July 1, 2018 |

Man on the Street: Shock Value

By Scott Wiener

$2,000 pizza, truffle, foie gras, edible gold, squid-ink dyed crust

Over-the-top pizzas are good marketing tools if done correctly

Scott Wiener Founder, Scott’s Pizza Tours and SliceOutHunger.org

Scott Wiener
Founder, Scott’s Pizza Tours and SliceOutHunger.org

My life flashed before my eyes as I lifted the slice to my lips. How did I get here, to this moment in which I’m about to eat a pizza that costs way more than my monthly rent? I had heard about this pizza and secretly wished someone would offer me a slice so I could see for
myself what all the fuss was about. Paying for it on my own was completely out of the question because this particular pizza holds the Guinness World Record for being the most expensive on Earth. For the bargain price of $2,000 you get truffle, foie gras and two different types of edible gold on a squid-ink dyed crust. For an additional $700, you can even add caviar! It’s unlike any pizza I’ve ever seen, which is exactly the point. Gimmick pizzas are designed to amuse, but shock has its price.

The initial value of an over-the-top pizza is clear. Both social and traditional media explode when they find something new and unusual, especially if it’s visually stimulating. But even if your crazy new pizza gets massive attention from the press, there’s no guarantee it will translate into sales. A pizzeria in NYC’s East Village recently started serving pizza crust gelato. It was featured on multiple TV shows but the media attention didn’t create the boost in business they expected.

If you do hit the jackpot and droves of new customers show up looking for the pizza they saw on Instagram, it’s essential that you are capable of meeting the demand. Designing a comprehensive pizza with too many moving parts can completely backfire if you’re unable to deliver the goods. I’ve seen pizzerias successfully manage extravagant pies by restricting their availability. Establishing a limited number of pizzas per day or offering the pizza only one day per week are simple ways to stay in control. You’ll also want to make sure your other pizzas are ready for the spotlight because customers are going to dig beyond the initial attraction. If I make a special trip, you better believe I’m going to make it worth my time by checking out what else the place has to offer. If I’m disappointed, it’s strong indication that this place is just a one-hit wonder. If the other slices are good, the specialty pizza becomes less of a gimmick and more of a fun culinary experiment.    

My biggest problem with stunt pizzas is when they’re all about the numbers. The excitement over a pizza that is five feet in diameter or weighs 20 pounds, completely wears off as soon as somebody makes a pizza that’s six feet or weighs 21 pounds. These are also the least exciting pizzas to eat. When it’s all about the numbers, taste falls by the wayside.

If your only goal is to be featured in the social media profiles of local Millennials, over-the-top pizzas might do the trick. But if you really want recognition for your food, it’s probably an unnecessary diversion.

Scott Wiener is the founder of Scott’s Pizza Tours in New York City and SliceOutHunger.org.