Obviously every pizzeria is different from the next for a variety of reasons. Your size and volume of sales largely determines the number of items you should be making yourself in-house versus what you should outsource. With that said, there are a few things I believe every pizzeria in the nation, without exception, should make in-house.
First, let’s talk salad dressings. Most pizzerias serve a garden salad or a variety of salads, which is great. Oddly enough, many operators take the easy way out and simply purchase dressing packets. While there are certainly some benefits to dressing packets (like zero preparation time and the fact that they won’t spill on the way to the destination), there are bigger reasons that I feel you should be making your own dressings. The two biggest benefits? Superior product and big savings!
Last year, I traveled to Pizza Today kitchen to create homemade dressing video that should be available for viewing in the magazine’s archived Web site. What I shared with viewers is that with a good Italian dressing and mayonnaise, you’ve got a great starting point to make many different dressings. It really takes just a few minutes to make up a gallon of dressing once you’ve assembled your ingredients.
Many times, operators swap one thing for another. An example is bringing in a pre-made product that will cost us more money to buy than it costs to make, but we are swapping a low food cost for a lower labor cost. In this case of dressing, you will end up with a better product that you can call homemade at a cost that will bring more dollars to your bottom line.
Once you have your own dressings in place, consider selling them fresh in pint or quart containers. Be sure to put labels on the containers since your customers will place this dressing in their refrigerator at home and will be reminded of your pizzeria several times a day when they open their refrigerators.
Some folks are intimidated by the thought of making their own pizza dough — and I have no idea why. While there are many frozen dough products available, there’s nothing as good as a freshmade dough! I know that some go into business not wanting to make that investment in a mixer, but I say putting out an inferior product could prevent a new place from ever really launching a successful operation. Now keep in mind that making dough is a science and needs to be taken seriously with precise measuring. One thing you don’t want to do is put out an inconsistent pizza. And this is why some operators promise you into creating and make member is making off many times own dough.
Moving more to the value-added categories, I’m seeing more and more operators switching to pre-sliced meats and vegetables. I certainly understand and agree with buying sliced pepperoni. But purchasing sliced turkey, ham, roast beef and salami, frankly, is a waste of money as well as results in you serving an inferior product. Most of the pre-sliced meats I’ve seen are a chopped and processed product with too much added water. Find a great quality meat that fi ts your pizzeria’s price point and slice your own meats. If you schedule things properly, you’ll only need to slice meats and cheeses every other day. I used to have a big tube or chute that attached to my slicer, and I would put whole heads of cored iceberg lettuce in the tube and shred it. I’d also put cored peppers, peeled onions and cored tomatoes. This would very quickly slice all my veggies. Fresh, washed, whole mushrooms would slice up very quickly, too. This saves an enormous amount of money compared to buying this stuff already processed — and gives you so much more control over how much you will prepare, virtually eliminating waste!
Let’s talk chicken for a minute. In my pizza shops, we sold more than a ton of chicken every year. For convenience purposes, we’d buy precooked chicken for our various menu items. Diced white chicken would only be used for chicken salad. Four ounces of chicken breast were used for grilled chicken subs and salads, and grilled chicken strips for pizza. Although it saved us in labor and wiped out any problems or possibility for cross-contamination with salmonella found in raw chicken, we also spent an average of $4 per pound. Because we had such small spaces and limited refrigeration, we chose the more expensive yet easier route; however, when you stop and do the math and find a source of fresh random chicken breast for $1.50 a pound, even after considering the shrinkage once cooked, we can still save about $2.30 per pound. I have now switched to buying 80 pounds of raw chicken breast a week. That’s over 4,000 pounds a year at a savings of $2.30 per pound. That adds close to $10,000 to my bottom line. Doing the math helps you find the room and makes that transition a bit quicker, doesn’t it?
I marinate my chicken with a little bit of oil, salt, pepper and garlic, and then either roast it or grill it depending on the application. I attempted breading my own for the Parmesan dishes, but decided to continue to purchase that chicken breaded and ready to go.
I want to leave you with some sweet thoughts. If you’re not offering any sweets for dessert, you’re missing a great opportunity to raise that check average while really delighting your customers immensely! I know we’re all busy with the amount of prep we do already, but you and I both know there’s always that little bit of down time in between lunch and dinner where you really do have an opportunity to squeeze out a few homemade sweets. Sure, there are lots of great items you can purchase already prepared with a built in profit margin, but you can usually double your profit (or more) if you can make it yourself. Even if you had to go and buy a dollar cake mix in the store with their matching frosting, you could put a real nice three-layer freshly baked chocolate cake with chocolate frosting together for a total of about four bucks. Get 12 huge slices out of it and charge $3.95 a slice for a profit of $43. Make sure it’s on display, and your customer will just have to have a slice. You don’t have to do it that way, of course. But the point I’m making is this: Come up with something! Homemade fudge brownies and mile high apple pie is something that is very hard to resist. I took our stale bread and what I didn’t use for croutons and made a real simple — but amazingly delicious — bread pudding. Desserts are usually a missed opportunity.
Give it a try!
Consider making the appropriate changes to fit these “must do’s” into your operation’s routine — and watch your profits soar while customers come to appreciate the work you are willing to put in for them. It will certainly set you apart from the competition!