Cutting Down a Menu...ideas and suggestions

I am in the process of getting new menus made. I am all about the pizzas, obviously!

my problem at this location is that Pizza and slices are about 45% (35% pizza/9% slices). Salads are 10%, 5% beer, and the rest is cook stuff (hoagies and wings and pasta and so on).

My BIGGEST problem is hiring decent help for the cook side. I had 40 W2 in 6 months. I dont have any problems on the pizza side because I work 40 hours a week and so does my manager and we just trained a newbie who is doing well and has her head on straight. I’ve had junkies, lazy people, alcoholics, and people like that. Mainly just the cooks. My drivers are fine and my counter girls are good too. I just dont know what to do about it. It seems sometimes the menu is too big for them to wrap their heads around it so i figured if i can cut it down, that might help. I have cheat sheets at each station and yet that doesnt seem to work.

I can probably shave about 12 items on that side (would actually love to add more specialty pies instead). Most sell about 100-170 QTY in a year vs something like my gyros that sell over 2000 in a year. What is the number cut off for you?

is there also a better way of doing the menu? example would be, we sell a steak and cheese, and a steak and mushroom, and a steak and bacon and so on. Wouldnt it make more sense to have something on the menu where they can just build a steak and cheese and add whatever toppings we have? Build your own hoagie with whatever meats we offer (instead we have a name for each item but then people add whatever they want anyways) I am looking for simplicity, plus i figure i can control my food cost better with less items.

Why don’t you or your manager cook? Train the cooks to make pizzas? Is your kitchen separate that it can’t all be done together / combined?
Your idea of combining multiple menu items into one is a great start. Why give your customers so many things to look through? Plus, when you are selling 100-170 per year that is what, 1 every 2 or 3 days? No one will remember how to make things that may be complicated if they make them so infrequent. I don’t know how much detail you have for your menu and costing, but look at the food cost of your slow movers. If something has a high food cost (or low profit margin) and you aren’t moving it - Drop It! Take a look at your inventory that you order too. What items do you only use for 1 menu item, etc. Take a look at dropping those too. Its all about turning your inventory, making things SIMPLE for your workers (customers too!) and maximizing profits. I just recently did this to our menu. Dropped 1 size of pizzas, 1 size of salads, 1 size of milksakes, 1 salad dressing, 1 pizza topping, and 1 of the 2 sizes of pre-made thin crust doughs that we order. Plus cut a couple menu items that were our slowest sellers. Still would like to do more, but happy where we are at now.
It’s all about having data to back up your decisions. Look at what is bringing in sales, profits, etc. Spreadsheet it out, make informed decisions.
Is your menu online that we could look at?


My manager and I definitely cook, A LOT. And when we are short a cook, I usually cook. The kitchen is an open kitchen (which I also hate. how many times can i tell my cook to stop touching his hair or face? seriously like 1000x a month). We have one pizza table and next to that is a hoagie station and then next to that is a mini cooler on a 3 foot table with dressings and pasta pre cooked (yuk! but the area i am in, these people dont know a good pasta dish if it hit them in the mouth). then next to that is a salad station. I actually added the salad station because we do over 800 salads a month. And before, they used to take each ingredient out of the cook station and then have to put it back, I said screw that, invested about 2k in a new prep table that holds 24 small bins and one large bin for the lettuce. And had to buy a new printer so the tickets can get split. honestly the best investment i made there. Then behind those units are the ovens and the grill and the fryers all lines up against the wall. The flow is good now, but again the help is terrible.

I honestly cant train the cooks to make pizzas because I cant afford to waste my time. we do hand stretched up to 18" NY style pizza in a deck oven. I find that it takes at least 3-6 months to train someone before they can even be left alone. and my retention rate sometimes is less then that. The best cook i have now is a college student but hes leaving soon and he only wants to work 25 -30 hours tops. I fired the one cook last week cause he came in drunk (also missed 2 days in the last 3 months and also came in with his 1 year old the one time which is a liability in itself) and the other kid quit mid shift because he couldnt handle it anymore.

Because of payroll, I only put one cook and then the pizza man helps out with salads and stuff and if he gets backed up we help him. That’s working especially Monday-Wednesday which are less pizzas. now the weekend is pound me in the pizza days. Mostly pizza but still some cook stuff. We also have a huge dinning area and have waitresses at night because it gets busy all at once (we also have a liquor license). All great problems to have but the help is just so thin these days. No one cares!! they just want their pay. I am trying to start a bonus program soon, but still that wont stop the idiots I hire. I hate to sound so mean, but damn, its been a pretty bad year with the cook side employment. here is a link to my menu, i am already dropping like 12 items from it. I am also thinking of dropping the 18" pies. I can only fit 4 in the oven and they are harder to make when someone is training and learning how to make pizzas. Much easier to put thin spots and stuff and to also get it off the peal. Also some of the pics are getting updated as i have been taking nice professional pictures the last year for art work and advertisement.

“I find that it takes at least 3-6 months to train someone before they can even be left alone. and my retention rate sometimes is less then that.” - here is your problem. Don’t take this the wrong way, but you either are hiring the wrong people or you aren’t training properly. Easy to fix both issues regardless.

If a new hire takes more than 3 days to “get it”, it’s not going to work. Cut the cord asap and move on. And try hiring people that aren’t junkies/alcoholics/lazy. Maybe try an HR service to help you with the cooks. Or hire people with experience in NY-style hand-stretching.

And again, please don’t take any of this the wrong way, but maybe change your ways in hiring. Find other outlets besides what you’ve been trying or at least check out other options. You’re in a big city that’s having great growth, you got this!

Having a good staff starts with having a great culture/work environment/leadership. If you’re a stern abrasive operator that can’t make it fun and genuine, people will always come and go. No one wants to work in a stressful chaotic work place. Training properly is very important to success and I’ve been doing this business for 15 years and rarely have turnover issues in the 30+ restaurants I’ve owned/operated in Chicago and San Francisco.

I am originally from New York so I TAKE EVERYTHING THE WRONG WAY!!..Just kidding and i agree 100% with what you are saying (the 3-6 months was for pizza makers, cooks are usually about 2-3 weeks) and i ll be honest, i am not the best at training and hiring and all that stuff, but I brought in a “manager” from another one of our stores that i thought was going to do that stuff ($1k/week salary) but he doesnt do it. He flat out told me “he’s not the type of person to tell people what to do”. He also has a terrible attitude (probably should find a new line of work), and i feel like that rubs off on the other workers. He doesnt train properly, he basically has the current cook train the new cooks and sometimes its like 2-3 cooks training the “new guy” and they all do stuff differently. I know all my problems, it just seems like a lot to fix. I can’t get rid of him cause he makes good pizzas, he can handle a HUGE rush, He gets the job done and hes trustworthy. I feel like sometimes in this business, its like a scale. You try to make the good side of the scale heavier then the other side of the scale which includes the persons negativity. Also, I am about 45 minutes outside Pittsburgh. Its very blue collar. Its nothing like Miami, NY, LA, Chicago, Austin, and so on.

Most of the employees I have right now that are great are people who were hired because they were friends with someone who already worked for me and that is my #1 way to try and hire someone. But try hiring a 20 year old for $9/hour (dont forget this is Pittsburgh). Besides that, its rolling the dice on craigslist and indeed and it brings out the worst sometimes.

In the end, its definitely a leadership problem, but thats why I hired a manager. I have enough stuff to do running the business along with working 40 hours a week in the shop, and when I work in the shop, its sloppy. I notice a lot of bad things people are doing and then when I try to correct them, I am the bad guy, and I am not here to make friends, but my manager undermines everything I do. I know hes my problem, and i am working on trying to fix the problem. He works 4 full days, 45 hours for $1k and honestly i would rather him cut down to 40, throw in a couple half days and give him 20/hour. He also lies 45 minutes away and thats why he wants to work full days. Oh he is gonna have a baby in october, so there is also that. I dont know, i am torn.

I am actually gonna be in chicago the first week of august for the MLS all star game vs real madrid…having some chicago pizza is def on my list, never been. Where is your place located? would love to come try it out

Thanks for your feedback, I guess I kind of know what my problem is

Wish you the best Luca. I don’t have a pizza place in Chicago right now, but will soon. My current place is in SF. If you have time though, I do however have a pizza on the secret menu at Pizano’s downtown on Madison/Wabash or at least I used to. Can order it deep dish or thin: Italian sausage, garlic, and hot giardiniera with extra sauce. FWIW, I was shouting this places namefrom on top of a mountain waaaayy before Oprah did! Enjoy!