Day 1 of a new Pizzeria

Hello,

I live in Germany, for a long time I have been into Neapolitan pizzas and wanted to open a small pizzeria. I’ve developed pizza making skills, read a lot of books about pizza making and restaurant management, perfected some Neapolitan pizza recipes with a high heat oven and I have saved up some money with a friend of mine to start a small pizzeria.
We accept we are noobs in this industry. We both have experience in engineering but managing a pizzeria is something that requires different expertise we hope to develop in time. I learnt a lot from this forum but questions about the first day after opening the pizzeria, first week or even the first month of operation, I can’t seem to find an answer anywhere on the web. Some of these questions may feel like no brainers to you but I genuinely don’t know things I’m asking about.

First of all, Perhaps you started in an established pizzeria but can you guys remember how your first day went? Can you give some advice on what to prepare for? Also any additional recommendations will be super helpful for me, if you guys have the time :slightly_smiling_face:

We plan to sell around 50 pizzas a day and later go upto 100 if we are successful. It’ll be a small pizzeria with 2 people operating it. Our recipe requires us to proof our dough for 3 days in a dough box in a refrigerator. We will experiment with using biga to decrease proofing time to 1 day to be more dynamic but still currently we need 3 days. Question is should we always plan for the best sales scenario? Have you ever been out-sold / were out of dough balls or ingredients? Do you track your sales actively and if it’s a fast day, do you prepare some extra dough balls and proof it only for 6 hours, to have enough for the evening?

We want to be consistent with our taste. I think it’s one of the most important aspects of any successful restaurant. But I really don’t know what to do if I prepare 60 dough balls for the first day and have 100 orders :smile: I thought about preparing 150 dough balls not to send customers away if they show up and just throw the unsold extra away. Freezing them might decrease the quality. If I put the dough balls in the fridge again it’ll slow down the fermentation but still the dough balls overall will be over fermented and taste will be off… Do you think I am making sense here? Any advice on probably the fundamentals of pizzeria management is highly appreciated here.

Another thing is planning sales hourly. After taking the dough ball tray out of the fridge, I need about 6 hours until they are ready to stretch at room temperature. I would say 5 to 9 hours after taking them out is something I can work with. If we wait more it’s over fermented and I would throw them away.
I can’t figure out what I would do if for example we get 40 orders at a point in time but we just have 20 dough balls ready to go. It feels like I have to literally plan how many trays I take out every hour. Of course we’ll know more about the customer order patterns in time for sure but the first day,week or month feels really uncertain. Maybe using biga would help us since prep time decreases for the dough balls but still no dough ball is instantly ready and all of them have this time window to work with. How can I prepare for this? When you guys start a new pizzeria how do you approach these uncertainties?

I would also appreciate any advice or you writing about any memories from your very first day since I think I will also learn something reading them :slightly_smiling_face:

Thanks a lot for your time

Our first day? Slooow. We spend so much time figuring out recipes and getting procedures in place we didn’t anticipate how much we would have to market our business to get it going. I think 2 customers wandered in the first night, but our location wasn’t a great one for foot traffic.

Since you have a 3-day proof time (I’m assuming 3 full days, maybe they’re ready to use on the 3rd day?), plan for a best-case scenario at the start. You’ll have to prep 100 doughballs 3 days before open, then another 100 2 days for your 2nd day, and another 100 1 day for your 3rd day. At the end of your first day of business, you’ll have some idea of what you’ll need to prep for your 4th day. This might result is some waste… maybe a lot, but it would be better to be ready for the business rather than turn potential customers away. Giving away some pizzas/slices if it turns out to be slow would be a way to drive some more business too. Build the potential cost of sampling into your opening week budget.

The dough we use is a bit more forgiving. It’s best next day but can be used same day after just a bit of proofing and is still good 2 days later. So what we do is make a 2-day build based on a 2-week average of our usage. It allows us to always have 2 days worth of dough on hand so we’re ready to step into any unexpected surges in business. It looks like this:

Start (usable dough balls on hand at beginning of day) + Made (that day) - Finished (end of day) = Used. Keep track of what you use, and after a couple weeks you’ll have an idea of what you’ll need on average to make to get through any given average day of the week. Our system might not work for your dough needs, but hopefully you can get an idea of how after a few weeks of tracking you’ll know what you need to make on Sunday to be ready for Tuesday/Wednesday’s business.

If you can figure out a way to proof your dough a bit faster in an emergency, you might be able to dip into your next day’s dough too. Perhaps allowing the dough to rise at room temperature might allow you to go from 20 ready dough balls to 40 for that unexpected 40 orders?

Good luck. Let us know how your opening goes!

1 Like

If you aren’t totally embarrassed on your first day you should have opened sooner

We chose a week night and invited a bunch of buisness neighbors for free pizza and chicken tenders. We had free drinks too. If someone wanted to make an order to take something home we charged them. We made about $500 that night. We quickly realized how many small things weren’t in the right spot for maximum efficiency.

We officially opened 2 days later. It was a disaster, but we lived to tell about it. Things get better and workflow will come along.

1 Like

Thank you for such a detailed answer Brad :slightly_smiling_face: It is very comprehensive and a great resource of knowledge for me and my pizzeria co-founder.

Since for me, it’ll be a big career change uncertainties scare me. With your in depth answer, giving us a thinking process, your experience and even a excel table, I feel better about the big step we’ll take and more confident even with a rocky start things will fit on a curve after launch.

I will definitely run a small simulation to see how my dough balls are holding up during a day and as you recommended try to decrease the preparation time. We still need a bit of time to find a good location, although we mainly want to be a delivery restaurant getting online orders, finding a good spot is proving itself to be a very challenging task. I will surely give updates on how it’s going once we officially launch, hoping it will benefit another newbie like me :slight_smile:

Thanks a lot for such a great answer and for your time again!

This sounds like a perfect day 0 event, we can get some feedback, make some money and most importantly meet with neighbors! Thank you for your time and going back to your first day & sharing your experience :slightly_smiling_face:

I worked in product design and we had a saying like if the beta is too good and without errors, it’s a late product launch. Glad to know similar concepts exist also in this business. Also thanks for giving me some encouragement, I too sometimes feel that we are over thinking some things and should just go for it and correct our mistakes in the pizzeria and not in paper. It’s good to be reminded even pros like yourself had it rough first day.

Maybe we’ll feel like getting punched on the first day, but reading posts here makes me realize I am kind of yearning for it :smiley:

Thanks again for your time and answer :slightly_smiling_face:

My wife and I opened our first store almost 4 weeks ago so I can tell you how it went for us.

We had a soft friends and family opening on a Wed. and got some early reviews on Facebook page. (The city community page which has thousands of viewers)

Opening day? CHAOS…we expected to write 50 tickets, and closed early with 120 tickets and no product left to sell.
Our store is small (2200 sqft total) that seats 40, and has no walk in cooler. (using fridges and freezers)
Three Lincoln 1132 conveyor ovens, (Electrical)

Since Oct 14th, we have sold out of product most days by 7pm, and demand has been much higher than we anticipated.
This will die down of course, but I would say “be ready to sell more than you think”

Don’t go crazy of course, but just…be ready :slight_smile:

2 Likes

That sounds great, having no product left to sell is much more preferable to the alternative, here we call this a luxurious problem :slight_smile:

And 4 weeks ago is kind of new too, thanks for the fresh advice and congratulations on a strong start. I wish you good luck in your journey and many successful years.

I will definitely try to take a page from your book also, all these answers are very helpful.
I think our strategy will be to prepare our kitchen and ingredients for the best case sales scenario to supply entirety of demand. And to plan our finances for the worst case to be able to perform damage control.
And I think your place isn’t that small, at least by German standards :smiley: We are aiming for a much smaller place and mostly take out and online delivery.

Thank you for taking the time and providing me a different perspective :slight_smile:

Something we run into a lot at my place is unexpected demand for one of our popular items. We run out of our sandwich rolls from time to time. And it’s frustrating to have to explain that to customers but when your food is so popular there is going to be a day when everyone wants the same thing and it is going to sell out. That’s why cross utilization is key in your menu plan. For example, tuna salad, tuna sandwich, tuna wrap, tuna ciabatta, tuna hoagie/sub. Multiple delivery vessels for the same core product with long shelf lives to extend the ability to sell out of one vessel and offer others

1 Like