October 1, 2014 |

A Conversation with Lisa Dahl, Pisa Lisa, Sedona, AZ

By Pizza Today

Lisa lets us in on Pisa Lisa’s bumpy start and its rebound

Pisa Lisa - Lisa Dahl, Sedona, Arizona

Pisa Lisa
Sedona, Arizona

Sedona restaurateur Lisa Dahl adjusted her wood-fired pizzeria concept – which opened last year – to include table service.


In the beginning it was chaotic… In these new businesses, it’s very important for you to admit what you did wrong in the beginning. And sometimes you are learning in real time what isn’t working, but you can’t always correct it in that moment. You are too in the midst of chaos sometimes to know you can fix it. So you stand back and you assess the situation and you try to isolate what those issues are and you try to make a plan of attack how to eliminate those things or how to progress from the mistakes that you made. You can’t get better if you don’t make mistakes. We made our fair share and we are so much better now because we learned from them.

We started with a self-service approach and realized that our customers wanted table service. They had always had table service in our fine-dining restaurants, so that was a big learning experience for us. And what we actually realized was our restaurant wasn’t really big enough to do self-service in the right way.

We were getting hit really hard with a lot of volume in the first month, and then we got hit with the back-end slap on the result — which was the three slow months of the summer. We almost went to no business and it scared us. Given that, we used our slow times to figure out what we needed to correct. So we came back with a vengeance and I did some corrective measures, which should have been done in the first place, but we got off to a late start.

We took advantage of doing the things that we should have done in the first place, which was going around to all of the concierges (in the area) and having parties (for them) and Jeep drivers and our various hospitality associates. So that was imperative for marketing, but it was also imperative for kind of humbling ourselves in saying that, “We know that you’ve heard some things that might not be the best of what we are all about, but taste it and feel it for yourself. I personally went out to deliver the message on many fronts and made presentations locally, for instance, with the timeshare groups, destination groups. But I also took samples of my product and killed them with kindness and it started to turn around exponentially.

Now we are 50 percent over the numbers for July than where we were in the first year. On TripAdvisor, Pisa Lisa started at 153 and now it’s 21. That means that we had to perform five stars a lot to achieve such a turnaround.

I think when you are in a town like this, there is no place to run and hide. It’s not like you are in a mall in the middle of a massive city of six million people and you can get away with mediocrity. In this town, you just can’t. I’m more proud than I can even tell you.