A Banker looking to open a Pizzeria???

My father has willed to me a commercial building that has a convenience store and gas. The building has enough space to accommodate a pizzeria. Yes, like many, It’s always my dream to open one. Here’s some facts:
1/ The town only has a population of about 3,700 people (maybe 5,000 + in the outlying area) with one pizza shop that is just ok.
2/ The gas/convenience store nets about $50K per year.
3/ I am a Banker (Commercial Lender for 15+ years) and understand the importance of cash flow, marketing, profit margins, etc.
4/ I have cash for start-up working capital, equipment.
5/ No debts or lease payments.
6/ One employee other than my family members and myself.
7/ My family is Italian with a lot really good dishes…and my kids and I make pizza (which many rave about) every Friday night.
8/ My father was self-employed for 45 years, and I’ve been involved in his businesses since the age of 13 (and I know the unbelievable commitment that he gave that most don’t understand until they actually run a business + the headaches).
9/ Menu will consist of Pizza, subs, wings, etc. (possibly more later). Not really a restaurant but a shop. Open for lunch and dinner.

Ok…So the bottom-line. Should I follow my dream and do this? That’s what my heart says…but my brain says …nooooo waaaay…probably all this to net $10K a year ! But I really can’t stand the corporate world anymore. Sure I could do a BS Performa (that’s what the banks want!), but I would like to get real insight on this from you guys. If I could net $25K a year from pizza, I may consider it further.

Small towners especially…please reply with your thoughts…and thank you…

Sounds like you personally have more going for you than most that get into the business. I personally would not invest my money or time into a small market like that (low upside) but with your modest financial goals it may be feasible. (just not familiar with small markets)

Since you own the building, you could buy some equipment up front and work out all your recipes and systems before you spend a dime on development. That should give you a pretty good feel for the business without risking it all.

Sounds like this place would essentially be rent free with your other businesses already up and running. You’ll get a lot of exposure from the gas for sure.

Without knowing how the small market numbers work out, sounds like a great opportunity with about as minimal risk as you can get.

I am in a very small market with 4800 ppl and 14 places to get hot food.which includes 5 places to get pizza.
i cant see any problem with making a go at it in your situation.

Hi Pegerarella:

You did not indicate the dimensions of the building you inherited.

If you would post those dimensions I and probably others could comment on the possibility of a viable pizza shop in the space available.

George Mills

Hello George,

Honestly, I don’t know yet because there is some definate reconfiguring that I will have to do. I do know it won’t be a large space. I was sort of envisioning a separate small counter, 4-5 tables and the space needed for a mixer, cooler, prep table and oven. Speaking about ovens, my dad actually heats the place with coal (apparently it was fairly economical). Do they make coal-fired ovens?

Thanks to you and the other two for your input. My biggest concern right now is the demographics and what I may also next time I am there is check out the foot traffic from the other pizza establishment.

A small, rural location with little or no commuter or tourism traffic will be your worst nightmare for a year or more. 14 places to get hot food would mean a lot more going on in that marketplace than a pizzeria. John Smith’s place seems to be more ‘happening’ than your average 4800 population small town.

Success in a small town really depends on the location and population density within 5 and 10 miles. It also depends on what the demographics and market configuration are. Do you have apartments? A college? Commerce/job center in town limits? within 5 miles? What is the general economy like in town? Have a grocery store/bank/other community building blocks? On an Interstate or other major highway? Is the commercial/industrial presence on the rise, decline or stable? Is the town a place people go to buy other items anyway? What brings people into or through your town?

Life in a 2500 person town is different even than a 5000 person town. We are around 2500-2600, and we cannot grow our business in town . . . we are seeking more and more external customer sources to drive new sales and revenues. Identify all the potential places you can uncover customers, including outside of town. Then be realistic about how viable the marketplace is for your town. You may have to spend a lot of time and money developing marketplace awareness/brand AS WELL AS your business brand.


Thanks for taking the time to give me your thoughts. All issues that you raised are valid ones and are particular to my situation, which gives me a lot to think about. The area at best is stable, but the overall economy really scares me with higher costs of goods and less descretionary income from customers…not a good combo even with pizza being a lower cost food. The location is on the main thorofare with about 2-3,000 cars passing by daily. I just don’t want to throw 50 G’s down the drain. What I may do is something small scale that ties in with the convenience store, such as offer sandwiches and pizza for take out only. A “Tester” so to speak. Use the existing space and set-up a pizza, sandwich counter. Maybe with $10K I can buy a used single deck oven or counter-top and used equipment and see what happens. We’ve never sold food other than grocery items so not sure what’s involved to meet code. If it seems to fly, then maybe invest more as I go.


F. Pegarella

i respect your opinion mr. sasso but that does not describe my market.
if i could easily add a gas station to my restaurant for a small investment of only $50,000 i would do it in a heartbeat.i think if it were the other way around,i had a gas station with plenty of traffic already i would sell food
out of the same location…but thats me what is there to lose…
with 2-3,000 cars a day going by, this is more traffic that my place in my little town sees in a week.
50K seems a little steep for adding a pizza sub shop onto an already functional business,i think it could be done for less than half that.IMO

It sounds like you have a level head about this venture and just need a little push over the edge. You know your market better than others, so do your research, get a plan and go for it! I was a banker turned pizza restaurant owner. I wasn’t looking for it but it found me and now I’m head deep in the start-up process. It’s lots of work with modest financial return in the end(if your lucky!!), but when you’re on your death bed are you going to think “Man, I’m glad I didn’t follow my dream and open up that pizza restaurant.” Probably not…