Crazy first day in business yesterday

Wow. I’m exhausted, excited, and concerned all at once. On Friday we got our Health Permit which allowed us to get your occupancy permit which allowed us to get our city liquor license which allowed us to get our county liquor License which allowed us to open. We had previously decided we would be open for lunch buffet only (11-2) on Saturday. My vendors were all very accommodating in getting us product on Friday afternoon. We planned to keep the bar open for the Big 12 basketball games but not offer food (I planned to have leftover dough that I could have fun making some free pies for the bar crowd).

All went great. By 2:00 we rang over $1200 in Lunch Buffets and Soft drinks and I was ready to make dough for the next day (my prep took longer in the a.m. than I thought so I was going to make dough in the swing). BUT my wife talked me into serving pizzas to order reasoning that we had the dough. I should have known better. I had NO help in the kitchen all day except a 17 yo dishwasher to help me out. Needless to say, my servers inundated me with orders before I could even blink. It went ok for a while but our chicago styles turned into 50+ minute ticket times and we ended up having to pie a few pizzas for folks. I finally cut food completely off at about 6:00 p.m. After an 19 hour workday the day before and 4 hours of rest, I ended up working from 6:00 yesterday to 2:00 a.m…

I learned a lot. I need a lot more help in the kitchen before we’re ready for our full dinner menu. I need some more systems in place. And I need to get the hell out of the kitchen and be out front.

I saw a real glimpse of success yesterday. And we rang $2400 without dinner (and after the voids). 30% booze 70% food. I know I could have done 4000-5000 yesterday if I’d have been open for lunch and dinner. I’m staying closed today to regroup. We’ll reopen for LUNCH ONLY next week while I hire more staff. Thanks again for everything from you guys on the board. I can see success at the end of the tunnel…

PCU,
First off congratulations. Now, I believe your gonna have a good number of people assuming you are open today. That will send all kinds of crazy signals out. You might of wanted to post a question on how to do an opening as I would have suggested doing a soft open on Monday. I know you had a ton of unknowns and were excited to get back some money you put out! It’s just my opinion but, you should now staff properly and be prepared when you open the doors to avoid the 50 minute tickets. There was a huge anticipation for my joint to open, I opened with no advertising on a Monday and was over-run even with full staff and supplies flowing out of my freezers and fridges. I strongly believe now that my business is in a steady growth due to some face saving marketing and guest education efforts. We had to turn people away, and also had long ticket times and it takes incredible effort and money to get those guests to return. Again, I’m not slamming you, just giving you facts from my own experience. Opening on Friday and being closed on Saturday with those kinda numbers will be awkward at best for your guests. Good luck man, much success and keep posting for help, lots of smart people here.

                                                                                                      Willi

Congratulations! Just keep learning and adapting to your own circumstance and market. Best of luck and don’t forget to have some laughs along the way.

Congratulations on a great beginning!!! Hope business continues booming.

I’ve honestly never heard of anyone opening a restaurant, or any business for that matter, like this. Cutting off orders “thinking” you could have done those numbers? Closing to regoup? Opening a pizza place for lunch only?

Congrats on the great buzz about your business, however I hate to see you squander part of that by not being consistent with your operation. It just seems you are taking this great reception for granted. Best of luck to you.

Thanks for the input. Obviously we made a mistake, hence my post. We have been consistent in telling people that we would open with lunch only for 5 to 7 days. in fact, other than posting on facebook, made no formal announcement of opening at all. On Saturday, we simply got cocky. Ou lunch went smoother than I thought possible and we had ingredients. We had several large pArties wanting to order pizza and we made the incorrect decision to serve them along with everyone else. It snowballed In a matter of minutes.

Frankly, because of my lack of staffing, we did not have the dough to open on sunday. We spent the day in my basement straightening out foh and hiring addl staff.

As for this week, I feel confident that we can tuen out a consistently great product on our buffet. I also feel confident that we can use that time to train our staff and be ready for dinner by next Monday (7 days) . Realistically I cannot afford to train all my staff to cook our full menu without having the doors open. That’s what I’m struggling with. But you guys tell me - how better should I handle fixinG this mistake going forward?

Perfect, I respect your input on this board and your success as a pizzeria. I also appreciate your acknowledgment of my mistake. Do you have a recommendation for going forward?

I’ve had many, many days in this business where we just got it handed to us. Most of the time it was an unexpected surge in sales, sometimes an equipment failure. The only thing you can do is deal with the disaster as best you can, review what went wrong, and then make adjustments to prevent it from repeating. Be honest with your customers about what happened, apologize, and (this is our unofficial motto) “come back strong tomorrow!”

Sounds like you’re basically hiring a whole new staff. Perhaps bringing them in and having a few “dry runs” is in order to get them up to speed and work all the bugs out. Maybe use facebook to get x number of invites for a private party where you are sure of the response and which you can use for some low-pressure training of the newbies. Then by next Saturday you will be ready to play a complete game and never look back.

I’m a big proponent of a soft opening before going grand.

PC, I appreciate your candor in sharing exactly what happened, where you succeeded, and where you did not on your opening day! We’ve got 2 weeks left in our build-out process and will do our own “soft” opens the week of Feb. 15th. I’m very appreciative you’d take the time to comment so others can avoid the same problems.

We’re in the hiring phase right now, started our interviews for kitchen staff Saturday, have more today, and will move into our server interviews this evening. Our kitchen manager is obligated to another position through Valentines’ Day and there for a brief moment I had considered pushing forward and doing our trial runs in the week previous, then do a non-advertised opening for lunch on Monday the 15th. Your openness and honesty in your post made me whoa up and we’ll now wait and not do our trials till the week of the 15th, opening soft on the following Monday or so!

Some good comes from everything, at times it’s just harder to see.

Continued good luck and strong legs on your new venture.

Get some staff, get them trained (properly) don’t try and run until you’ve learnt to walk.

You seem to be a bright guy so I can’t really believe that you opened without having any trained staff. I’ve normally had a full staff in for a week (backed up with experienced guys) before I even think of doing a soft opening.

Your statement ‘Realistically I cannot afford to train all my staff to cook our full menu without having the doors open’ is a big worry. You can’t afford not to!! Surely you’ve learnt that one right? If you haven’t factored in this to your opening budget then I’m afraid you’ve missed a big trick there!

You only get one chance to make a first impression. I knew this when I opened my first store 4.5 years ago. We did double what we hoped to achieve and boy did we disappoint. The sheer volume overwhelmed us for weeks and its taken us years to get back to that initial volume. I’d hate for that to happen to you.

Train, train, train, train, train.

You are already open so serve what you can handle. Pizza, salad and wings/breadstix would be expected.

Dough is good for one to three days. Make more than you expect you need. If you have to throw some out – big deal. There are a lot of things you can’t control happening but you do have control over having enough dough. Dough only needs a minimum of 12 hours to ferment. If you really run short you can prep in the morning and still have it ready later that day. Its not the best case scenario, but 8 to 9 hours is workable – just warm it up properly before using it.

We all get hit with rushes we are not prepared for. Keep communication open with your staff so they can let customers know how long the wait is “when” they order.

consistency is what you need to strive for in all areas or your processes, customer service, hours, etc. Offer what you can handle and add the rest as your capabilities increase.

Bryan

Congrats on the early success.

I’ll go against the flow and say that this wasn’t a damning thing you did. It doesn’t sound like you sacrificed quality for speed, that’s good. I think there are ways to spin the shortcomings. Surely a simple: “We thought Raytown would love our pies, we didn’t know they would love them THAT much!” would go a long way. Is the local paper doing any coverage of your store? That would be a good place to get started.

I’ve gotten myself through a few of those moments by not letting the customer see us sweat and putting a positive spin on it (last Wednesday actually, when we had a line out the door at dinner and people standing in the snow waiting to get in).

I wish I had the time to come and help you get things going for you. I’ve had my place open for a year and a half now. Staffing is the hardest part that you will face. If you can find a pizza pro to help you out for a short time then bring them in and pay them well. Remember, it’s easier for your staff to learn from someone who knows what they are doing than someone thinks they can figure it out. Like somebody said earlier, you only get one chance for a first impression.

Thanks for all the input guys. Things are starting to get worked out. I followed Pirate’s advice and we opened our lunch buffet and then Pizza only for dinner (with wings and a salad bar). Monday was $460 at lunch, Tuesday was $700ish, and today was $960. We stayed open for dinner each night and did well. I’ve doubled my staff and all the staff seems good. In fact, my kitchen is in outstanding order. BUT, I have some systemic issues with

  1. Sheeting my thin crust dough (37% hydration) It’s labor intensive and my old single pass Anets with steel rollers is not cutting it. I ordered a 20" somerset today which should be in by Monday. This problem should be corrected.
  2. Training my servers AND CUSTOMERS on deep dish pizza at dinner. Tonight we got hit all at once with 10 deep dish pies. Ticket times were a somewhat predictable 55-70 minutes for the last of those pies (cook time is 25-30 minutes). Admittedly, our servers did not do an adequate job of informing the customers about the wait. But we need a better system and here’s my proposal:
    we hire a hostess who explains the length of time for a Chicago Style pizza. She has a ticket book and offers to take the order right then. She rights the order on the butcher paper at the table and then turns the pre-order ticket (with table#) to the kitchen who begins cooking. On the line, we’re improving by having sauce and cheese at both ends of my 9’ make table so we can double up on pies. Tracking what pie is what is the one thing I have not yet mastered. Was thinking of chalking the table# on the pan if it will hold up in the oven but not sure.

Anyway, we’re getting TONS better everyday. And I see that my concept and location are winners. I just need to put it all together. We’re overstaffed and that’s a good thing for now.

Plus, I got a really good plug from our NBC affiliate here:

http://www.facebook.com/l.php?u=http%3A … c77b398a8a

Again, thanks for all the advice, criticism (at least the productive criticism) and well wishes. I’m determined to make this work!!!

Awesome stuff.

Did you contact the NBC affiliate or did they find you?

They sought us out. We have had no formal advertising or press releases. One of their reporters was following us and called us Monday a.m. to come out Monday p.m.

It was surreal but really neat. Great opportunity.

Wish I could afford a rotoflex at this point…

I engraved the sides of my pans with a little electric engraver. They’re numbered 1 through 30 and the cook just writes the pan number on the ticket after making the pizza.

I engraved the sides of my pans with a little electric engraver. They’re numbered 1 through 30 and the cook just writes the pan number on the ticket after making the pizza.

Brilliant. I’m off to Lowes tomorrow to buy the Dremel engraver. Thanks for the tip!

You can also cut slips of parchment paper and simply write the ticket/order number on the slip with a “Sharpie”, then tuck that parchment slip between your dough and pan. Simple.

Just checking in to say - IT"S GOING AWESOME. We got everything turned around in a hurry! We had a busy weekend last weekend (45 minute wait on Fri and 25 on saturday). Better than that, our lunch buffet is driving substantial revenue and we’re starting to get sizeable carry-out orders from the community college across the street and a handful of drug-reps. Here’s some of my trials and tribulations from the 1st week:

  1. I had to buy a new sheeter. We use a low-hydration dough for our cracker-thin crust. We had an old steel, Anets Single pass. I sourced a reasonable deal on a new somerset 20" double-pass with Nylon rollers and wow what a difference. I don’t dread sheeting dough every day anymore.
  2. Used equipment can be good, but can also be very bad - our fryers were previously converted to LP and I didn’t notice the sticker prior to purchasing - now I’m in the market for a serviceable fryer because they will not keep up. Our prep-table does not keep a consistent enough temperature down below (too cold) for me to rely on it to store overnight.
  3. My gamble to serve high-end beer paid off in my market. We put 10 beers on tap with a really unique selection (Founders, Left Hand, Lagunitas, Blvd., Anchor Steam, Southern Tier, Bear Republic). We have worked hard to sell them and it’s been great. Instead of $2.00 Bud Light’s we’re selling $5.25 craft beers. We’ve even had success with 22oz.
    Anyway, I can’t thank this forum enough for all the help!

Here’s some pics taken in BOH at our Superbowl party:

http://www.flickr.com/photos/theswimback/sets/72157623256232953/

and here’s a cool little piece the local NBC affiliate did on us the Wednesday after we were open on our social media drive:

http://www.nbcactionnews.com/news/local/story/Social-Media-Helps-New-Pizza-Place-with-Opening/Smr5vVnlOU-9Vt_1KCdM3w.cspx

Thanks again. I hope it keeps up!