bare bones just pizza no frills menu vs. chain menus

I’m looking into a location for my pizza shop (since the whole debacle with the hotel, if you remeber) and I think I’ve found an area to start searching for lease space.

Base population is 30,000
It’s a university town with a high number of hotels and factories
There are currently 6 pizza shops: Domino’s, Godfather’s, Little Caesers, Papa John,s and Pizza Hut, and one dine-in only independent.

I was considering bare bones just pizza no frills menu: 3 specialties–pmo, gmorx, psbhkgomr (if any of you are old school domino’s, you’ll recognize the abreviates, if not, doesn’t matter too much). Only 14 inch or 12 inch hand tossed, pizzas, my toppings are limited to 11 items, and sides are only breadsticks, cheese bread, and garlic knots.

Am I crazy for wanting to open with such a bare bones menu with such stiff chain competition? What would your approach be opening up a new store in this type of environment?

why limit your potential profits?

Why select just a slim section of the market?

Mr. Ford stopped selling just black Model T’s years ago…

Is your pizza THAT good that people will stampede the store to buy it (I think not…lol…)

Being in a college town I strive to reach 99.999% of the population because I can’t compete with the marketing $$$ the big guys have…I MUST let my food speak for me & my marketing $$$

Well, my pizza is good, but it is still just pizza. :wink:

I’m trying to learn from my mistakes here. This last venture I invested a lot of money into a lot of big equipment, and things did not work out. I was thinking this time around start off really, really small and expand from there.

The town is a tourist trap as well, and I’d like to eventually offer a limited dine-in experience as well as artesian breads.

In anycase, my gut is telling me to rethink the bare bones opening menu. But then I’m also looking at the kind of money I have all ready lost in the first venture…

I see no reason a limited menu can not work. Focus is a plus in my book. You just have to answer the question, “Why would customers choose my product/service over that of one of my competitors?”

What is your point of differentiation? And is it one your competition can not easily (or would be unwilling) to adopt?

Great replies.

Ask yourself, against such a huge chain offering & price pressure, what are you bringing to the table THAT IS GOING TO MAKE YOU PROFITABLE? How is ‘bare bones’ or ‘no frills’ going to make you money? Even with similar menus and price points, HOW ARE YOU GOING TO SNATCH ENOUGH VOLUME FROM THEM TO MAKE YOU PROFITABLE?

I’d consider alternative approaches, perhaps even ‘creating’ a unique market that clearly separates you from the others, like probably what the dine-in guy is trying. Maybe a top-less dine-in?? chuckles. That might hit the college segment pretty good.

first let me preface by saying I have NO EXPERIENCE in this type of set-up, but I often wondered about a streamline set-up, 8 toppings, one size of pizza and bread-sticks, of course.
It works more for a college town, hotels are a little different as you get a lot of singe stay travelers as well.
But just think of the inventory headaches that are gone…and you make the pizza a price point say 8.99 plus toppings…
you would have to make it up in volume though…HMMM, hey Brad got anymore room down there in Bloomington for another pizzeria?

That was a very sweet system when Domino’s used it in the 80’s, but will it fly in 2010? Probably not nearly as well. The benefits (streamlined operations) pale in comparison to the benefits of an expanded menu. Microwaved pasta noodles make pasta a breeze, and chicken wings can be added with nearly zero extra work.

It was easy to make money with a minimal menu when hot home delivered pizza was a novelty. It hasn’t been that in two decades. Why hamstring yourself from day one?

I just thought I would add a little something:

I run a place that does close to what you describe, except we have a simple chop salad and knots as sides. I get people who call and tell me they have heard about my shop and that the pizza is the best, and ask if I have wings or fries. When I tell them no, they hang up. This happens to me at least three times a week.

Now, these guys have already built out the place, so I cant realy add anything to it, but I know that when I open my place, I will use my dough and offer subs as well as wings.

Just a thought.

A little more anecdotal info.

Several of my former employees all went to the same college when they left here, including my son. A couple of years ago when pizza hut started offering pasta, evrybody in the dorms started oprdering them. Dominos had a special for the dorms on pizza and so that is what everybody was eating. Kids want variety too, and they had grown tired of pizza and subs or eating machine cuisine when studying late. I know my son and his roommate were ordering pasta a couple of times a week.


To differentiate myself:

No one is doing fresh dough daily.

The area actually has a huge agriculture base outside of town. There’s even a local cheesery that is devoted to chev, and I am really surprised the current indie does not offer a pizza with this delicate cheese. So I’ll have an emphasis on local product. There’s even a bison farm not too far away, yet no one offers the bison on the pizza either…bison/chev combination for down the road as I expand??

Delivery fees abound. Just a fact of our business these days, so am offering the traditional 10% discount to businesses with the addition of no delivery fee to the business.

I’m considering a 100% guaruntee of all pizzas in town. You order something from Dominos and you don’t like it, bring in what you didn’t eat and I’ll replace it free.

Out of the six pizzerias, three control 75% of the market share: Domino’s, Papa John’s, and the indie. I’m sure I won’t be competing with the indie off the bat, but with Domino’s and Papa John’s, I’m hoping to give them a run for thier money.

Domino’s menu revamp has me worried. I never thought I’d see the day where they’d offer toppings such as roasted red peppers. Papa John’s menu has not changed much over the years, but they have that ever so tasty spinach alfredo sauce. Pizza Hut, I wonder why they are still in business because they don’t open until 6pm, and have recieved nothing really bad reviews online for this location.

Lastly, another interesting market tidbit for this locale, the oldest pizza shop has only been open since 2002.

A simple concept can work. Little Caesar’s has done very well basing their business on hot and ready large cheese and pepperoni pizzas. In and Out Burger only has 5 or 6 menu items. I have gone down the path of offering wings, sandwiches, and pastas but in the past year I contracted my menu to only offer pizza, cinnamon sticks, and cheese bread. My sales have not dipped one bit, sure I have a couple of hang-ups a week, but I have added customers by having faster delivery and pick-up times.

I am an independent and I have only 5 pizzas on the menu, plus a weekly special pizza.
I have no side orders, only fresh home-made desserts.
I use all fresh vegetables from local farmers. We even grow our own spices - it’s easy.
We have no delivery fees.
I no longer need to advertise at all. I have to turn away orders after about 8pm. Our customers figured it out on their own and started calling us days ahead to “reserve” pizzas and desserts for a specific day and time.

Great marketing is having one less than the demand. I don’t push anything, I set out a delicious lure and have reeled them in with great food and friendly service.

Can it work? I have made it work. But, I only thought about the food and the service. I only bought the best ingredients and was lucky - I didn’t need to make a profit at it quickly. Now, I control my life and business completely without any stress, It’s fun and I like our customers.

If you don’t have a fantastic, special product, I don’t think you’re likely to succeed at a limited menu operation. I you have something truly special, you can do it. You can’t survive in a war of cheap prices for cheap, fickle customers against chain stores.

Little Caesar’s Hot and Ready has nothing to do with cheese or pepperoni. It is all about a $5 pie with no wait. Do you really want to fight for the lowest common denominator for less than a buck profit per pie? That is just a quick way to buy yourself a $20k a year job. No thanks.

With so many options and easy ways to add to your menu, I guess it begs the question why would you hamstring yourself with a limited menu?

Not sure. Were you thinking about being all things to all people[/url]? We’ve also got your choice of [url=]cheap[/url] or [url=]cheap[/url]? Someone could [url=]go upscale[/url] or try being [url=]hip for the kids[/url] or maybe [url=]just stick around forever and have some random person name you best in the state in a national newspaper.

On 2nd thought, run. Run away from this town as fast as you can! Seriously, opening a new place in this market is like walking into a buzz saw.

Hi PizzaSteve:

As I have noted here previously, We are seeing an embryonic trend to expanded menus.

It appears that the proliferation of pizza shops in many areas is reducing the pizza sales per shop and shops that offer a wide variety of menu items are doing better than the basic pizza, subs, wings shops.

It may be that future pizza shops will offer Ribs, frys, sea food and who knows what else?

George Mills


Why do you think that is?
I remember the Soup Nazi Seinfeld episode which is actually based off a real soup place in NYC.

The place I was going to open was located in a hotel. I got a great deal on the lease, & two weeks before opening, the bank foreclosed on the property, kicked me out, and moved in another restauranteur that they felt better matched their clientelle.

I think I was too radical for them: emphasis on gourmet pizzas such as peach & steak pizza for example, high end cheeses such as chev & gorg… pastas, lasagnas, steaks, wings…you get the idea. I had lawyers involved and everything else and just came short of suing, and lost $20,000 investment which sucked b/c I had catering contracts booked out until the end of 2012.

I don’t want to get caught with my pants down again like that, so that’s why I’m looking at a very limited menu with slow menu expansion plans on the horizon. I’m hoping utilizing local produce, and 100% fresh ingredients will overcome the initial limited menu. Even the dough I am looking at doing fresh daily so I don’t have to purchase a large refrigeration unit.

Okay. I think you are confusing two unrelated things and being a bit gun shy (Understandably so though). In this market having a bare bones menu is not the way to go. With the vast range of options out there, as in self rising frozen pizzas, cheap alternatives, and the big chains, you want to offer at least the minimum ‘standard options’. In some markets this even includes ribs.

You sure don’t need to have a 16 cheese pizza and sushi on the menu, but you need wings, and probably pasta. Tacos and burritos are an easy addition as well. Back in MN Hometown Pizza and tack blew the doors off Domino’s when they opened.

Go with your gut and start out with an expanded side menu list. Work with your supplier to find products that are easy to cook and require little prep. No sense in leaving money on the table or sending customers else where. Fresh dough made daily is not enough of a draw to sway anyone.

How late do you plan on staying open? We are also in a college town with several hotels and bars. We stay open until 2 on weekdays and 3 on weekends and find we are very busy with the late night studiers and partiers. Our menu is mainly pizzas,wings and salads. We offer carryout and delivery.

The current competition hours vary widely. Papa John’s opens at 10:30am, closes at 1am through the weekdays and 2am weekends throughout the academic year. Summertime, their hours change to midnight. Domino’s closes at 1am every night. Pizza Hut doesn’t open until 6pm, closes at 1, 2 on weekends.

So I am thinking 2am minimally, possibly 3:30am on weekends, but depends on business.

I worked at a Domino’s sometime ago that was in a college town that did a midnight madness until close–they closed at 2am. They sold medium 1 tops for $3.99 during that time cary-out only, making 70 cents per pie after food costs. They delivered if someone ordered 10 or more. I was thinking about something similar there too–they were totally slammed, freeing up friday night supper hour for the permanent residential residents and effecitively moving the college rush to a later time. Some of those kids waited in line for an hour and a half for a damn medium peperoni pizza we were so backed up some nights.

I don’t know why any other pizza place did not do the same.

Steve I have to comment that I think you are going in two different directions here that will not add up. You want local dairy cheese and bison and fresh spices…all of which is great too hear as it could make you stand out a lot over the big chain mass produced garbage…but then you talk about going head to head with staying open till 330am and $3.99 pizzas. Maybe I am wrong…but I do not see how you can even think of doing both. Unless you buy the least expensive ingredients and keep all your costs down too minimal… you will put yourself under from day one. Also, from what it sounds like… fresh dough is not the best dough. Dough on day 2 or 3 has more of a built up flavor that makes it unique and stand apart from the vast number of crappy dough that exsists out there. I also think that doing the pizza guarantee will do nothing but cost you money. I fotget which chain did that and it is long gone…unless it is hiding out there in a few towns. You are in a college town…so how many times is a group of drunk college kids going to pick up the last 2 pieces of cold pizza sitting on the kitchen table at 3am and drop by for a free replacement? Umm…yeah our pizza from XXX was not very good…and you said you would replace with one of yours at no cost… thanks man! You already got burned pretty bad at the hotel and I am sure you do not want that again…so I would sit back and rethink the big picture and work on a business model that will hopefully be profitable from the beginning. Best of luck. :idea: