January 14, 2013 |

Steak Out

By John Gutekanst

2012 December: Steak OutMy pizzeria’s love affair with steak began over eight years ago when restaurant consultant Big Dave Ostrander convinced me to put steak on my menu. Of the 53 toppings I offer, it’s a standout. In fact, in the past 10 months, steak has been responsible for the sale of 1,043 large single steak topping pizzas, 3,170 specialty pizzas and 577 steak sandwiches! If I hadn’t taken this chance on steak, I would still only be offering just ground beef like every other pizza place.

Steak is what I call my “pizza loss lead­er.” It’s a topping that not only increases sales of pizza, but also boosts sales of other toppings I partner it with — even though it is not as profitable because of a high food cost. Unlike many pizza toppings, steak has the “heavy-heavy topping syn­drome.” Because everything is priced according to weight, heavy toppings need to be cheaper — like pineapple, which is heavy but cheap. The opposite is pepperoni (which is light, but heavy in price). steak has a heavy price and heavy weight. In my experience, a top­ping with these two variables had better perform fabulously and produce some bodacious revenue.

My priorities, (besides taste) for any new pizza topping are:

  • How will this help me capture more customers and revenue?
  • How much does it cost per pound, per ounce, per pizza?
  • Does the price I would have to charge jive with my market?
  • How many man-hours will it take to prep?
  • How many different styles of pizza can I make using my other existing toppings?

I tried all the different types of pre-prepared steak on the market as well as cooking, slicing and holding a steak topping myself. The variation in steak flavors and cuts differ with preparation, shrinkage, texture, chew, marinade and price. all have the trade-offs that every pizza owner such as yourself must calculate to fit their own menu-mix and market.

Let’s take a look at a few cuts you might consider:

  • Loin. expensive cuts like this are tender and delicious but contain less fat to melt on the pie. not many pre-prepared products on the market contain strip loin. loin can rocket from 56 cents an ounce for untrimmed strip loin to $1.20 an ounce for untrimmed waigu beef strip loin. Tenderloin’s tex­ture is delicate but adds minimal flavor to a pizza and costs almost 75 cents to 90 cents an ounce. This represents a minimum of $2.80 for each five-ounce portion before figuring labor prep.
  • Philly steak or top round. By far the most popular and recognizable fast food steak, the Philly steak has morphed from a thinly sliced top round to ribeye in some places. a big haunch of top round spiced with Italian season­ings and garlic cooked to less than medium rare and rendered thin on a slicer is magnificent on a pizza because the huge slice envelopes the pizza in a beefy cloak. The downside is that wet meat may turn harmful in the hands of anyone without sanitation training or with slow sales. Philly steak can be found in several thaw-and-serve variet­ies where you can peel like ham and top as you wish. It can cost between 25 to 40 cents an ounce (which, at five ounces, would cost a minimum of $1.25 a pizza).
  • Ribeye. This is probably the best thin sliced product for pizza because the meat is tender and fatty. If raw, it produces a wonderful beefy sheen on the cheese that permeates the whole pie but shrinks. If used pre-cooked it has a little less taste with less shrinkage and no hint of “blood stain” on the cheese. untrimmed ribeye in bulk costs 58 cents an ounce uncooked, but there are good chopped and formed products for as little as 28 cents an ounce. This costs as little as $1.40 per pie (5 ounces) — without any labor — to prep, and it doesn’t contain any of those scary chemicals like TBhQ, BhT or Bha.
  • Chuck eye roll. This obscure cut is a secret in the sandwich industry, especially in some Boston steak sand­wiches. It is a combination of layered muscles with the top being the end of the ribeye called the “chuck eye,” while the bottom is a bit tougher. The tougher texture lends itself to slicing, marinat­ing, then braising like Italian beef, but the fat has real lasting flavor. Prices are great during the summer, but go up in winter because they cut this up to produce chuck steak for pot roast.

Through the use of some very creative and classic steak preparations, you can bring your food cost down and steak pizza sales up while making a delicious pizza. Let’s run a recipe and the numbers for this pizza. Start with your crust, sauce, cheese and box, which will cost you roughly $2.40:

Southwestern Fajita Steak Pizza
Dough, Sauce, Cheese, and Box = $2.40:
5 ounces of steak @ .28 oz = $1.40
2.5 ounces of onion @ .04 oz = $ .10
2.5 ounces of green pepper @ .15 oz = $ .38
(Tablespoon) southwest seasoning = $ .18
Total cost: $4.46

In a good market you’d price this pizza at about $26, with a food cost of 17 percent and a profit of $21.54. In a mid-market, it could be priced at $16 with a food cost of 28 percent and a $11.54 profit. In a discount market, price it at $12 and the food cost would be 37 percent, leaving you with $7.54 in base profits. This illustrates that even at a discounted price, steak can yield over $7 base profit for one pizza!

If you want to make more money from your menu mix, try steak. your customers will thank you.


  • Philly Steak Pizza: Cream sauce, cheese, asiago or cheddar, steak, onion, green pepper (Cover photo)]
  • Gorgonzola Steak Pizza: Cream sauce, cheese, spinach, gorgonzola, steak, balsamic glaze
  • Steak and Potato Pizza: Steak, potato, cheese, broccoli, cheddar, bacon
  • Bulgogi (Korean Beef) Pizza: Teriyaki sauce, provolone, steak, scallions, hot sauce, kimchi
  • Lebanese Steak Pizza: Tahini cream, cheese, steak, onion, (cucumber and tomato after oven)
  • Chicago Steakhouse Pie: Horseradish cream sauce with spinach, cheese, steak and asparagus
  • Spicy Barbeque Steak Pizza: BBQ sauce, cheese, onion, cheddar, bacon, jalapeño.

John Gutekanstowns avalanche Pizza in athens, Ohio. he is also a speaker at International Pizza expo and a member of the world Pizza champions.