2011 January: Five Questions

Thearon Miller and his wife, Nicole, own T-Dubs Pizza in Muncie, Indiana. The pizzeria offers dine-in, carryout and delivery. The restaurant is close to Ball State, and a good portion of delivery heads to campus.

Q: Like many family owned restaurants, you and your wife are single-handedly manning the helm of your pizzeria. Have you felt overwhelmed? A: Yes, we get overwhelmed sometimes. It’s better now that we have hired a few drivers to help out. Even with the help, it can get very stressful. We try to focus on our goals as much as possible. This helps me realize why I am in this shop and working 90 hours a week with no paycheck. It’s too easy to get caught up in the day-to-day grind of owning and operating a pizzeria –– more so when you are the main two employees. I am always looking to my personal and business goals to remind me what I am working so hard for. You recently started charging for delivery. How have your customers reacted?

A: Most people have not realized that we started, and the ones who have don’t mind when we tell them why we have to. With that being said, when we started charging for delivery, we did a total menu redesign at the same time and added a few new specialty pizzas, changed all of our specials, added deep dish pies and bumped our base prices a little. I think it’s been easier on us in the shop because the coupon price most customers were used to paying week in and week out are not valid anymore. T-Dubs

You used to offer a gluten-free crust. Did you make them in-house or outsource them? Why?

A: The best thing to do with gluten- free is to buy pre-sheeted skins from a supplier. I have tried to work with gluten-free. It kind of sucks –– it breaks and cracks. Gluten is your “glue” … it holds the dough together. If you roll the dough rather than toss it, it’s a little better. But in the end the best and simplest thing is to just buy pre-sheeted gluten-free. I don’t offer it anymore because I don’t like the pre-sheeted and I don’t have the time to put into gluten free. If you have a large amount of people requesting it you might add it, but if it’s just a few people saying ‘We would buy pies off you all the time if you had gluten free dough,’ don’t over stretch and fall into that trap. It might be worth it for you depending on what the culinary climate is where you are. Here in central Indiana, it was not worth it for me. How are your lunch and dinner specials working?

A: The specials have always done better than ordering off the menu. People like feeling like they are getting a good deal. I had some great specials that let me compete with the big guys, like my late-night special (a 14-inch one topping and breadsticks for $11 after 11 p.m.), or a dinner special (two 14-inch 1-topping pizzas and breadsticks for $20). The problem was I backed myself into a corner and my average ticket price had sunk to $10. It’s real hard to make money on an order that costs $10.80 after tax and has free delivery. When I redesigned the menu, I picked specials that pushed the price up to around $18 average ticket. … We have gotten that ticket price up with surprisingly little resistance. Sure, we get a few drunk college kids that give us some lip over it. But at the end of the day, between charging for delivery and our new menu, we are getting a 35to 40-percent sales increase.

A: We have a new appetizer –– pizza rolls ––we’re adding soon. They are like cinnamon rolls Aside from pizza, what but hold garlic butter, meat and cheese. It’s a tasty, quick little snack. Start with a small dough small amount of meat or vegetables. are you looking to add ball (I use 10 ounces), then stretch it into a thin, long oval. Brush with garlic butter and add a to your menu in the future? Add a little cheese and roll tightly up to make a long log. Cut into 1- to 2-inch rolls, lay on side and bake until done!

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