reducing water consumption. They even use tablecloths from a sustainable linen company and green-certified cleaning products. A bonus? Reduced energy costs.
“We use about the same amount of energy per month as a three-bedroom, two-bath house,” Brackett says. “Right now, our full energy bill for gas, electric and everything runs about $300 a month.”
During certification, Brackett says documentation was the most difficult part –– and it’s all done electronically to reduce paper waste. Certification from the Green Restaurant Association requires a minimum of 100 points but Pizzeria Rustica earned 224 points. “Once you’re certified, you just keep doing what you’re doing,” Brackett adds. They can also use the certification logo in their advertising and on their menu.
Although they have a limited output at the pizzeria, they have a mobile pizza trailer that can travel to off- site events like wedding rehearsals, festivals and office parties. That is an added component to the business, but Brackett isn’t interested in growing to a multi-unit franchise. “We’re not going to franchise for sure,” he says, “We may add another unit under a licensing agreement, but not anytime soon.”
After all, Pizzeria Rustica is a study in doing things right –– not simply. u
Mandy Detwiler is managing editor of Pizza Today.
Photo by Josh Keown
Calzones are the perfect menu item to help stretch your ingredients while increasing the versatility of your menu. Calzones have been around for decades, and thinking outside the box (or semi-circle in this case) can yield some outrageous calzones that will keep your customers craving these hand-held creations. The options are practically limitless. A calzone is essentially a folded pizza, and anything that you can put on a pizza can be put in a calzone.
You’ve got to consider how much sauce and how many ingredients you stuff inside this delectable baked treat. Too much sauce will create a soggy calzone and make it almost impossible to pick up and eat. Customers get excited about adding lots of fillings, leaving us trying to figure out how to cram so much into our dough. Remember, too many ounces of calzone fillings may still be undercooked by the time the dough is finished and golden on the outside. Train your staff to either limit the amount of fillings or, if a customer wants too many fillings, train the crew to use less of each so your calzone can bake properly. My preference for the ideal calzone is a 12-ounce pizza dough ball stretched out to 12 inches. Put your ingredients on the lower half of your stretched dough, ensuring that none of the toppings or fillings overlap the bottom edge of the dough. This will ensure a proper seal of your calzone, which is critical so it doesn’t open during the baking process and allow your sauce or cheese to ooze out while in the oven and make a real mess. If you are going to use any sauce of any kind in a calzone, it is better to use a small amount and to add your sauce last, drizzling it over your other fillings while allowing the sauce to bake down over the other ingredients. This will leave a crisper bottom.
Once you have stretched your dough, put the filling on the bottom half and drizzle a little bit of sauce over your ingredients. Now you simply want to fold the top down to the bottom covering all the ingredients. Some folks use an egg wash, but I just act as though I’m trying to push my fingers straight through to the bottom of the dough which always seals it well. Here’s the trick –– as the calzone bakes (which is generally the same time and temp as a pizza) it will get very hot inside. That will create some steam and it will want to escape. That’s why I slit or rip a little hole in the top of my calzones before they go into the oven. That steam that wants to escape will find the path of least resistance — and if there’s not a hole in the top, it will rip a hole in your seam and make a mess in your oven. Think of it as a chimney.
OK, we’ve got the basics, essentials and calzone building techniques down. It’s time to put our chef hats on and get creative. So many pizzerias have your basic calzone with pepperoni and cheese, or ricotta and tomatoes, but if you want to knock your customers’ socks off and have them talking about your outrageous calzones at the water cooler, you’ve got to get creative. It’s important that we know our customer base as well. You don’t want to have a sophisticated and overpriced calzone on your menu if you’re feeding a community who can’t afford it or have never heard of the fillings you offer. Think about some of your favorite entrées or sandwiches and figure a way to make it work in a calzone using the principles that I’ve shared with you:
• I love a great Steak Bomb Calzone. Cook your steak up with some grilled peppers, onions, mushrooms garlic salt and pepper and put about 10 total ounces of that mixture with some cheese, and you’ve got a winner for sure.
u Chicken Cordon Bleu is a classic French dish that can easily be made into a calzone. Use either grilled or cooked breaded chicken breast, ham and Swiss cheese. You can add a drizzle of Alfredo sauce and now you’ve got a French classic.
u The only thing better than a great Reuben sandwich would be an amazing Reuben calzone. Either make or buy some rye dough for this one and stretch it the same way you would pizza dough. Sliced lean corned beef, Swiss cheese, very well drained sauerkraut and a drizzle of 1000 Island dressing will yield you some raving fans.
u Pulled pork can be used on a Cuban sandwich, as well as a pizza topping. Guess what? It’s also great in a calzone. Let’s call this one a “Bar-B-Q Pit” calzone. Toss six ounces of pulled pork with two ounces of your favorite BBQ sauce and spread that on the bottom half of your 12-inch stretched pizza dough. Next, add two ounces of ham, one ounce of crumbled bacon, two ounces of grilled onions and three ounces of your pizza cheese to finish off this hand-held BBQ calzone.
u Don’t be afraid to try some vegetarian options using veggies like spinach, roasted red peppers, artichoke hearts and Feta cheese.
u A breakfast calzone with scrambled eggs, ham, bacon, caramelized onions and cheddar cheese can create a whole new meal period for you if you feel there is a need for feeding folks breakfast.
These are just a few great ideas for some extraordinary calzones that are sure to please. Add your own flair and creativity. Once you’ve got your calzone repertoire down to some great choices, let your customers help create and name some new ones. That always creates a buy in factor with customers. I hope you can take some of these creative tips and run with it. 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.
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SLICE OF HOPE 2012
Can you tell me the dates for this year’s Slice of Hope?
This year’s Slice of Hope bike ride to raise money for the Karen Mullen Breast Cancer Foundation is scheduled for October 8-12. Thanks for once again pledging your support to this cause. For others who are interested, we will once again be selling Slice of Hope t-shirts and offering pledge forms at PizzaToday.com. Simply click on the Slice of Hope link to get started.
CELEBRATING 80 YEARS IN BUSINESS
As a fan of your magazine, I wanted to know how does one get a mention? Our family is celebrating our 80th year in business. We have long been subscribers to Pizza Today and have seen many types of pizza businesses mentioned, from franchises to independents. A brief history on Toto’s: In 1926 my grandfather and grandmother purchased a restaurant and called it La Napoli. They were both born and raised in Naples, Italy. In 1932 they changed the name to Toto’s (my grandfather’s nickname for Antonio). It was originally opened in Coney Island, New York. After a visit to San Francisco in 1945, they stayed out west. Today along with myself, our children and grandchildren, we, the Spadarella family, still own and operate three locations in the San Francisco Bay area.
All the Best,
Toto’s Restaurants, Inc.
San Francisco, California
Robert, thanks so much for the note. Congratulations on achieving 80 years in business. Very few restaurants — very few businesses of any type, in fact — can make that claim. The milestone showcases the hard work, diligence and business sense that your grandfather, father and now yourself most obviously possess. As for getting a mention in Pizza Today — well, you just earned it!
LOVE THE APP!
Thanks so much for making Pizza Today available on Android tablets, too. It was obvious that you were very excited about launching on the iPad. I was equally thrilled when you rolled out the Android version a few weeks later.
New Orleans, Louisiana
We’re thrilled that you’re thrilled, Michael! For those of you with iPads or Android tablets, such as the Samsung Galaxy, hop on over to the iTunes store or Google Play and download the free Pizza Today app today. If you can believe it, our food photos are even more delicious on the tablet than they are in print. As our publisher, Pete Lachapelle, said when he first saw it: “Don’t lick the screen!”
Photos by Josh Keown
I recently witnessed a serious crime at my local corner pizzeria. Upon receiving his slice, a customer proceeded to mindlessly dump the contents of every spice shaker within reach onto its glistening surface. Ever since pizza infiltrated American soil in the 1900’s folks have been customizing their slices with an array of powders and flakes, which I refer to as toppers. Unlike toppings, toppers are consumer-controlled. The ritual of topper application is as much a part of eating a slice as the paper plate upon which it is served, but my traumatic experience made me question why pizzerias are allowing themselves to lose control of their carefully designed flavor profiles at the hands of topper abuse.
Eating a slice without the option of dried oregano and crushed pepper flakes would feel incomplete, but there are some pizzerias going beyond the norm in their topper selections. Pizzerias like Fornino and the modestly titled Best Pizza in Brooklyn both offer infused olive oil. It’s as simple as adding peppers, herbs, seeds or any other spices to a bottle of oil. (Just be careful with roots like garlic, which must be pre-treated to limit risk of botulism.) I’ve also seen unusual pizza toppers such as marjoram and sesame seeds. Brooklyn’s Pete Zaaz even created their own exclusive topper called “Cheesy-Herby-Spicy Goodness,” which contains a mix of pickled jalapeños, dried Thai basil, Parmigiano-Reggiano and crushed Cheez-Its. Unique toppers are a great way to extend your shop’s personality while maintaining control after handing a pizza over to your customer.
Even if you stick to the usual suspects (grated cheese, garlic powder, pepper flakes and oregano), you can maintain quality by carefully choosing ingredients. I was horrified last week when I tasted some grated cheese only to find it was one step above pure salt. Anyone who makes the mistake of dumping it onto his or her slice is probably going to blame you. Good ingredients aren’t cheap, but there are ways to protect your investment. John’s and Lombardi’s in Manhattan keep their Parmesan in the back kitchen to prevent people from overusing it. Pizza Box, also in Manhattan, chains their cheese shakers to the wall to prevent theft. Don’t forget that even though they are on the customer’s side of the counter, these are still your ingredients.
Now that you have unique and/or high quality ingredients on your tables, consider the shakers themselves. I’m amazed every time I see generic supermarket containers of garlic powder at pizzerias. It sends a clear message that this ingredient is not a priority. You don’t have to get too fancy; I love it when pizzerias use baby food jars and Snapple bottles with holes poked in the lids in place of store-bought shakers. If it works for your room, go with it. Just as toppers are ingredients, the shakers themselves are part of your décor.
You have the power to maintain control of your food even after it crosses the boundary of your slice counter. Think of those spice shakers as your pizza’s final ingredient and you’ll limit the risks of topper abuse.u
Scott Wiener owns and operates Scott’s Pizza Tours in New York City.
Photo by Josh Keown
The venerable Benjamin Franklin is one of the most-quoted men in American history. His wisdom, it seems, still endures to this day. One of my favorite quotes by the statesman is this: “He that won’t be counseled can’t be helped.”
In my case specifically, I needed a lot of help starting my business, so I listened to all the counsel I could get from consultants, peers and customers alike. Listening, in fact, is what led me to some of my best marketing experiences.
During my first year of business, a seasoned employee notified me that the Monday following Thanksgiving was an above average Monday. With several factors coming together (no school, hunting season, holiday season), it made sense to me. So I asked myself how I could make an already-good day into a great day. Our annual ‘Tired of Turkey’ promotion was born. To promote it, I used local newspaper advertising in conjunction with box toppers and posters.
I was able to make Monday sales turn into Friday sales by:
1) Making my own holiday;
2) Promoting a signature and profitable item;
3) Having fun with the community.
These principles have guided me through the years to other successful promotions.
Over time, as business grew, my old deck ovens could not keep up with demand — so we upgraded to conveyors. What am I capable of now? I decided to have a fundraiser for our chamber’s downtown beautification project. The goal was to sell 500 pizzas between 3 and 6 p.m. The offer was for a 16- inch pepperoni pizza priced at $5. The reward was to be a $500 donation to the project if the goal was met.
Since the general manager of the local radio station was on the board, we got the advertising donated. The station also did a three-hour live remote and offered many prize incentives to get people to buy a pizza and help their city. The chamber sent memos and newsletters about the promotion. I enlarged my regular newspaper ad, spending an extra $20 to have it run two days prior to the promotion and used box toppers for a week prior.
We achieved the goal and were able to see how well our new ovens performed. Business leaders in the community were especially thankful (and remain so, even to this day). We gained a lot of respect and fine-tuned our already good image as a result of this promotion. Most notably, we gained a lot of newfound customer loyalty.
Later that year I attended a conference and was introduced to the concept of e-mail marketing. How do you build a database? I decided to celebrate Fox’s 30th anniversary. For the occasion I obtained a copy of a Fox’s 1971 menu and rolled back prices. Customers had to go to the Web site and fill out a form, which bounced back to them a coupon to purchase a medium cheese pizza at the 1971 price of $1.40.
Press releases were sent to the local newspaper and radio station that mentioned the 1-day sale, along with the store’s history. I also did in-house promotions. Most notably, I purchased absolutely no advertising for this occasion. Sales jumped 5 percent and I built a priceless database overnight. And because e-mail is so cheap and effective, I was able to cut my marketing costs by eliminating $6,000 in what I refer to as ‘Spray & Pray’ advertising. (I later gained national recognition for this tactic, by the way).
Bottom line: listen and learn to earn.
Scott Anthony is a Fox’s Pizza Den franchisee in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania. He is a monthly contributor to Pizza Today and a frequent guest speaker at Pizza Expo.
Photo by Rick Daugherty
When it comes to pizza, what do three major Midwest cities — Detroit, Chicago and St. Louis –– have in common? They each have a unique and especially delicious style of pizza. While Chicago’s deep-dish and St. Louis’s Provel cheese-topped pizzas need no introduction, what exactly is Detroit-Style pizza? Let me explain in as simple a way as possible: It is deep-dish pizza baked in a square pan — actually a hybrid of deep-dish pizza and Sicilian or Italian bakery pizza. Some might suggest that deep- dish pizza is more of a “pie,” but in the dawn of the pizza age, what we now call pizza (in whatever shape or style) went by the moniker “tomato pie.”
Detroit-style pizza got started at Buddy’s Rendevous around 1946, three years after deep-dish pizza made its debut in Chicago at Uno’s. The house in which I grew up in Upstate New York was smack next to an Italian bakery. A sideline of the bakery was Sicilian-style pizza –– pizza baked in square or rectangular pans. The pans were seasoned to the point of being black, and that allowed for a crispy crust with each pizza. The toppings were as simple as a tomato puree, oregano and a shower of grated Romano cheese. I have to tell you that this was one great pizza — a pizza memory that I treasure to this day. Detroit-style pizza is created in the same vein.
If you like chewy, cheesy pizza you will love Detroit-style pizza. The step that makes Detroit-style pizza so crunchy-tasty is that it is twice-baked. Not every pizzeria has the time or ability to go through that process, however. And what works in Detroit may not work in, say, California. Regional differences aside, there is no greater food than pizza.
With a Detroit-style pizza, the sauce is put on top of the cheese. But that is nothing new. In fact, in one of my cookbooks I show pictures of how a deep-dish pizza is assembled: crust, slices of mozzarella cheese, then tomatoes on top. u
ITALIAN BAKERY PIZZA
Makes one 12-by15-inch pizza (scale up in direct proportion)
About 20 ounces of proofed dough
8 -10 ounces shredded mozzarella
11/2 cups tomato or pizza sauce
½ cup grated Romano cheese
2 tablespoons olive oil
Rub a 12-by15-inch seasoned rectangular pan lightly with olive oil.
Put the dough in the center of the pan. Push and spread the dough across the bottom of the pan and up the sides a bit. Sprinkle on the mozzarella cheese.
Spread the sauce evenly over the mozzarella. Sprinkle on the Romano cheese. Give the pizza a quick, short 5-10 minute bake in a preheated 500 F oven to set the crust. Pull the pizza out of the oven, and set aside. Then, when you’re ready to serve, put it back in for a second bake (about 10 minutes) to get that Detroit-style crunch. Drizzle on the olive oil. Cut the pizza into squares and serve.
Note: add toppings—sausage, pepperoni, et al. on top of the tomato or pizza sauce.
Pat Bruno is Pizza Today’s resident chef and a regular contributor. He is the former owner and operator of a prominent Italian cooking school in Chicago and is a food critic for the Chicago Sun-Times.
Do you want to learn a lot about yourself and your friends? Start a business with them. These ventures usually begin with the same conversations. You sit around to have a few drinks and someone invariably says: “Hey, we should start something up” or “I’m miserable at my job, there has got to be a better way.” Everyone tells you, including the banks, that most restaurants fail within the first 18 months and most business ventures amongst friends usually destroy the friendship.The negativity of others probably prevents most entrepreneurial people from taking this leap of faith. But definitely not me. There are barriers everywhere –– barriers that I believe exist to weed out those who either are not very serious about starting a business or simply do not have the stomach for it.
A few years ago my best friend, my cousin and myself decided to open a pizzeria. My friend had owned his own place a few years ago, so we weren’t going in completely blind. We found a location where the property itself was also for sale. For me it couldn’t have been better. I was in the real estate development business, so what better way to collateralize an investment than with real estate? Of course when a real estate transaction is involved a whole new set of roadblocks opens up. After over a year and a half of stress dealing with the seller and the joy of obtaining financing for the property on the heels of one of the biggest real estate crashes of all time, we finally closed on the property. There were many sleepless nights during that time, many arguments with partners about whether or not we were wasting our time and money and whether or not we were ever going to close on the property. I was so relieved that day of the closing. I thought to myself, “We did it, the hard part’s over.” Even writing that sounds hilarious to me. You see, I was the real estate guy and the so-called “money guy.” I was responsible for obtaining the financing and dealing with the seller and his attorney and doing all the paperwork for the SBA loan we obtained. I figured my job was over and now the pizza guys would take over and the money would start pouring in. The truth? The stress was just beginning.
Everybody thinks their role in the partnership is the most important. The guy who puts up most of the money and gets the financing thinks he is the most important. Without him the restaurant would have never opened in the first place. The guy who is actually operating and managing the everyday operations of the business thinks that he is the most important. Without him the business would not be operating and making any money. I have found this to be a major obstacle. For some reason everybody wants to think they are the most important cog in the operation. I really don’t understand that. Isn’t the best thing about having partners the fact that everyone has a role? I believe one of the most counter- productive things a partnership can do is waste time trying to figure out who the “most important guy” is. The truth is that we are all important. We all played a part in getting the business open and we will all hopefully reap the benefits.
I have learned a lot in the short time I have been in business with my friends. I have learned a lot about them and myself and how we react when things are going well and when things are not going well. Has it changed my relationships with them? Of course it has, but I am okay with that. I became friends with these people in the first place for a reason. I enjoyed them and trusted them and wanted them to be a part of my life. Aren’t those the same things you look for in a business partner? Sure, there are times when we can’t stand each other — but I believe you must stay focused on the goal of operating a profitable business.
Don’t allow the minor disagreements to become major arguments. Sometimes picking your battles and giving in a little can go a long way. I don’t like the phrase “it’s just business.” It’s not just business. It never is. There are always emotions and relationships involved. Fear of failure always exists. Will my relationship with my friends/partners ever be the same? Of course not. But I am ok with that. As we all get older and get married and have our own families, our relationships end up changing anyway. We might as well try to make a little money during the transition! u
& Pasquale "Pat" Bruno
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All cold sandwiches are $4.99 from 2pm-4pm. You must mention this when ordering. Or look for it on the checkout screen when online ordering
Why it works: Late afternoon is a typically slow time for a pizzeria, and Haley’s offers a special to draw customers in. Even better? This offer is for cold sandwiches –– and those can be held until dinnertime. The price tag allows the restaurant to compete with the big chain sub shops, and it lets customers know they offer more than just pizza. Nice work!
Mangiamo Pizza Buffet
We announce a random name Everyday. Any person with that name eats for FREE. Simple as that. Today ‘Craig’ eats for FREE!!!
Why it works: We’ve seen several of these types of promotions, and here’s the key: pick a name that is common enough to bring in business without breaking the bank. Since most folks don’t eat alone, they’ll bring along at least one guest –– and that means money in the till.
BBQ CHICKEN PIZZA
2 whole skinless, boneless chicken breasts, grilled and cut into ¼-inch-wide strips
1 cup barbecue sauce
1 cup chopped red onion, blanched
1½ cups shredded provolone or smoked mozzarella
In a large bowl, toss the cooked chicken with the barbecue sauce to coat.
Divide the chicken between the two pizza shells.
Sprinkle ½ cup of the red onion evenly over each pizza. Sprinkle an equal portion of the cheese on each pizza. Bake.
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FACEBOOK PIZZA FEEDS
PiZZA PRiMO! Wednesday special----- Buy a large pizza at menu price and receive a FREE Apple dessert pizza or a cheese bread. Carryout or Delivery. Just mention Facebook when you place your order.
Why it works: This Facebook post bundles a deal without taking dollars off –– or money out of the cash register. We also love the idea of a code word, which allows you to track the success rate of a promotion.
Amore Pizzeria & Café Homemade Soups Small $2.99, Large $3.59, Soup Breadbowl $4.99 ~ Italian Wedding~ Corn Chowder
~ Chili / Today’s Salad ~ Tuna Salad Platter - Our Fresh Homemade Tuna Salad Served Over a Crisp Bed of Freshly Prepared Garden Salad With Choice of Dressing - $5.99 / $6.99
Why it works: Customers love choices, and giving it to them encourages repeat business. Amore gives customers options beyond pizza, and soup and a salad make a great lunch option. This post also points out the fact that the tuna salad is prepared in-house and uses descriptive words to describe ingredients. This is eye-catching and makes a restaurant stand out amongst a sea of chain food items.
According to John F. Mariani’s Encyclopedia of American Food and Drink, scampi is a Venetian term that dates back to the 1920s. It refers to shrimp cooked in butter, white wine and lemon juice –– but a small lobster or prawn is preferred.
Shrimp scampi first became popular after World War II when many Italian dishes became mainstream. Today, the definition of scampi continues to expand including other proteins as operators get more inventive, serving scampi items alone or plated over pasta, rice, salads and pizza.
Scarpas Brick Oven Pizza in Albuquerque, New Mexico, capitalizes on shrimp scampi’s popularity. The Pesto Pasta with Shrimp Scampi combines garlic sautéed shrimp, roasted red peppers and pine nuts with a creamy pesto sauce over penne; while Pasta Scarpas pairs shrimp scampi with basil, capers, parsley with pesto garlic butter over penne. The Shrimp Scampi Pizza is topped with a garlic cream sauce, mozzarella and Fontina, sun-dried tomatoes, chives and sautéed shrimp.
“Scampi gives people protein options. We get requests for shrimp scampi on items other than pizza –– for example people add scampi to their salads,” says Joe Sommers, general manager, Scarpas Brick Oven Pizza, who estimates that the Shrimp Scampi pizza has a 30-percent food cost.
Joe Moore, owner of Tortora’s in Owens Cross Roads, Alabama, initially only offered shrimp scampi (made with deveined tail-on shrimp, fresh squeezed lemon juice, unsalted butter, salt, pepper, white wine, chopped garlic, chopped parsley, shrimp stock, olive oil and cooked spaghetti) on the special’s menu during spring and summer. “On Friday nights during Lent, they sold at their absolute peak,” he says.
In June he added shrimp scampi to the permanent menu since scampi dishes provide broader menu appeal to attract and satisfy customers. “Even though the actual food cost for shrimp scampi is slightly higher than my standard food cost, it provides substantially greater contribution margins than standard menu items,” says Moore. “This is of even more value when you consider the make/ cook time on a shrimp scampi dish (6 to 8 minutes) versus the make/ cook time of an equally priced medium-sized specialty pizza (8 to 10 minutes).”
While Mark Muscoreil, executive chef of Vero Amore Restaurants in Tucson, Arizona, feels his Shrimp Scampi sells better as a special. “Our daily specials are to please frequent guests. Offering a dish as a ‘special’ encourages the server to talk about it, and recommend it, which ultimately increases ticket sales,” he says.
His Vero Amore Shrimp Scampi sells for $16. To prepare, Muscoreil combines clarified butter with oregano, basil, garlic, salt, pepper and red pepper in a sauté pan. Then he sautés butterflied tail-on shrimp. Once cooked, he deglazes the pan with white wine and tosses in cooked linguini. Muscoreil says the food costs versus profit margins on the dish are approximately 78 percent.
Scampi doesn’t have to mean shrimp. Other types of shellfish such as lobster or prawns and proteins such as chicken or veal can easily be prepared scampi-style.
Chef/owner Jim Esposito of Esposito’s Pizza & Pasta in Matawan, New Jersey, offers a sesame-seed crust Margherita pizza topped with mozzarella and chicken scampi, made with pan-seared chicken that’s chopped up and sautéed with garlic, lemon, butter and white wine.
“We sell a lot of shrimp scampi pizza, but I have a seafood allergy so I created an alternative for myself and started offering the chicken scampi pizza,” he explains. “We sell a lot of specialty pizzas and this is among the top five.”
Esposito estimates that the food cost is about 35 percent. “We use a high-quality fresh mozzarella, and the sesame seeds are expensive because half of the seeds fly off while we hand-toss the dough,” he says.
Despite that, Esposito encourages operators to menu scampi. “It’s is a great menu item because most places already have all of the ingredients needed to make it in-house,” he says.
Muscoreil agrees. “Serving scampi is a great way to increase sales due to its high profit margin,” he says. “It’s a hearty, fulfilling meal that people think of as a ‘treat’ when dining out.”u
VERO AMORE SHRIMP SCAMPI
Recipe courtesy of Mark Muscoreil, executive chef, Vero Amore Restaurants
Yield: 1 serving
1 ounce clarified butter
½ teaspoon mixture of dried basil and oregano
½ teaspoon mixture granulated garlic, salt and pepper
1 tablespoon fresh garlic, chopped
Pinch, crushed red pepper
5 large shrimp, butterflied, tail-on
½ cup dry white wine
9 ounces linguini
1 tablespoon fresh parsley, chopped
Combine butter with dry ingredients in sauté pan. Add shrimp. Sauté until tails turn pink on edges. Add white wine.
Prepare linguini in pasta drop, drain, add to pan. Gently toss all ingredients.
Transfer to bowl. Garnish with parsley.
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Melanie Wolkoff Wachsman is a freelance writer in Louisville, Kentucky. She covers food, business and lifestyle trends.
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