I haven’t been to my “favorite restaurant” in several months. I used to go once a week. In the past year I’ve been no more than six or seven times. Why? Contrary to what one may assume, it has nothing to do with the economy and everything to do with the fact that the sparkling restaurant no longer qualifi es as my “favorite.” I still dine out as frequently as I can — I simply choose to dine elsewhere now.
The reason for this particular Italian pizzeria’s fall from grace? Quality. Or, to be more precise, a gradual lack thereof. It all started several years ago when the eatery replaced its remarkable bread with a less-than stellar substitution. Then came frozen eggplant that was cold in the middle when served. Then came runny, milky Alfredo that was nothing like the rich concoction of old. I bent a lot before I broke, but there came a point where I simply couldn’t take it anymore and stopped visiting.
As I was thinking about my once favored spot’s decline recently, Pizza Today managing editor Mandy Detwiler told me about a pizzeria that has been a longtime favorite of her family. She was disturbed and saddened when their most recent order didn’t live up to expectations. She couldn’t quite put her fi nger on it at fi rst, then she fi gured it out: the pizza parlor had downgraded to a lower-quality cheese in a cost-cutting move.
Major mistake, in my book. If you are going to make changes to your core product (not a recommended move), they darn well better be for the better. No one is going to be impressed with a lower-quality pizza. Go down that road and you may as well take out a full-page, color advertisement in your local paper with the headline screaming: “Worse Pizza, Same Price!” Think that would bring people through your door?
Bottom line: There are lots of ways to improve the bottom line, but slashing quality isn’t one of them. Avoid the temptation. You’ll most likely regret it if you don’t.
Jeremy White, editor-in-chief