April 6, 2015 |

The Big Boost

By Jeffrey Freehof

Onion RingsIncrease your bottom line with inexpensive ideas


When it comes to increasing check totals, pizzerias have it tough. Pizza is filling by itself, and many customers don’t consider anything beyond pizza and breadsticks. I want to share some fast and easy menu boosters that bring in some extra dough without breaking the bank when tallying up your month-end inventory. Let’s think outside the dough box so we can offer our customers an easy way to spend some extra cash while enhancing their experience.

I’m pretty sure you’ve got the wings and salads mastered by now, so keep those going and let’s look at some new things not to replace wings but to add to the sale.

I’ve shared before and want to emphasize it again: we put a lot of effort into attracting new customers with some of the couponing and advertising we do (which is a brilliant and necessary thing to do). We do that for two critical reasons –– first, to increase our customer base and second, to increase sales. Realize that you already have a captive audience to tap into with new menu items to increase your sales. You’ve already won them over! They already know that you’ve set yourselves apart from the competition with better quality ingredients and superior customer service.

I remember when I had my pizza shops in southern Massachusetts near the Rhode Island border, I really wanted to add “Hot Wieners” to my offering. They are incredibly well known in Rhode Island, but nobody was selling them in Massachusetts. I hesitated for so long because I was afraid that customers might change their mind and instead of ordering the $8 steak sub, they’d spend much less on three or four hot wieners. Well, I finally bit the bullet and gave it a try, and I instantly started selling well over 100 wieners a day. Here’s the magical part: nobody changed their mind on their original order. In fact all the folks that bought from one to a dozen simply added them onto their order.

If you’re interested in the Hot Weiner concept, it’s similar to a Coney or chili dog in that you make a meat sauce seasoned like a bean-less chili. An “all the way” wiener has mustard on the bun, the small wiener (16 per pound), meat sauce, minced onion and a sprinkle of celery salt. They are really amazing, and are inexpensive –– and fast –– menu additions that are especially successful at lunch.

There’s a unique dish called French Meat Pie, which is a French Canadian delicacy that many in New England love. The flavors are international, though, and the ingredients couldn’t be more simple. This is another dish that I felt would be a great seller if I could figure out the best way to produce them. Mission accomplished when I found some pot pie-sized pie dough in mini pans with pie dough circles for the tops. The filling for the French Meat Pie include:

  • 2 pounds of ground beef
  • 2 pounds of ground pork
  • 1 tablespoon thyme
  • 1 tablespoon sage
  • 2 teaspoons granular garlic
  • 1 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon onion powder
  • 2 cups beef broth
  • 3 peeled potatoes diced
  • 2 large pie shells and two pie dough tops

Cook the meat with the seasonings, broth and potatoes until the potatoes are mashable.

Once the meat is cooked and the mixture is thickened from the potatoes, put the filling in the pie shells, top with pie dough and bake for 45 to 60 minutes at 350 F until golden.

You can sell this in slices or find pot pie-sized pies.

I would sell these for $5 each and would sell an average of 25 pies a day as an add-on sale, and that was a unique menu item that our customers loved and couldn’t get anywhere else, which drove repeat sales.

A couple of great alternatives with this same idea would be a Jamaican patty or empanadas.

I  traveled to Nebraska on business and discovered a unique fast food concept called Runza. They sell hand held, freshly baked buns filled with a beef and cabbage mixture where they offer a few variations with cheese and grilled onions. This would be simple to make with our own pizza dough and would make a perfect add-on!

Click for the Best Ever Onion Rings Recipe

If you want to keep your menu add-ons a little simpler and use them more as a side dish, think about adding some fried pickles. You probably buy sliced pickles for your subs in five-gallon pails and if you have a fryer, then you should definitely consider adding fried pickles to the menu by draining them, breading in a nice breading consisting of flour, corn meal mix and seasonings. Serve them with ranch for dipping and watch the smiles on your customers’ faces.

Your customers are craving something new and have a few extra dollars in their pocket, so you know what to do. Go make it happen!

Jeff Freehof owns The Garlic Clove in Evans, Georgia. He is a frequent contributor to Pizza Today and a speaker at International Pizza Expo.