September 20, 2012 |

Cutting Corners

By Jeremy White

Considering the prices of pizza-related commodities today and the state of the U.S. economy, I understand the temptation to find a few corners here and there to cut. Slashing costs, after all, should theoretically result in a heftier bottom line.

Don’t fool yourself. It doesn’t work that way.

Truth is, cutting corners is a dangerous game. I firmly believe an independent pizzeria wins not on value or gimmicky marketing, but on quality. Sure, there are multiple factors that determine a pizzeria’s success, ranging from ambiance to speed of delivery. Make no mistake, though: quality stands head and shoulders above all others.

In these uncertain times, resist the temptation to cut quality. It’s a dead-end road. You may achieve greater profitability in the short-term, but trust me when I say the financial benefit won’t last long. Today’s consumers are savvier and more demanding than ever. They can discern the differences between quality ingredients and run-of-the-mill cafeteria pizza. They’ll seek out the former time and again.

To illustrate my point, look no further than America’s love for wine. Thanks to a prevalence of snobbery and difficult-to-understand descriptors and terminology (what exactly does it mean that a wine is “flinty” or “grassy”?), wine has not always been accessible to newcomers. Over the past decade, though, its popularity has grown by leaps and bounds and today’s consumer knows more about it than ever. The point is that our palettes, even when we don’t consciously know it, have become more refined. We demand a better dining experience. We expect quality. We are willing to pay for it.

Move to a cheaper cheese or less expensive meats and you might get away with it for a few weeks, then your customers will move on and abandon you.

I know a pizzeria that recently stopped using white-meat chicken on its specialty pizzas and replaced it with dark meat. Let’s just say the result wasn’t fantastic. Long-time customers noticed right way and were peeved. New customers were disappointed from the start and didn’t return.

Don’t make the mistake of cutting quality. You can’t afford it.