2010 July: Ask Chef Jeff

2010 July: Ask Chef JeffQ: Without having our customers take a survey, how exactly can we tell how we are doing in their eyes?

A: I hope you have a finger on the pulse of your business. Do your very best to talk to all of your customers. Don’t have them take a survey, but ask them how they enjoyed everything. If you get a weak response or they say it was “OK”, you must grab that opportunity and understand that you missed the mark. “OK” should never be your goal. Nobody is going to rush back for OK. Ask if there is some way that you could have improved their experience. Without asking customers to fill out a full-blown survey, simple comment cards with a basic message of “tell us how we’re doing” is effective. Since nine out of 10 unhappy customers don’t complain, you are more likely to get them to fill out a comment card. You should also know how you’re doing by your sales and repeat customers.

There are so many different kinds of toppings out there with different price points. How am I supposed to know which ones are the best for my pizzeria?

More options are better for us and the end user, but it creates some homework for operators. I always recommend getting many samples, but put them up against each other and decide which ones have the appearance, texture and flavor profile that you want. You know what type of pizzeria you have and what price point and food cost you’re shooting for, so just make sure you factor those things in. If you find a crumbled sausage topping with no fillers that you feel is superior and really want adorning your pizza but think it’s too expensive, simply consider decreasing your portion to make it work with your cost goals.

It seems that I have finally gotten some good and reliable staff, but I feel like I want them to climb to the next level. How can I get them to excel now that they are trained and achieve the basics?

Congratulations! That alone can give us great peace of mind, and even change our attitudes about our business. Start having five- to 10-minute one-on-ones with each of your staff. Try to always start with the positive things at which they are doing great. Next, focus on areas that need improving, like speed for example. Always end with a statement of confidence. This will boost them up and increase their productivity and attitude!

We want to add pasta to our menu. Is homemade fresh pasta less expensive?

Making homemade pasta is time consuming and not a big savings over some of the great imported pastas from Italy. If you’re an upscale shop and want to add gourmet fl air by making some interesting pasta like spinach fettuccini or lemon pepper linguini, then it’s a good idea. ?

Jeffrey Freehof, owner of The Garlic Clove in Evans, Georgia, is Pizza Today’s resident expert. Send your questions to: Ask Chef Jeff, c/o Pizza Today, 908 South Eighth Street, Suite 200, Louisville, Kentucky, 40203.