If you were in Las Vegas, then you know that International Pizza Expo® was THE place to be. You could feel the energy and pizza enthusiasm from the moment you walked into the Las Vegas Convention Center.
The Traditional Division of the International Pizza Challenge™ had the following regional winners and wild cards that advanced to the finals:
- Michael Stevens, Pallo Mesa Pizza, Arroyo, CA - Southwest Region
- Thiago Vasconcelos, Tony’s Pizza Napoletana, San Francisco, CA - Northwest Region
- Javier Valdez, Joe’s New York Pizza, Henderson, NV - Mid-America Region
- Leah Scurto, Pizza My Heart, Las Gatos, CA - Wild Card
- Danilo Lupo, Pizzeria Defina, Toronto, ON - International Region
- Bruno DiFabio, Renapoli, Old Greenwich, CT - Northeast Region
- Jane Mines, Nima’s Pizza & More, Inc., Gassville, AR - Southeast Region
- Rick Nixon, Itza Ristorante & Pizzeria, Nelson, B.C. - Canada
The Non-Traditional Division of the International Pizza Challenge™ had the following regional winners and wild cards that advanced to the finals:
- Joleen Piser, AJ Barile’s Chicago Pizza, Yucaipa, CA - Southwest Region
- Tim Hoffman, Barros Pizza, Phoenix, AZ - Northwest Region
- Melissa Rickman, Wholly Stromboli, Fort Lupton, CO - Mid-America Region
- Lars Smith, Pizza My Heart, Los Gatos, CA - Wild Card
- Doug Ferriman, Crazy Dough’s Pizza, Boston, MA - Northeast Region
- Floriana Pastore, Italy - International Region
- Michael LaMarca, Master Pizza, Mayfield Heights, OH - Southeast Region
- Rocco Agostino, Pizzeria Libretto, Toronto, Ontario - Canada
Thiago Vasconcelos won the Traditional Division and $7,500, Floriana Pastore won Non-Traditional Division and $7,500, Jeff Smokevitch, Brown Dog Pizza, Telluride, Colorado, won the American-Pan Division, and Michele D’Amelio, Pizzeria Testa, Liono (AV), Italy, won the Italian-Style Division and $4,000.
Following the finals of the International Pizza Challenge, the winners in each division squared off in the Pizza Maker of the Year competition. Contestants were presented with a table of ingredients from which to choose. There were no restrictions for toppings, but all contestants had to use the secret ingredient — Kalamata Olives. Floriana Pastore, our first female champion, walked away with the title of World Champion Pizza Maker of the Year and an additional $5,000. And special applause for Theo Kalogeracos, winner of the Best of the Best competition among past world champions took home $2,500 and the title of Master Pizza Maker of the Year.
Start making plans now to attend International Pizza Expo® 2014, which will again be held at the Las Vegas Convention Center March 24 – 27.
Executive Vice President
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 truly 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 25–27, 2014, 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
I want to personally thank all of the pizza professionals who attended this year’s Pizza Expo®. This year’s show was undoubtedly one of the biggest and best industry events ever held, with a show floor the size of nearly 5½ football fields with 455 exhibiting companies and 1,000-plus booths all devoted to America’s favorite food – Pizza! Pizza professionals from all over the world packed the exhibit hall and seminars rooms in search of new products and information.
You could feel the excitement and electricity coming from our contest and demonstration areas, where the World Pizza Games® and the International Pizza Challenge™ were being held. This year we had a record nine World Titles up for grabs between the World Pizza Games® and International Pizza Challenge™. Throw in the $20,000 Mega Bucks Giveaway and the New Exhibitor Treasure Hunt and we had nearly $70,000 in total prize money awarded this year. If you couldn’t attend this year’s show and were wondering who walked away with the hardware, cash and bragging rights, please make sure to read the Expo wrap-up article in the May issue of Pizza Today.
The great thing about Pizza Expo is no matter how many times you’ve attended past shows, there’s always something new you can learn or implement that will help improve your pizzeria. In fact, I know it seems a long way off right now, but it’s never too early to start making plans to attend next year’s Expo, which will be held March 25–27, 2014, at the Las Vegas Convention Center. There’s no telling what we’ll come up with to top this year’s show, but I’m sure we’ll plan several exciting new twists for 2014. Do you have any suggestions on how we can improve the show? If so, we would like to hear from you.
As always, we want you to know, we are committed to improving and increasing the number and quality of exhibits, demonstrations, events and seminars at our trade shows. You’ll see this commitment now more than ever in our related enterprises — through the pages of Pizza Today, on our websites, the Quick Tips newsletter and Pizza Today’s School of Pizzeria Management.
When selecting which trade show to attend, remember general foodservice shows are precisely that … even if they claim to have a pizza pavilion, contests and a few pizza-related exhibitors. Remember, if you’re focused on looking for new pizza products, suppliers, networking opportunities or just a few ideas on how to improve your pizzeria, then International Pizza Expo® is the ONLY show for you!
For more information on Pizza Expo, please feel free to give us a call at 800-489-8324.
It’s all PIZZA and it’s all for YOU!
Executive Vice President
Meet the Players:
Mother Bear's Pizza
Fresh Brothers Pizza
Los Angles, California
Farrelli's Wood Fire Pizza
Crazy Dough's Pizza
Q: What is the most effective promotion you ran in the last year?
Ferriman: The most effective promotion we ran last year was a bundle promotion of buying one large Signature Pizza and getting a large cheese for $5.
McConn: Our most popular promotion in 2012 was also our most popular in 2011 and 2010 and 2009, etc. I’m referring to our Munchie Madness special (10-inch one topping pizza, breadsticks w/sauce, 2 home-made brownies, and a 2 liter of Pepsi product for $10.95) that’s good 24/7. It offers strong value, fulfills a need in the sales lineup, is very memorably named and is prepared and processed very easily. We have a few others that offer similar value that are aimed at different facets of our customer base.
Krueger: We ran a super successful pizza school series, inspired by Tony Gemignani’s International School of Pizza, which our Director of Kitchen Operations, Michael Rutledge, attended. We asked ourselves how could we leverage that higher learning that Mike had received as it pertained to our guest experience? We recognized that we had an opportunity to better educate our customers on the quality of products we source and the pride we take in the preparation and baking of our pizzas. We figured, why not give our guests the opportunity to go through Pizza School? The idea was to keep it fun and simple at the same time — informative and hands-on. So we came up with three courses: 101 was all about dough … making, rolling, storing and opening the dough. 202 was all about toppings and really getting people to think outside of the box when it came to sauces and ingredients, with an emphasis on quality. 303, or the capstone as it became known, was a competition where the customers would make and present their own pie to a panel of judges that we compiled. The best pie was chosen to be featured on the cover of our menu for the following quarter, and the proceeds from the sale of the pizza were donated to the Washington Restaurant Association Education Foundation in the form of a scholarship for an inspiring young culinary student. Essentially, what this campaign did for us was drive traffic on slow nights in our stores … Secondly, it gave people an experience in our stores that they would most certainly share with their friends via positive word of mouth. It also gave us a bunch of stuff to talk about through our social media channels. Most importantly, though, the winning pizza raised money for a charitable cause which really helped us showcase our commitment to neighborhood nourishment at Farrelli’s.
Shepherd: I am not a fan of gauging success on single promotions. Rather, I like to build out a solid marketing strategy that relies on many small items all working together. But, if I have to choose just one I would go with our Upselling Incentive program for our phone staff and servers. Over the course of a month we were able to increase our check average by over $3! Employees were given incentives such as cash, gift cards, and free food to help them encourage customers to try new pizzas, specialty drinks, appetizers, and desserts. The suggestive selling was backed up by management who would parade eye-appealing food through the dining room, give out free samples, and keep the staff motivated.
Q: What is the most pressing issue facing your business in 2013?
Ferriman: The most pressing issue facing our business in 2013 is keeping our food costs down. Continuous training for proper portion control will help us in this rising commodity world we live in.
McConn: Rising costs. Given the global nature of food, if a gnat farts in Australia, flour rises 2 percent in Chicago, or so it seems. Seriously, we are at the mercy of global harvests and availability of natural resources. When there is a failure in some part of this chain, we all have to pay the price. Given the wild fluctuations of weather and changing weather patterns that we’ve seen in the past few years, I think we all need to be prepared for shortages and the consequent rise in prices.
Goldberg: Our most pressing issue is finding great locations for new stores — a good problem to have. We find that we are competing with major national QSR chains for retail space.
Q: How often do you re-evaluate your menu offerings and pricing?
Goldberg: We evaluate our menu options and pricing twice a year. We’ll add menu items when it’s appropriate, such as our January 2013 launch of the Fresh Brothers skinny crust. New menu items tend to refocus customers’ attention onto the food, and away from price changes. Ultimately, our focus is on our food. Always.
Krueger: We re-evaluate our menu selection and pricing every 3-6 months. We go through a menu engineering process to determine our Stars, Dogs, Puzzles and Plow Horsers so that we can figure out what needs to stay on our menu or come off, or which items need to be put in a better location on the menu or have the recipe or presentation re-tooled to be more effective. We want our menus to always be current and fresh and to do the very best job possible at driving profit to the bottom line. We research the gaze patterns that the human brain will make when staring at different menu layouts so that we can have our most profitable items placed in the sweet spots of the pages.
Gold: We re-evaluate our menu and pricing every three months. We only print 3 months of menus at a time.
Ferriman: We re-evaluate our menu offerings and pricing twice a year when we reprint our menus. We evaluate what pizzas sell and don’t sell, their contribution margin and their ingredient prep time and cost. Pizzas that don’t meet the standard for these factors either get a price increase or face elimination from the menu.
Q: How often do you re-evaluate your menu offerings and pricing?
McConn: Ideally we review menu and prices once a year and make changes to coincide with the start of the university school year. You can go bananas poring over POS data and trying to tweak your menu every week or month. To us it makes more sense to be patient with your new offerings and give them a chance to develop “legs”. Price increases that occur outside of normal seasonal fluctuations are evaluated to determine if they are fleeting or the new norm. Being an independent, we can literally react within minutes to a situation such as an outstanding new product or price consideration.
Shepherd: I generally review my food costs on a monthly basis. Considering the precarious economy, I am very reluctant to raise prices unless I really must. Instead I have been focusing on adding new offerings that are by nature low in food cost to help offset the rising costs in other areas.
My menu is ever changing. I try to update and refresh my menu at least quarterly. Customers want solid consistent offerings, but also want new things that they can get excited about.
Q: What advice would you give new operators who are entering the industry?
McConn: Whenever I read answers to this question, I’m always disappointed by the nebulous, redundant nature of the responses. The reality is that you need money, and of course a passion/interest, and then more money, and experience, and if you don’t have experience then a lot, lot more money. A good location helps, but nothing substitutes for financial depth. Yeah, you can make it without financial wherewithal, but you can also put your money in a pile in the middle of the street and hope it’s there the next day. Nothing, including sweat, intelligence, industry, effort, 80 hours a week, free advice, expensive advice, your wife’s family, your second cousin’s blessing, Aunt Thelma’s secret recipe that came over on the Mayflower, etc., substitutes for having ample cash. That’s just how the game is played. If you can’t play by these rules, then you really shouldn’t play.
Shepherd: You must know your numbers! Know how much profit your location can make, know how much in sales you need to make, know your break even numbers, and know when to call it quits.
Gold: Be realistic on the amount of return on your effort and investment. Be truthful to yourself why you are getting into the pizza business.
Ferriman: My advice for new operators is to first make sure your “Will Power” tank is full, and then become obsessed with learning everything about operational efficiencies, portion control, quality ingredients, customer service and how you put all those together to create success.
Q: How has social media impacted your marketing?
Gold: The return on investment is better than any other type of paid advertising out there now.
Ferriman: Social media has given us a much broader reach for a fraction of the cost. We are constantly creating new pies to sell by the slice and social media is a perfect medium to get the message out about something new and innovative we are doing. I will create say a Filet Mignon pizza and take a picture of it, tweet and Facebook it out and say....“Come in now for a new Filet Mignon slice...and just for trying the new creation I will buy your fountain soda.” Social media also allows us to interact more easily with our customers, i.e. people always put pics of pizzas on Twitter, which I see, and I subsequently direct message with a “thank you” and bogo coupon.
McConn: Social media? What’s that? Although we have a Facebook account, a Twitter account, and advertise on Yelp, we also have a yellow page ad, daily placement in our daily newspaper, and table tents. We really don’t use social media to any great extent. Why? Because we don’t have to! For all the benefits that are purported to be gained from social media, they don’t come free. To be truly effective, you or your designee need to be fairly active in pursuing the different electronic avenues, and creatively developing ad copy for them. This is spelled “time and money”. Our disdain for this venue is also based on our market position. We are acknowledged as the best pizza in 43 states (okay, we’ll settle for Bloomington for now). We have created a system of marketing that has been tested through the years to be exceptionally effective for us. Business is still increasing on an annual basis. If I was starting my first store, I would be highly involved in social media. Since Mother Bear’s has been here for 40 years, we play the game differently.
Goldberg: We consider it a valuable tool alongside traditional marketing tools like print advertising, billboards and radio. Social media is like adding another distribution channel. It allows us to interact directly with our customers, so we’re more engaged and present to our customers, which is very important to us.
Krueger: The thing I often think about is, ‘What would life be like without social media?’ I can hardly remember a time when we weren’t interacting with our friends, family and favorite organizations through various online social networking sites. For us at Farrelli’s, we were early adopters of social media, having a MySpace page for our company early on and since transitioning our efforts to Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube & Yelp to name the primary ones. These sites have helped our business to have a stronger brand presence and to engage with existing and potential guests through mediums that they are already using … Additionally, we are hearing about areas of opportunity for us to improve through these sites as opposed to not hearing that feedback at all. It also gives us an opportunity to fix any issues that someone may have encountered in our store to help retain them as a valued guest, sometimes even while they are still in the store, so that we can correct the issue before they ever leave. Our objective with social media is not to utilize it as a “free” advertising medium, as some people might be inclined to do, but rather to stay engaged with our guests so that the next time they think pizza, they think Farrelli’s ... It’s about top of mind awareness.
Shepherd: Social media now makes up the majority of my marketing. I don’t push coupons and specials through social media, but rather use it as a platform to get my customers talking about us. It is instant, free, and makes the customer feel a part of something. We recently started a campaign at one of my stores focusing on getting my customers to know my staff. We take photos of the staff, post on Facebook and the first customer to come in and say the correct phrase to that employee wins a free pizza. Next month we will encourage our customers to “steal” a certain branded item, take a photo of themselves with it at a notable landmark, post it to our Facebook page and then pass it on. I hope I can get the item across the country.
JOIN US: Beer & Bull Idea Exchange® Tuesday and Wednesday, March 19 & 20 4:30 - 6 p.m.
Have you ever wondered what it’d be like to sit at a table with 10 other pizza operators from all over the country—or in a room with 500 colleagues—free to discuss whatever issues are foremost on your mind? It happens every Pizza Expo at Beer & Bull, where attendees wind down from the day with a cold drink and friendly information sharing in a non-competitive environment. You name the topics; you ask the questions—at your table and over the microphone in the larger room. Pizza Today publisher Pete Lachapelle moderates the discussion to ensure that someone will have the answer you seek.
Photo by Rick Daugherty
When Dan Richer opened his second pizzeria venture, Razza Pizza Artigianale, earlier this year, he had a clear vision in mind. All the ingredients would be locally sourced and everything that could be made in-house would be. His beverage list would get the same care and attention to detail as the food and service. The wines would all come from a region in Italy he visits every year on a pilgrimage. The beers would all be considered craft and come from breweries within the state or a short drive away.
Like good food, craft beer “has substance and soul behind it,” says the Jersey City, New Jersey, owner. “Local and flavorful beer on the menu pushes the wheel forward.”
As America enjoys a golden age of beer, many pizzerias have created enviable beer lists that not only increase customer interest — and therefore, sales — but also garnish a sense of pride for operators and give them a leg up on the competition. Call them artisanal, small batch, or even microbrews, but the truth is that more and more craft beers are popping up on beverage menus as pizzeria owners move away from uninspired beer menus that are as dusty as they are irrelevant.
The foamy line has shifted over the last 30 years and now the Brewers Association, a trade group that represents small, independent and traditional breweries, says that there are more than 2,200 breweries in the country and that the majority of Americans live within at least 10 miles of a brewery. This means fresh, flavorful beers that are suitable for any palate are within reach.
Adding even a few craft beers to existing offerings can add depth to a menu and is easier than you might think. It begins with education.
Many beer distributors now have a craft component and they have spent time and money educating their employees on the rapidly changing landscape. They will share that knowledge with you. First, ask your distributor what is available, spend a little extra time with their sales book, and consult sites like beeradvocate.com and ratebeer.com to see what real customers are saying about a particular brew. Sites like craftbeer.com (which offers a state-by-state brewery locator) and allaboutbeer.com give insight to trends, flavors as well as popular and inspiring breweries.
Another option is to look to your staff. Chances are there is someone working in your kitchen or dining room that has a decent knowledge of beer and could offer suggestions. When you’re ready to get serious about building a better beer menu distributors will often come in for tutorial classes to help your staff with identifying flavors and proper pouring techniques, as well as give guidance on proper storage and effective presentation.
There are many benefits to draft beer, but it does require extra equipment, space, and education. However, draft offers a chance to serve rare or limited release brews, or options from breweries that do not package their beers. This is particularly helpful if you want to serve local.
If draft is not an option — or even if it is — consider bottles and cans. Yes, cans. Once thought of as a lesser vessel, many craft breweries have embraced aluminum because of its ability to keep out the mortal enemies of light and oxygen, as well as it’s lightweight. Bottle options go beyond the 12-ounce. Flavorful beers come in 7-oz, 22-oz, even 750-ml bottles. Some have the traditional caps, but others offer cage and cork, or swing tops. Pizzeria owners and beverage managers alike say that different bottle presentations along with unfamiliar labels often get the attention of other customers, especially if they are made visible while walking through a dining room.
In the past with generic lagers, people knew what they were getting. Pale to golden yellow in color, easy on the flavor and usually without bitterness, lagers are what several generations grew up knowing about beer. No more.
If you’re aiming to start slow, consider adding a Pale Ale that features a spicy hop bite. Or an amber or brown ale, which focus more on sweet and roasty malts. Belgian beers are popular and include witbier, a hazy wheat-heavy brew with spicy notes, and Belgian pale ale, which has more of a malt profile and some fruit notes. There are also the Biere de Garde that has woodsy, cellar-like character that comes with proper aging and offers a dry flavor and finish. Many of these beers are bottle conditioned — meaning yeast is added to the bottle — and regularly pair well with bread dishes. India Pale Ale, especially one made in the U.S., will be more hop aggressive and pair well with bold dishes, like wings or blue cheese.
Like produce, beer is seasonal. With each new month, different beers are released that showcase the best of winter, spring, summer and fall. Adding these beers to your menu to compliment food gets customers engaged.
As you’re making decisions about your beer list keep in mind that so much depends on what malt, hops, and yeast the brewer used. No two are exactly alike.
Pizzeria operators say that taking the time to share facts of the beer — origin, flavors, alcohol content, and pairing suggestions — on a printed menu lead to additional sales with little effort. Give the beer the same care and description that you do your wine or food menu.
“I’ve found that customers that order craft beer and pay a premium are more likely to order specials from the menu and tip better,” says Mike Rangel of Asheville Pizza and Brewing in North Carolina. “If you rotate your beers, they come back more often. What’s not to like about that?”
John Holl is a freelance journalist covering the beer industry. He’s the author of the American Craft Beer Cookbook. Holl lives in New Jersey and regularly lectures and consults on the topic of craft beer.
Photos by Josh Keown
So much of what happens in a restaurant is creative. All cooks like to think of themselves as artistes. It is, after all, called the culinary arts. But when it comes to the menu, that’s where science kicks in. In fact, too much creativity on a menu can have negative consequences.
That isn’t to say the menu shouldn’t be creatively produced. Indeed, the right colors, typeface and even photos in some cases are key elements. But knowing which colors, what typeface and font size and whether or not pictures should be incorporated are important considerations. They’re components in the science of menu engineering, and learning how to put the knowledge to work with your own menu can increase your profits significantly — without raising menu prices.
There are more than 30 menu-merchandizing techniques that have been proven to influence what guests buy. That’s more than can be itemized here — and more than you need to employ to effectively reengineer your menu. The best menus utilize no more than two of the strategies on one page and no more than five for the entire menu. But one of the most important elements to understand before considering any of the others has to do with what can best be described as your menu’s real estate. And just as with conventional real estate, the three most important things in menu engineering are location, location, location.
Think of your menu as a property development. And just as with, say, a condominium development, some pieces of the property are more attractive than others. If you were a developer, you’d want to put your high-rent properties in those areas that are going to attract the best buyers. It’s the same with your menu, but instead of relying on water features to get the attention of well-heeled condo buyers, or relegating the lower rent condos to the lots next to the railroad tracks, you need to understand how your buyers, the restaurant guests, make their selections. That’s where the science comes in. It is part behavioral and part sensorial.
Studies have determined that people read a menu in a particular pattern. Take for instance the typical three-panel menu. When guests open the menu, their eyes immediately go to the middle of the middle panel. Then they move to the top right of the right-side panel. And from there their eyes move across to the top of the left panel. That’s sort of the Golden Triangle –– the high rent district, if you will –– of your menu. And that’s where you want to put your high-margin signature items. (How to determine what those items are is a topic for another discussion.) That’s perhaps an oversimplification of a rather complex study in human behavior. But it isn’t necessary to know how it works, only why it works, and then take advantage of it. But important as it is to know where to place which items within the real estate of your menu, there are many more considerations as well. Some of these include:
- Item names. A simple cheese pizza becomes more alluring if named the Handmade Mozzarella Pizza.
- Item descriptions. Short descriptions are, as a rule, preferred. But if there is one item on the menu with a longer description than the others, your guests will take note. People are conditioned to notice something that’s different. u
- Negative space. Along the same line, by setting a signature item apart, with empty space around it, your guests’ attention will be drawn to it.
- Nested pricing. Instead of right-justification of the prices, which encourages the guest to shop by price, place the item’s cost at the end of the description, in the same font size. That encourages the guest to choose an item by its description, not by how much it costs.
- Don’t use dollar signs. Psychologically (more science!), dollar signs have been proven to actually create a negative physiological response of pain; much like a small pinch.
And in the “neatness counts” category, be sure to hire a professional copywriter to write and proofread your menu. Misspelled words and poor grammar and punctuation get noticed, and they reflect negatively on you. But beyond mere style, concise and compelling copy sells. Your niece may have gotten an A on her English composition essay, but that does not necessarily mean she can write irresistible menu descriptions that will make your guests want to buy your product.
Also, engage the services of a professional layout designer who can advise on font style and type size. Layout design is truly a combination of art and science. Flowery script and a tiny typeface can make a menu difficult to read. Hint: if your menu looks like a wedding invitation, you and your guests are headed for a break-up.
But none of this will matter and no amount of menu engineering can help if you haven’t first developed your brand’s personality, its story and its promise (three areas that will be more thoroughly explored at International Pizza Expo this month). Too many business owners equate their brand with their name and their product, but true branding goes much deeper than that.
Essentially, a brand’s personality is very much like the personality of a human. If your brand were a person how would it walk, talk and behave in public? Would it be whimsical or serious? What’s its favorite color? How does it dress — in a button-down shirt or cut-off jeans?
People love storytelling, so after you determine your brand’s personality, consider its story. It could very well be your story, too. But a focus of the story should be not what you sell but why you sell it, because, ultimately, that’s why people buy it.
And the brand promise communicates your pledge to the customer. It may be in the integrity of your ingredients, your dedication to sourcing local products, or a higher level of quality. Once you’ve developed them, your brand’s personality, story and promise will drive all aspects of your business, from the marketing you do, the sign you hang out front and the color you paint your walls. And yes, even the way you design your menu.
Aaron Allen is a global restaurant consultant representing foodservice clients spanning more than 100 countries worldwide and who collectively post more than $100 billion in annual revenue. He will speak on the topics of trends, menu engineering and restaurant makeovers at the upcoming 2013 Pizza Expo.
We're looking for the best photos taken by attendees at Pizza Expo 2013 next week in Las Vegas — and we're giving away two iPads for the best of the best.
The rules are simple: Your photo must be taken at the show March 19-21 and posted by Wednesday at 9 p.m. either to Facebook or Twitter @PizzaExpo. We'll be gathering up the best images and selecting two winners —one from the Facebook posts and one from Twitter. The winners will be announced on Thursday.
So be on the lookout for striking images if you are attending the show. You could walk away with a brand new iPad.
For more details on International Pizza Expo 2013, visit www.pizzaexpo.com.
In today’s business climate, it’s not just about knowing how to produce a quality pizza or understanding your customers’ needs and wants if you want to maintain and grow your pizzeria. Attending an industry trade show is the best vehicle for obtaining new knowledge, insight and ideas that can help you position your pizzeria for future growth. At Pizza Expo you’ll find new opportunities and solutions that will produce bottom line results.
Below are a few tips that will help you get the most out of your trade show experience:
• Time is at a premium. Come prepared with a plan of attack. Download our new Pizza Expo 2013 mobile app and the Pizza Expo 2013 Guide from the Apple and Android stores.Schedule appointments with key contacts. Make a list of what you want to learn and see. Review the seminar program and pre-show workshops to see what’s being offered that will have greatest benefit and impact on you and your business.
• Take charge! You may want to arrange to meet with suppliers and/or other pizzeria operators to find out what they’re doing and what they see happening in the future. Make plans to attend the Beer & Bull® Idea Exchange to hear what other operators are thinking.
• Take time to walk the show floor thoroughly and completely. Make notes of the products, companies and booth numbers that grab your attention. Pay particular attention to new products and services being offered at the show, as well as new exhibitors.
• Knowledge is power! Take time to talk to as many industry consultants and experts as you can. Pick their brains to find out what they’re thinking and doing. What are the emerging trends, and how can they help or hurt your business? Many of these top consultants are on the seminar program.
• Last but not least, this may be one of the best times ever to purchase new equipment … certainly a buyer’s market. The fact of the matter is: no one wants to take their equipment and products back to the warehouse. Take advantage of the show specials and steep discounts being offered by our exhibiting partners. You may not have an opportunity like this again for another year.
• What are your peers doing, and how does your pizzeria compare?
• Can you leverage vendor/supplier expertise?
• Is there an opportunity to expand your menu?
• What can you do differently to outshine and outperform your competition?
Finally, write down what you learned at the show and rethink or analyze your business strategy and philosophy. How can you better position your pizzeria in the marketplace? What new ideas can you implement to achieve your goals?
There will always be winners and losers, but only those pizzeria owners and operators who arm themselves with new industry knowledge and are willing to take action toward positive change will have the ability to compete and win in today’s economy. At International Pizza Expo® you’ll gain new industry insight and knowledge that will help you strategize, improve operations and make the right decisions that will allow you to compete and WIN!
We mean business!
Executive Vice President
In far too many businesses leadership has fallen by the wayside. That includes owners and managers in the pizza business. The economy, rising costs, fierce competition and long days and nights have caused most owners to have little, if any, time to think about their ability to lead. They are simply trying to stay afloat.
Even those pizza business owners who are experiencing strong growth rarely stop and think about how much more productive and profitable they could be if they paid more attention to this critical area of business.
Smart owners however, have recognized that success starts and stops with an organization’s leadership. They know that no matter how mouth-watering and delightful their pizza is, and how creative their marketing, advertising and promotions may be, they can never accomplish their goals without a highly motivated staff. They operate with a basic business fundamental that many small business owners seem to forget: Employee performance is the key to success and long-term business growth. Within the motivated employee are ideas, solutions to problems and the ability to bring customers back.
In an ideal world, every person you hire is self-motivated. However, in the pizza business, there are obstacles, including limited opportunities for advancement and ceilings on pay increases. Therefore, it’s up to you and your managers to keep employees motivated to deliver the highest level of customer service each day. This is not an easy task, and much depends on how employees feel about their boss.
The Boss Vs. the Manager Vs. a Dynamic Leader
Although these three roles are supervisory in nature, they are distinctly different. Which one are you?
Boss: Simply put, a boss is someone who owns the business or someone with a title who tells people what to do. He or she passes out orders as easily as salespeople pass out business cards. Interestingly, the number one cause of job dissatisfaction in America is working for a bad boss! These bosses micromanage people, show favoritism, talk down to their staff and shoot down ideas. There should be a policy of “Zero-Tolerance for Bad Bosses” in every company.
Manager: A manager directs, decides, and interacts with his or her staff to oversee operations, make sure customers are happy and watch over the cash register. Managers in the pizza business are responsible for much more. Regardless of what type of business they work in, managers are accountable to owners for results.
Dynamic Leader: A dynamic leader has a vision of where he or she wants the business to go. They eloquently communicate their vision and have an innate ability to motivate, inspire, and influence their staff to do what needs to be done – and do it well. Smart pizza business owners practice dynamic leadership and insist their managers do the same. They also recognize that because they have a title, they don’t automatically get respect. They have to earn it.
Be a Dynamic Leader
To determine your ability to lead and motivate your employees, start by considering your core values. Hopefully, you have established them, and have posted them on your website, placed them in a frame and put them on your walls. Some common core values include: honesty, integrity, respect, ethics, excellence, teamwork, accountability – you get the idea.
Set the example for others to follow. It's the one leadership principal most people have heard and it seems like its simple enough. Think about the type of person you would want to follow; be that person. Work alongside staff and demonstrate your core values, a strong work ethic and the highest-level professionalism.
Being open-minded is a mindset that rock-solid leaders possess. It's one of invitation and collaboration, where you are genuinely interested in hearing the ideas and opinions of their employees. While it's important to ensure focus by adhering to an overarching vision, leaders who welcome the input of their employees are typically the ones who are most respected. Far too many business owners and managers fall short by not asking for ideas and opinions.
Effective Communication – An Essential Element of Leadership
Studies have proven that 85 percent of an individual’s overall career success is directly proportionate to his or her ability to communicate. That doesn’t mean you have to become a public speaker. It means you need to get your message through to people and apply effective communication. Here’s how:
• Be a straight shooter. Your staff should always hear the truth and know that you tell it like it is. They should also know your opinions.
• Practice the “One Minute Manager.” Catch someone doing something good and appreciate them. Catch someone doing something wrong, and correct them in private, never in front of others.
• Avoid miscommunication. Always ask your team if your expectations, instructions, etc., are clear.
• Know how to communicate with people on all levels and ages. Never talk down to anyone.
• Be confident, consistent, and caring. Your employees are listening for the attitude behind your words.
• Listen. Don’t worry about trying to express yourself better (you don’t have to be talkative to be a leader). Think instead about asking good questions. Resist the temptation to think about what you want to say in response when carrying on a conversation. You’ll be amazed at how much you learn, and how much better you understand people you thought you understood before. People rightly see leaders as those who understand them, or who make the effort to try to understand them.
• Listening is a function of asking questions. Spend 20 minutes each day talking to individual employees and asking questions similar to those below.
Often, your biggest challenge is time. But taking the time to talk to your staff individually and in teams is important. Your pizza should be perfect, but it is your staff – from your pizza maker to your drivers to your servers – who are developing the reputation of your pizza business.
• Make your pizza place a great place to come to work every day.
• Expect people to make mistakes. No person or team is perfect.
• Focus on what is really important and set priorities. Simplify the business as much as possible.
• Nip problems in the bud
• Reward and recognize employees for great service
• Always know what’s going on in your business and your team
• Set the highest standards for customer service and performance
• Be very clear on what, specifically your employees should be accountable for.
• Involve your team in the creation of “guiding principles” on how you agree to treat customers and each other.
• Do not tolerate underperformers or negative employees
• Never let a day go by where you don’t thank employees, individually and in teams for their hard work.
As you interact with your staff, remember: Dynamic leaders motivate and inspire employees to follow their lead and deliver their best performance. They demand that their managers also practice dynamic leadership, which ultimately improves your businesses bottom line. Now, ask yourself this question, “Would you want to work for you?
Christine Corelli is a business speaker and author of five business books, including the best-selling “Wake Up and Smell the Competition” and “Capture Your Competitors’ Customers and KEEP Them.” She will give seminars at Pizza Expo 2013 on leadership and how to handle problem employees.
For more details on International Pizza Expo 2013, visit www.pizzaexpo.com.
In the restaurant industry, I truly believe the difference between owning a job and owning a business is catering. The difference between eking out a living and living a great life is catering.
Before I sold my interest in my restaurant at the end of 2006, I had built my sales to over three million dollars a year out of a hundred and four seat restaurant. Over a million dollars of those sales were in catering. Roughly two thirds from drop-off/self-service catering and a third from full service events.
Not only did catering contribute the lion’s share to our profits, but each and every catering job was a free advertising opportunity for us. There’s no other way to get paid to market your restaurant. I learned this lesson the hard way. In the beginning, I trusted every . . . ad rep. I bought tons of television, radio, magazine and newspaper ads. Unfortunately, they knew less than I did.
If my sales did not improve they’d advise, “You need to advertise longer. It takes time to build a brand.” I didn’t have the time or the bankroll of Coca-Cola or Nike to wait that long or to waste dollars reaching prospects across town that were never going to buy from me.
I learned to cater not die! Catering is proactive, not reactive. You do not have to wait for a customer to walk in your front door. You can go to them. I catered many five figure events an hour or two outside of Nashville.
Say what you want about his hair, but Donald Trump’s “Apprentice” is one of the best shows on television today for the entire family. If you are in any type of business, each season offers up a mini-MBA on a silver platter with valuable lessons showcased each episode.
My two sons have no problem catching the moral and lesson each week. I remember an episode where two competing teams set up Outback Steakhouse concession stands at opposite ends of the Rutgers’ campus before a football game. They were each given space on a parking lot and turned loose to get the word out about their stand.
The all male team was off to a fast start. They went about creating an “Event” to draw in visitors. They were able to land an exclusive to have the cheerleading and dance team perform at their venue. They were always a step ahead of the all female team when it came to promotions: getting flyers out, hitting fraternity row and the school’s pep rally.
The women appeared doomed from the outset. Once the concession stands opened, the line was long at the men’s tent. The women’s was short and they started to get concerned. Well if necessity is the mother of invention, then spiraling sales is the mother of out-of-the-box marketing.
One of the women decided that if the customers weren’t coming to the concession stand, they’d bring the concession stand to the customers. They loaded up aluminum pans and went to each tailgate party and sold nose to nose and toes to toes. Wasn’t pretty, booth was dead, but they sold 50 percent more than the guys. They humiliated them.
Sort of reminds me of the first summer my barbecue restaurant was open. We had a concession stand in downtown Nashville, for the Fourth of July celebration.
We sucked wind. Jack Cawthon, a friend now, but not then, owned a little BBQ joint 50 feet away from us in the middle of all the action. He had an unfair advantage. Because of his beer permit, he was the only one selling beer on that sweltering July day. Made no difference how good my “Q” was, he had what people wanted, beer.
As a result, they bought their food at his place and sat outside on picnic benches polishing off cans of Bud and Miller Lite. He raked it in.
To salvage the event, we took trays, loaded them up with large Cokes and went into the crowd selling drinks like the hawkers at a baseball stadium. We never got rich, but it prevented the day from being a total massacre.
What’s this have to do with you and your restaurant? You can’t always easily change your circumstances, like location or competition, but you can change how you look at your challenges. There are multiple profit and sales centers you can add to your restaurant (like catering, my specialty).
I have helped hundreds of restaurants keep their doors open. Layla Gambs comes to mind. A major road construction project was obstructing access to her restaurant. With sales down 28%, she was close to locking the doors for good. After hearing me speak in Phoenix, she rolled up her sleeves and started catering. Catering gave her the sales she desperately needed to stay in business and ultimately thrive when construction was completed.
She chose to cater, not die!
I believe we are at a time in the life cycle of restaurants where most operators are forced to add or expand their catering profit centers or risk going out of business. At minimum, failing to cater hampers your ability to make more than just a living.
I see franchises, chains and independents embracing the catering profit center. They all realize the potential to double profits without doubling overhead. Realistically, most concepts from ice cream to Italian restaurants can easily add ten percent to their top line sales. It is not uncommon to see twenty to thirty percent of a restaurant’s sales in catering, but they must develop the systems to make it a reality.
My presentation at Pizza Expo is dedicated to helping you cater, not die. You’ll learn the same system responsible for me building a seven figure catering profit center. You’ll see actual examples and learn real techniques from my archives; promotions responsible for building my catering sales.
You will see a very detailed marketing flow chart of growing, servicing and retaining your catering business. As opposed to a book full of disconnected ideas, you will walk away with a plan you can use, step-by-step to build and better manage your catering profit center.
Lack of knowledge may be a reason for failing, but lack of trying is no excuse. After reading this book, you’ll be armed with knowledge and asked to leave your excuses at the door.
Listen. Can you hear it? It’s getting closer, ever louder. It’s the sound of your competitors jumping on the catering bandwagon. Failing to lay your claim can be costly.
Now is the time to cater or die!
Michael Attias will be presenting his seminar at Pizza Expo, “Seven Steps to Maximize Your Catering Sales,” on Wed., March 20, once in a morning session and again at 2:30 p.m. You can obtain an advance, free copy of his book “Cater or Die!” at the website RestaurantCateringSoftware.com.
For more details on International Pizza Expo 2013, visit www.pizzaexpo.com.
Tired of having another week of employees calling off, being late or making complaints like, “I hate it when it’s busy”? Feel like you are in the dark, with no idea where to turn to help improve your pizza operation?
Stop the insanity! While there is no one simple solution to this restaurant dilemma, there are a number of proven strategies to help make running a pizza restaurant more efficient, effective and profitable.
If you’ve ever played darts, chances are you never did so with the lights off. You wouldn’t know if you hit the target, how many points you scored or if you won the game. However, too many pizza operators and franchisees take this approach to building their team: ill-defined or non-existent hiring profiles, interviewing by “gut-feel,” training by the seat of their pants and little-to-no recognition or rewards. And then they wonder why their restaurant struggles!
Stop playing darts in the dark. To move sales, service and profits forward, these effective points of light can help you perform better:
1) Have hiring traits established by position. A delivery driver or server requires an entirely different skill set than someone in prep or a cashier. What traits do your top performers in those areas have? List them, and then interview for those traits. Hire only those people who have the characteristics needed. Examples vary by position but often include integrity, friendliness, attention to detail, sense of urgency, and so on.
2) Know your needs. Do you need full- or part-time? Nights or weekends? Over 18 to use the slicer/mixer? To effectively recruit, these needs must be known, and the way to do that is to create a manpower plan.
3) Know your employee turnover and recruit BEFORE you have a hole to fill (so you can avoid crisis-hiring). If you have 20 employees and your turnover is 150 percent, you hire 30 people per year, or 2.5 per month. Build this into your plan to be proactive.
4) Use behavior-based questions that search for the personality traits you’re seeking. Avoid hypothetical questions such as, “What would you do if ___?” You will get hypothetical answers. Instead ask, “The last time ____ happened, what did you do?” These types of questions will be answered by what they did, not what they know they should have done.
5) Seek a cultural fit. The final point in the recruitment and selection process is where you should ask, “Will he or she fit in here?” If your environment is a bit edgy, for example, you’ll want different employees than if it’s mainstream.
Once you hire the right person, the next set of lights includes training, rewards and recognition—all designed to help retain that employee and ensure he or she performs at peak levels.
Training today’s generation is a far cry from even 10 or 15 years ago. Long gone is ‘linear’ training filled with manuals, videos and memorization. This generation simply wants to know what is needed, when it’s needed, where it’s needed. Think Google versus VHS. Make it easy to find out information when it’s needed (i.e. Google) instead of relying on a large operations manual or lengthy training videos that are hard to navigate through to find specifics.
Training content should be short bursts of information, followed by intense practice of that skill. Build behaviors more quickly by ensuring the trainers have more time to spend on skill practice and coaching versus giving out information.
Have staff members create short video snippets or PowerPoint presentations (basic “e-learning”) to ensure the consistent delivery of information. A new employee watches the video or module and then practices with the trainer to refine quality, accuracy and the speed required in the position.
Additionally, link QR codes to the short video clips to make them available for ongoing training, such as refresher courses or as pre-shift meeting topics. As the GM Truck Ad says, “Amateurs practice until they get it right. Pros practice until they can’t get it wrong!”
The last light is reward and recognition. Think “MBA” (Mutually Beneficial for All). Reward performance that drives your business. Here’s an example: Instead of a raise to get the kitchen staff to lower food cost, create an incentive of 10-20 cents per hour for the kitchen team to get your food cost down to ideal/theoretical levels. No change in food cost? No incentive pay out of your pocket!
Need to drive sales? Put an incentive together for employees who bring you large orders of five pizzas or more. Reward them with 5 percent of the orders they bring in. You save/make more money and also reward those who helped you get there…MBA!
We’ve all tried to run a pizza restaurant by ourselves, and it can’t be done … very well, at least. Those operators who are successful surround themselves with talented people who are matched best for their positions and the brand. Intense focus on hiring standards, rigorous training and an MBA approach to rewards are the lights to help you see the bull’s-eye—and hit it by creating a team of top performers.
TJ Schier is a speaker and consultant with one foot in the restaurant business, as operator of more than a dozen Which Wich sandwich shops. He will give seminars at Pizza Expo 2013 on Training Tactics for Pizza Pros and 10 Tactics to Make Your Frontline Improve Your Bottom Line.
For more details on International Pizza Expo 2013, visit www.pizzaexpo.com.
Chances are your pizza delivery service represents a major portion of your business profits, but it can also represent a major expense. Because there are many variables that dictate your delivery service profits—drive times, employee pay model, marketing, number of orders in a given time frame—it can seem difficult if not impossible to gain control over this part of the operation. However, when you take the time to develop an efficient delivery strategy, you can enjoy better delivery times, reduced delivery expenses, enhanced branding and marketing, and increased customer satisfaction. The following five tips will help you maximize the money you make with pizza delivery service.
1. Charge a Delivery Fee
Delivery doesn’t have to be a business expense; rather, it can be a profitable income source. Let’s say you deliver within five miles of your location. You pay your drivers mileage at a rate of 15 cents per mile. That means you will pay your driver $1.50 for the 10-mile round trip (hourly wages are static, and so do not have direct bearing on delivery-specific profits). A $2 delivery fee allows you to cover the driver’s fee, plus allow you to profit an additional 50 cents per delivery order.
An even better model would be to eschew mileage reimbursement in favor of a split delivery fee. With an even split, a $2 delivery fee on that same five-mile round trip would allow both you and your driver to make $1 each. Many pizzerias either offer free delivery or give the entire delivery fee to their drivers. This is a missed opportunity for increased profits. If you earn $1 per delivery and average 30 delivery orders per day, in a year’s time you’ll earn an additional $10,950 in annual profits by incorporating a split delivery fee.
2. Always Use Car Toppers
Some pizzerias resist investing in car toppers, and in doing so miss a supreme opportunity to enhance brand recognition and motivate immediate orders. When your delivery drivers display car toppers that feature your brand name, logo and phone number, dozens or even hundreds of potential customers are exposed to your business every single delivery. Your brand name is recognized and hungry commuters are motivated to place orders immediately from their cell phones or as soon as they return home.
Let’s say you have three delivery drivers on a typical shift. If you buy three lighted car toppers at a price of $130 each, you’ll invest a total of $390 to outfit all three vehicles. (Maintenance expenses, such as light bulbs, are infrequent and minimal.) If you average 30 orders per day and each driver passes just 20 people, your car toppers will put your business in front of 600 potential customers every day. A standard car topper could easily last five years or more, which means that your $390 investment could easily achieve more than one million potential customer views over five years. Compare that to the cost of direct mailers!
3. Hire the Best Drivers
Your drivers are critical to your delivery profits. Often, drivers dictate first impressions and play a major role in how your company is perceived. The best delivery drivers are well-groomed and presentable, friendly and courteous, prompt and dependable, and they have positive attitudes. If they drive well-maintained vehicles, even better.
Take the time to carefully screen new driver hires and try to gain an understanding of them. When you’re considering new hires, casual conversation can be far more beneficial than an interview Q and A session. It’s important to make sure your questions are answered, certainly, but it’s just as important to evaluate candidate personalities before making a hiring decision. The best delivery drivers don’t just show up to work on time; they understand the importance of great customer service, which leads to faster delivery times, increased customer satisfaction and more repeat business.
4. Tell Customers You Deliver
Pizza delivery is so prevalent that customers automatically know you deliver, right? Not necessarily. Never miss an opportunity to tell customers about your delivery service. Let’s say you have a five-mile delivery area, but you rarely receive orders beyond three miles. A likely reason would be that customers who live beyond three miles might see your menus but assume you don’t deliver far enough to reach them. Printing your delivery area on your menus makes it clear that you do, indeed, cover their locations and will result in more orders.
If you deliver to local hotels, your menus should not only make it clear that you deliver, but also where you deliver and when. Since travelers are typically unfamiliar with local geography, you should consider listing the specific hotels you deliver to. You should also print your delivery hours, especially if you provide service earlier or later than most of your competitors.
Reminding your customers about your delivery service leads to “a-ha” moments at a later date for customers and greater profits for you.
5. Offer Drop-Off Catering
Much attention is given to residential delivery service, but drop-off catering to businesses, organizations and events can represent a significant portion of your total profits as well. Develop a catering menu that features different types of packages and market drop-off catering for luncheons, seminars, conferences, employee appreciation days, business events, non-profit events, and more.
Businesses, pharmaceutical representatives, schools, churches, and other organizations all host events that represent unique opportunities for you to land large orders with a convenient delivery service. You already have the product, equipment, and staff, so be wise and develop a drop-off catering service to significantly increase profits through your delivery service.
Maximizing delivery profits is one of three topics World Champion Pizza Maker of the Year Shawn Randazzo, of Detroit Style Pizza Co., will be covering at the Pizza Expo in March. He also will present seminars on “How to Build a Winning Company Culture” and “Making the Most of Online Orders.”
For more details on International Pizza Expo 2013, visit www.pizzaexpo.com.
Every business owner wants a company culture in which employees are happy to work hard to foster business growth and profits. But achieving this winning atmosphere can prove elusive.
First and foremost, you must have a well-defined company vision, mission and set of values. What is your company all about? Where is it now? Where is it going? Next, develop a strategic action plan for getting there. When it’s time to execute the plan, your company culture should be evident in every aspect—from your marketing materials to your menu items to your employees. The first two are relatively easy to implement, but the real return comes from your employees.
When your employees buy in to your company culture, they’re motivated to help you increase pizzeria profits. Your employees aren’t simply hired hands; they’re the people who make and deliver your pizzas, who maintain your equipment and restaurant, and who represent your company directly to customers. Thus, it stands to reason that happy employees who believe in your mission have a direct impact on business growth and profitability. Implementing a winning employee company culture is paramount to achieving the highest possible level of success, and you can do so by understanding the following three keys:
Performance-based incentives are some of the best tools for motivating employees to follow company culture. Recognize when employees do something outstanding and then reward them for it. Make sure your other employees know who is being rewarded and why. Reasons to reward your employees include perfect attendance, handling a busy period well, coming up with a great idea, or anything else that aligns with the company culture you’ve implemented.
Often, recognition is reward enough, but add in incentives such as gift cards, concert tickets or a paid day off to make employees feel extra-special. Your employee reward program can also serve as a launch pad for promoting your company culture to customers. You might, for example, place photos of honored employee in your dining area along with an explanation of their reward. Or, when you give out a large reward or team reward, you could submit press releases to local media to highlight employee excellence and showcase your company culture.
Telling your employees about your company culture isn’t enough; you have to involve them in it. Your employees are in the trenches, if you will, and often have great ideas for making your business more efficient and profitable. Invite them to submit suggestions, and reward them for it. You might have a “Great Idea of the Week” board, for example. Make it fun to get involved; your employees will respond.
Ideas with merit should be further developed by those who originate them. Make this work by empowering your employees to investigate whether their proposals will succeed. Be open and honest about your business issues. If you are, your employees will come forward with solutions—so long as their ideas are genuinely considered and they do not have to fear failure. Involve employees with your business this way makes them feel important and highly valued, and they will feel responsible for your company’s success. Such a sense of responsibility is an outstanding motivator.
3. Follow Through
Many companies begin to implement company culture, only to find that time constraints prohibit them from following through. The best intentions then become good ideas never enacted. Involving and rewarding employees is critical to your success, but these strategies can only work when consistently applied. Employees won’t buy in to company culture if they’re continually disappointed by a lack of rewards and involvement. Actions speak louder than words, and as a pizzeria owner or manager you must practice what you preach.
Continually track and measure rewards and involvement levels for each employee. Make sure those who consistently work to grow your business are recognized for their efforts. If an employee’s big idea continues to be profitable long after implementation, take the time to thank them again.
Rather than chastising underperforming employees, take the time to learn what their interests and motivators are. Maybe you haven’t provided the right incentive. It can be a small thing: One of your delivery drivers, for example, might be more interested in coming up with ideas for route efficiency if she were to be rewarded with concert tickets rather than movie tickets. If you know that, you know what button to push.
You want your employees to be excited about coming to work and making your products and services better and more profitable. To do so, you must educate employees about your culture, involve them in fostering business growth, reward them for their efforts with motivational incentives, and consistently measure employee performance in regards to company culture. When your employees buy in, they go all in to help your business achieve growth and profits.
Company culture is one of three topics World Champion Pizza Maker of the Year Shawn Randazzo, of Detroit Style Pizza Co., will be covering at the Pizza Expo in March. He also will present seminars on “Maximizing Delivery Profits” and “Making the Most of Online Orders.”
For more details on International Pizza Expo 2013, visit www.pizzaexpo.com.
Few businesses become successful without a solid plan. Many businesses plan for things like start-up expenses, overhead, retirement plans, equipment, construction, payroll, accounts receivable … the list goes on. Unfortunately, many business owners neglect to factor asset protection into their business plans.
• America is a litigious society. There are over 100 million lawsuits pending in the United States. In 2011, the average premise liability award was $1.94 million, and the average wrongful death award was $7.9 million (Verdict Search). Many judgments far exceed insurance coverage, leaving owners liable for large judgments not covered by their plans.
• Trial attorneys are one of the largest lobbyist groups in the country, and they have worked hard to advocate laws to increase the level of “vicarious liability” to business owners. This means that if there is an accident involving business property, an attorney will attempt to hold the business owner liable, even if he or she did nothing wrong. For example, in Clohesy v. Food Circus Supermarket, Inc., a grocery store owner faced a wrongful-death lawsuit because of insufficient security when a 79-year-old woman was abducted from the store parking lot and killed. The State Supreme Court held the owner liable, stating that the owner had a duty to provide security for its patrons.
• In light of these two factors, business owners are improperly structuring their businesses and needlessly putting their wealth at risk. Here are some examples:
1) Operating a business as a sole proprietorship may result in an owner being held personally responsible for a judgment against the business. This means that both personal and professional assets (buildings, equipment, homes, IRAs and other cash assets) may be vulnerable to seizure to satisfy a judgment creditor’s claims.
2) Some businesses operate in partnership, with one or more partners. This means that a mistake by one partner can result in the other partner being held liable for the action(s) or inaction(s) of that other principal. Being in business with others without legal protection is like riding an ATV without a helmet—it is, to say the least, unwise.
3) Some operate their businesses under one “all-inclusive” legal entity such as an LLC or a corporation. Placing the entire business operation under the umbrella of a single legal entity is comparable to placing all 401(k) retirement assets into a single company’s common stock. One failure and all could be lost.
State and Federal Law
Imagine the owner of a pizzeria is involved in a $5 million personal injury lawsuit resulting from a fatal automobile accident by one of the delivery drivers. Federal ERISA law protects most tax-deferred retirement accounts, but IRAs (Roth/Traditional) are dependent on state law. Ohio, for example, protects 100 percent of tax-deferred retirement plans from a judgment creditor, but other states offer limited protections (Arkansas, for instance, protects only $20,000). Similarly, in Ohio any equity over $22,200 in a primary residence is unprotected by state “homestead exemption” laws. This means the primary residence may be seized and sold to satisfy a judgment. The point here is that every state has different statutory limits and protections. It is crucial that every business owner understands, and plans, for those limitations.
The Solution: Asset Protection
Asset protection is a specialized area of law where legal entities are put in place to protect personal and business assets from lawsuits. Most attorneys understand neither the principles nor the implementation of these strategies. The best way to protect assets is through containment and deterrence, and this is accomplished by separating them into multiple legal entities. This separation will help shield certain assets when others might be in jeopardy.
In fact, a fully implemented asset-protection plan is a serious deterrent to a lawsuit ever being filed. Since many lawsuits today are taken on a contingency basis, an asset search is one of the first things an attorney does before accepting a case. If there are few assets available to be seized, the attorneys will likely not pursue the case. However, the time to act is now. An asset-protection plan must be in place before a lawsuit occurs, as any steps to rearrange assets after a potential lawsuit occurs can be ruled fraudulent.
Please remember, there is no single structure or entity that provides 100 percent protection. A layered approach, using a variety of tools, is the only way to protect the wealth it has taken so long to create. That’s why careful planning and advice are encouraged. Consult an asset-protection attorney and/or tax advisor before beginning the process.
Larry Oxenham, an expert with the American Society for Asset Protection, will give a seminar, “A Pizza Operator’s Guide to Lawsuit Protection, Labor Laws and Taxes,” on Wednesday, March 20, at Pizza Expo 2013.
For more details on International Pizza Expo 2013, visit www.pizzaexpo.com.
As someone with celiac disease, I have certain red flags that I always look for when I dine out. And it all begins with the front of the house.
Restaurants across the U.S. are introducing gluten-free options at a rapid pace. This new menu trend is especially strong among pizza parlors, which are ordering gluten-free crusts or developing their own dough to accommodate gluten-free requests. Managers are putting time, money and effort into building dedicated gluten-free areas, verifying gluten-free ingredients and establishing gluten-free protocols for the chef and kitchen staff. But that’s all for nothing if the hostess and server aren’t properly prepped.
Your front-of-house staff is the first source of contact with customers, and therefore, the first impression of your establishment. Your kitchen staff could be well versed in gluten-free safety, but if a server responds to a question about gluten with a quizzical look or a heavy sigh, chances are that gluten-sensitive customer will lose faith—and may even opt to dine elsewhere.
Consider this: Last summer, the National Foundation for Celiac Awareness, for which I am the director of gluten-free industry initiatives, asked those who choose this option to share their concerns about dining out. Among the top four themes we identified in the responses was this: Many gluten-free diners base their comfort (or lack of comfort) on the attitude and knowledge of the front-of-house staff.
Celiac disease and non-celiac gluten sensitivity are serious health conditions that can cause debilitating symptoms when gluten is ingested. It is estimated that 1 percent of our population—that’s more than 3 million in the U.S.—exhibit gluten intolerance. A tiny amount is enough to trigger a reaction, so gluten-free meals must be prepared with extreme vigilance for members of this group.
Confusing the issue is the rising popularity of the gluten-free diet. A recent report by Packaged Facts estimates that 18 percent of the population has adopted a gluten-free diet. (That’s up from 15 percent in 2010.) More consumers are making this a lifestyle even though it is not a medical necessity—and there’s a big difference between dietary requests they might make and the requirement of zero gluten among those with health conditions.
The trend can affect a pizzeria this way: A diner who requests a gluten-free meal because it’s a choice rather than a necessity may steal a bite of pasta from a friend’s plate or decide to order a gluten-containing dessert. Your staff sees that and may not realize that another diner, one with a gluten-related disorder, is unable move back and forth like this. For hosts and servers, repeated exposure to these crossover gluten-free diners can cause confusion about the seriousness of special dietary requests, which puts true gluten-sensitive diners at risk and builds an air of distrust between customers and servers.
In the celiac and gluten-sensitive community, we are advised to call ahead before dining out so we can alert the staff to our gluten-free needs or pick another restaurant if gluten-free options are unavailable. We request a gluten-free menu when we are seated. We ask a variety of questions to ensure that the food we order will be prepared safely. It’s essential for front-of-house staff to be prepared to meet these requests and answer each question with confidence. The last thing a gluten-sensitive diner wants to hear is, “Um, yeah, I think that’s gluten-free.”
For some industry perspective, I asked Adam Goldberg, CEO and co-founder of Fresh Brothers (Pizza Today’s Independent Pizzeria of the Year for 2012), for his thoughts on front-of-house training. Fresh Brothers was one of the early adopters of GREAT Kitchens, an NFCA training program, and his locations now serve more than 1,000 gluten-free pizzas per week.
“Our gluten-free customers ask a lot of questions, as they should. It’s vital that our cashiers can answer those questions,” he said. “Even more important for our cashiers is knowing when they should bring a manager into the loop. If our cashier can’t answer a question with authority, then we ask that they bring the manager into the discussion to make sure the customer feels comfortable about our procedures.”
This may sound like more effort than it’s worth. I assure you, the rewards far outweigh the investment.
Gluten-free diners are known for their loyalty. Restaurants that offer a safe gluten-free meal and provide a superior dining experience are few and far between; they quickly become hot spots for the gluten-free community. What’s more, special dietary needs often dictate where an entire group may dine, so one customer with celiac disease could be responsible for bringing in a troop of 10 or 15, none of whom have gluten-related disorders but all of whom support their friend who does. Finally, gluten-free diners are active word-of-mouth marketers. They post restaurant reviews on forums, listservs and social media; they talk about where they ate at support-group meetings; and they take feedback from one another seriously.
Fresh Brothers has become one of those go-to spots for celiac and gluten-sensitive diners. Goldberg attributes the chain’s success to his staff’s “ability to feed the entire family.” That claim isn’t just a reflection of the kitchen; it’s a sign of a cohesive staff. And it’s a sign of a well-run and profitable business.
Beckee Moreland is director of gluten-free industry initiatives at the National Foundation for Celiac Awareness. She will be leading a discussion on gluten-free pizzas during two sessions at Pizza Expo in March. Beckee will be joined by Adam Goldberg of Fresh Brothers, Willy Olund of Willy O’s Pizza & Grille and Michael Rutledge of Farrelli’s Wood Fire Pizza—all of whom are now serving gluten-free pizza.
For more details on International Pizza Expo 2013, visit www.pizzaexpo.com.
Having owned and operated restaurants for the past 40 years, I have seen my share of scams, schemes and pitfalls—the kind any owner can fall victim to at the cost of a considerable amount of profit. These “situations” are at the outset seemingly innocuous and hardly raise a blip on your management radar. They are, unfortunately, of legal origin and thereby difficult (read “expensive”) to remove yourself from. What I’m referring to are the little service contracts that more and more regional and national vendors want to initiate with you to ostensibly “guarantee” good service and prices—but in reality lock in a potentially predatory relationship.
I have had contracts presented to me for laundry service, trash service, used grease pickup, CO2 gas delivery, extermination services, and phone maintenance—to name a few. In all of these contracts (which I, thankfully, read prior to signing) I had essentially no rights except to pay whatever they charged for whatever level of service they deemed adequate with no cancellation rights. I couldn’t cancel any of the contracts for price increases or poor service or even no service. Even if I went to the prescribed arbitration for disputes (and of course pay my half of the arbitrator’s cost), it was still not possible to void the contract. And when the expiration date approached—and if I did not want to renew the contract—I had to inform them 59 days before it expired, between 3 and 4 a.m. during the waning phase of Venus, all while standing on one leg. If I did not follow their prescribed procedure for nonrenewal, then I was stuck with the automatic renewal clause.
I hope you’re getting the drift of this article: It’s your money, and it’s your job to keep it, because a lot of people will do whatever they can to get it.
“But Ray,” you say, “Joe, my laundry man, has been providing my towels and aprons for years and he would never do something like that.” My reply is that he probably wouldn’t and neither would his company, as they have both grown and prospered because of their local contacts and their friendly and efficient service and prices. They would always take the time to explain in depth to you any need for a price increase and correct any service problems even before they happened.
However, in our current economic environment it would be highly unusual for Joe’s company to stay independent for your entire career. In all probability, a larger linen service will at some time purchase your local company (as happened in my case). This larger concern will feel the need to maximize profit to validate its purchase and start pushing for contracts so it can, supposedly, “get the best deals and pass the savings on to you.” Need I say that the only thing that passes on is your money?
The above situation actually happened to me. We had been with a local linen company for years before the owner retired and sold his business to a large regional commercial laundry. My manager partook of the Kool-Aid of friendship that the new company was offering through old and friendly faces, and without reading it and without consulting me, signed the contract. About six months later I noticed our linen bill had increased substantially. When I got comparable quotes from other linen companies, I realized that we were being overcharged, really overcharged.
When I brought my concern to old Joe, he replied that the prices were set at headquarters, miles and miles away, and now he just delivers the towels. When I contacted the local manager, he responded by saying that we had a contract and I should read it. All of the pitfalls that I mentioned above were in this document. Fortunately for me, since my manager had been the one to sign the contract, I was able to wriggle off their hook. Otherwise I would have been paying literally twice the going rate for linen service with no recourse for the next five years. As I said before (and please repeat this every day—even tape this mantra to your safe), “It’s your money and it’s your job to keep it, because a lot of people will do whatever they can to get it.”
At this point I should probably take a step back and state that not all contracts are evil. You need a property lease (contract) to protect yourself and your location. In many cases, money-saving deals on foodstuffs can be had by contracting to guarantee vendor exclusivity. There are other examples.
Even in a situation that benefits you, however, when you are presented with a contract, you need to read it, think about it, ask questions, and then read it again. Why does this company need a contract to provide you with their service? How will this contract benefit me? How will this contract benefit them? What will happen if I refuse the contract?
Or, more pragmatically, why does a linen company need a contract to deliver towels at a reasonable price? Why does a bottled gas deliverer need a contract to provide CO2? Why does an extermination service need a contract to deal with critters once a month? The answer to all is, “They don’t.” These contracts are only a means of “locking you in” and forfeiting your rights to enjoy the fruits of competition and, consequently, your profit.
My idea of an ideal contract is the unwritten one, where a company provides you a service and you pay them for it. If they keep doing it in an economical, efficient manner, you’ll keep paying them for their service. If they fail in some part of the above equation, then you’ll find another provider.
Your business is in all likelihood your lifeblood. Giving a part of it away because of an inability to use your commonsense is a recipe for disaster. There is no reason to acquiesce to unfair demands. There are more honest companies and honest people than you might realize. It’s your job to find them and, through them, enjoy a successful business.
Ray McConn owns Mother Bear’s Pizza in Bloomington, Ind., a single-unit operation with $3.8 million in annual sales. He will sit on two panels at Pizza Expo in March 2013, the Million-in-One Club and Winning Customer Service, both offered during Monday, March 18, pre-show sessions for new operators and first-time attendees.
For more details on International Pizza Expo 2013, visit www.pizzaexpo.com.
In a memorable scene from the 1967 movie “The Graduate,” Mr. McGuire offers a cryptic suggestion about the key to future for the young college grad played by Dustin Hoffman.
Mr. McGuire: “I just want to say one word to you. Just one word.”
Benjamin: “Yes, sir.”
Mr. McGuire: “Are you listening?”
Benjamin: “Yes, I am.”
Mr. McGuire: “Plastics.” Benjamin: “How exactly do you mean?”
Mr. McGuire was of course referring to the impending plastics revolution that he believed would change the future. Thirty-five years later, we can replace the word “plastics” with “technology.” Defining growth goals for your pizza operation is a part of healthy business planning. Whether you want to grow your sales by $1 million or $5 million, a cutting edge Point of Sale (POS) system is the key to the future growth and profitability of your pizza operation.
In 1995, Pizza Shuttle opened its doors at a new location on Milwaukee’s East Side. Armed with a pen and notepad, we ambitiously set out to grow our business in our new college-centric neighborhood. We had everything a young, independent pizzeria could offer: a hip marketing campaign, an expanded menu that catered to everyone, late-night hours and delivery service. With 10 years under our belts, we had struck a formula that seemed to work. But if we were to obtain the growth we desired and remain a competitive, evolving business, we had to have a “Mr. McGuire moment” and embrace the technology of the future.
Technology. What exactly does this mean?
We could not have grown efficiently or profitably without the investment in a POS system. You won’t either. Let’s assume you have an unprecedented work ethic, a great product, excellent location and a talented, hard-working staff. If you do not use a POS system, you might as well be taking orders with a pencil and paper on a rotary phone.
Modern pizza consumers have come to expect savvy use of technology by businesses they patronize. In addition to driving a smooth internal experience, a POS system can integrate with online ordering interfaces and social media, as well as offer advanced marketing capabilities that can create a two-way communication channel between the business and the consumer. An efficient business driven by technology will result in a rewarding employee and customer experience.
A good POS system can positively impact every aspect of your business and, most importantly, your bottom line. The following list captures only a short list of benefits that a POS system offers in sustaining and creating business growth.
1) Order taking accuracy and financial control.
2) Delivery dispatch management.
3) Labor management and payroll administration.
4) Integration with web and mobile order interfaces. (This could grow to 50 percent of your orders!)
5) Inventory control.
6) Reporting capabilities: logistics, sales, labor, promotions.
7) Security cameras and surveillance.
8) Credit card processing.
9) Customer relationship management through email, text marketing, social media.
10) Gift cards and loyalty programs.
Choosing a POS System Picking a POS company can be a daunting task. As POS systems evolve with today’s sophisticated business trends, it can be difficult to discern what system will result in the best fit for your business and produce the most return on your investment. The following suggestions can serve as a basic framework for choosing the best POS system for your business.
• Visit a restaurant of similar culture and volume that uses your prospective system. The POS system market offers numerous options for pizza operations of all kinds. The best way to see how a particular system will fit your operations is to observe its performance at a business similar to yours. Of course, you must also consider the future direction of your business in addition to outfitting the business you are today.
• Think about the kind of change you would like to see as a result of your POS system purchase. If you are considering adding delivery service as part of your POS system purchase, visit a high-volume delivery operation and pay attention. Define the areas of growth that are important to you and determine how the POS functions to see if it can get you there. Want to manage payroll? Integrate credit card processing? Expand your marketing capabilities? Make a list of future growth goals and use it as a roadmap in your POS system research.
• Ask the employees. Nobody can give a better testament to a system’s performance than the employees that use it every day. Employees will give you the brutal truth on how the system handles the busiest times or how intuitive the interface is to use and navigate.
• Know their support capabilities. Research a prospective POS company’s support capabilities to see if they match meet the needs of your business. Do you have somebody who is comfortable with programming menu changes in-house or will you be relying on the POS company to make changes? If you are open until bar time, you might want to make 24/7 service support a non-negotiable feature.
• Look into buying or leasing a used POS system. A POS system represents a significant investment in your business and the upfront costs can be intimidating, perhaps even prohibitive. Buying a used system from an existing restaurant or exploring leasing options can save you on upfront costs.
You are creating a living, breathing business that can and should grow. Remember, you do not have to do $1 million or $5 million to make money—although that doesn’t hurt! But at a very minimum, you need to take advantage of the technology available to maximize control of your money while minimizing your labor. A self-sufficient business cultivated by the smart use of technology will enable you to realize healthy business growth, maximize profits and spend more time with family and friends. That’s how technology can really help you enjoy life.
Mark Gold, a co-founder of Milwaukee-based Pizza Shuttle, which amasses $4.2 million in per-year sales from one store, will be a panel member for the Million-in-One Club discussion on Monday, March 18, during special pre-show programming at Pizza Expo. He’ll be joined by Tony Caputo of Red Rose Pizzeria, Tony Gemignani of Tony’s Pizza Napoletana and Ray McConn of Mother Bear’s Pizza for a question-and-answer session about growing one unit to $1 million-plus in annual revenues.
For more details on International Pizza Expo 2013, visit www.pizzaexpo.com.