December 1, 2014 |

A Conversation with John Gutekanst, Avalanche Pizza

By John Gutekanst

John GutekanstJohn lets us in on menu trends and adding new menu items


John Gutekanst
Avalanche Pizza — Athens, Ohio

John is Pizza Today’s resident chef. He is an award-winning pizzaiolo, baker, teacher, speaker and author and has been featured in Gastronomica, Food Arts, National Geographic, Alimentum Food Journal, Food Network and Best Food Writing, 2012.



What do you see trending on pizzeria menus in 2015?

Non-gluten, vegan and vegetarian pizzas are the choice of many health conscious people now. This has roots in the baby boomers getting older and purposefully changing their eating habits. Pizza operators are now starting to use what the Italians have been doing for years — finding customer satisfaction in eye-popping finishing items put on after the oven such as arugula, romaine and radicchio, along with shaved cheeses, sweet jams, nuts and even fermented zingers, such as kimchi and pickles!

This is also a great way to wow your customers and keep your food costs in check all on the same pie.


When you look to add a new menu item, what are your first considerations?


  1. The Market: will your existing customers just go slap-happy-crazy AND will this new pizza, side, salad lure new customers to your place?
  2. Do your competitors have this or will you trump them with innovation?
  3. Will you make money by introducing this new item? This is always done by reducing a pie, salad, sandwich down to every line item in it, (I ALWAYS include packaging in my food cost!) OR will this be a loss leader with a high food cost but an item that brings more customers through your doors, adding to overall revenue?
  4. How much of this new item can be made with existing products in your inventory/menu mix? AND how much more labor and prep time will this item entail?
  5. Can I trust my communication and training standards enough to not make this pizza a flop. (Example: does my staff know to not put fresh basil or mayonnaise through the oven). Who is my staff? Low-paid, non-caring individuals whose names you haven’t even tried to remember and never get enthused about your product? They groan when the phone rings and are more interested in having a smoke out back OR are they pizza professionals who you take care of and love the business because they care about innovation, and exude self-worth and pizza fanaticism?