2009 March: Ask Chef Jeff

2009 March: Ask Chef JeffQ: We’ve been using dressing packets forever for our salads, but I’ve thought about switching to buying gallons and portioning it. Is it worth the extra labor?

A: Let’s take it one step further. Not only do I want you to portion your own dressings, but I want you to start making your own. Dressings are one of the simplest things to make and so much better than a dressing that you could buy. It gives the customers a better feel for you as a culinary expert as well. If you make it to International Pizza Expo this month, I’ll be giving a demo on homemade dressings.

There are so many ways to advertise! How do I know which advertising opportunities are the best ones for my pizzeria?

It can be mind-boggling and frustrating to fi gure out which ones will suit you well. First, you need to create an advertising budget. Without one you will most certainly blow it. Then understand who your target audience is, meaning which demographic. Are you a high-end pizzeria going after middle to upper income or are you a simple pizza shop going after the high school or college students? Once you’ve determined who your best audience is, target them hard. Advertise on the stations they listen to or in the things they read.

I bought my shop two years ago and planned on renovating it to give it a fresh new look. The counters are very old and ugly. Money is tight. What can I do to give it an inexpensive makeover?

Obviously a couple of coats of fresh paint will do wonders, especially if you pick a different color. Instead of ripping out your countertops, an inexpensive alternative is to re-surface them with a new laminate. You can rough up the existing countertop with a rough sander, and resurface it to give it a brand new look. These two things along with some new art on the walls will make guests feel like they’re in a brand new place. Throw in stripping, waxing and buffing of the floors and you may not even recognize your own place!

In this economy, I want to offer a family value meal but don’t want to jeopardize our reputation of quality instead of the cheap food for cheap price mentality like so many others do. How do I achieve this?

It’s becoming more popular, because of its value, to create a meal for the family for a bargain. The Colonel has been doing this for many years with chicken. Take your menu items and bundle them together to create a nice variety for the family and take a few bucks off and promote it as a Family Meal night or whatever you’d like. No need to lower your quality. A large pizza, large salad, pasta, breadsticks and a two-liter of soda is a great example.

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