Shawn Randazzo, owner, Detroit Style Pizza Co., Detroit, Michigan talks must-haves to start a pizzeria

Shawn Randazzo, owner, Detroit Style Pizza Co., Detroit, Michigan talks must-haves to start a pizzeria
Shawn Randazzo, owner, Detroit Style Pizza Co., Detroit, Michigan

Starting your own pizzeria is one of the most exciting experiences you’ll ever have. Pizzeria ownership isn’t just about owning a business, it’s about living a lifestyle — one that has potential risks, but also grand rewards. Many variables factor into your probability of long-term success; and while it is impossible to cover every potential contingency in one sitting, there are several resources you should consider in the startup phase in order to get your pizzeria off to a great start.

1. Business plan. I know… groan. Yet, it’s critical to start with a strong business plan to achieve pizzeria success. One of the issues many pizzeria start-ups run into is not knowing what to expect. A solid business plan helps you plan for contingencies so you’re not caught off-guard if a problem arises.

Overlooking a single expense or overestimating your business can doom your business from the start.

2. Money. You’re going to invest a lot in your pizzeria: time, energy, blood, sweat, tears, passion… and money. How much money do you need? So many variables go into answering that question, from your location and supply costs to your insurance and payroll, that it is impossible to answer without research specific to your pizzeria (which you’ll conduct during the business planning phase).

That being said, a new pizzeria can expect to invest anywhere between $40,000 and $500,000. Whatever your business plan projections are, I recommend adding another 10 to 20 percent to your budget to account for unknown expenses and emergencies.

3. Great location. Location, location, location. You know that’s what drives the real estate industry, and it’s also what will help (or hurt) your pizzeria. Look for a hightraffic location with a healthy local market to serve. If it costs a little more than that place off the beaten path, don’t be afraid to spend it. Sure, there are “destination restaurants” out there; but how much are you willing to bet you can become one of those on opening day?

In addition, if you can find a location that previously housed a pizzeria (or any restaurant), you can save thousands of dollars. This is because the location is likely to already have an established kitchen and dining area, utilities that comply with local codes, and perhaps even equipment that goes with the sale.

4. Efficient layout. Once you have your location, carefully survey its layout for efficiency. In the kitchen, you want to make it easy for staff members to work quickly without constantly running into one another or having to search for ingredients and utensils. In the dining area, you want to make sure your customers will be spaciously seated and incorporate a clear division between the counter area and seating. Make it easy for your staff to serve your customers and anticipate (and fix) any potential bottlenecks in the flow of your layout.

5. Good grasp of staff positions. Hiring great team members is absolutely a priority, but first you need to be able to articulate exactly what staff positions are needed. Write full, detailed job descriptions for each staff member before you begin the hiring process. Identify what positions are needed to operate your pizzeria on a day-to-day basis. Approach it from the perspective that you won’t be there to continually offer guidance — you want to build a pizzeria that can operate efficiently without your constant oversight. In addition, you need to eliminate the need to micromanage your employees so you can focus on growing your pizzeria. A well-thought-out staff and management plan will help you accomplish that.