Do I need my head examined by a professional shrink?

First I would like to thank all of you that post in this forum. I have been reading the posts for a few weeks and gleaning all kinds of information. As for the subject of the post, I am wondering if I am out of my mind for wanting to open a pizza shop.

I am a self-employed professional working in the insurance field with over 38 years invested in the industry. I am totally burned out and want a change. My hobby and passion is sausage making and smoking the sausages. I have developed all of my recipes by trial and error and my wife is my official taste tester and when she gives me a double thumps up that recipe is finished and it goes into the file. This past hunting season I smoked over 1,600 pounds of venison for hunters making summer sausage and snack sticks. Producing a volume of meats is not problem, so that is one problem that can be put in the fixed category. Smoking wild game for others is a “service” and is not regulated by State, Federal or local agencies. No licenses required and can be done out of your home.

I had taken the smoked pepperoni, smoked mild and spicy Italian sausage and smoked Honey Ham made out of pork and beef to some of the local Mom and Pop pizza joints to see if they would be interested in using my product. They all thought my stuff was way better than what they were buying from Sysco and food distributors. They would be interested and I thought I am on to something until I started checking on getting licensed. If I sell meat to a 3rd party I would have to be USDA certified and I don’t have that kind of money to open up a USDA plant and pay for a USDA inspector to be on site. So then I thought of selling my smoked sausages and snack sticks at the farmers markets that thrive in this area. Rented a commercial kitchen so I could get licensed from the State Agricultural department and they said if I package the product I would fall under the USDA. Are you kidding me? If I open a store front I can sell the same product and would only have to be licensed by the Health Department. 3 different government agencies doing the same thing and keeping people from starting a business but that is a different topic.

So I have been thinking which seems to get me into trouble. My smoked sausage is premium compared to any meats that I have tasted from the big 3 as well as the Mom and Pop shops. My smoked meats do not fat out and produce a greasy pizza like most of the Big 3 sloppy greasy peperoni pizza’s. Why not open a pizza shop and use my own smoked sausage.

Years ago I did PT delivery for Papa Johns as well as in house duties. Slapped my share of dough! Being self employed I understand the cash flow aspect of running a company. Long hours don’t bother me as I way to old to spend time chasing women and hanging out at bars and my wife would not approve of it anyway.

The type of business model that I want to follow is along the lines of Papa Murphy’s as a Take-N-Bake. There are several reasons for this. In Florida there is no sells tax on “raw foods” and unbaked pizza falls in that category. So that gives a 6% advantage of bottom line price over the big 3 and Mom and Pop shop’s. Second is every pizza I have had delivered was cold. I bet 90% of delivered pizza is cold when it arrives. Why not guarantee that your pizza will be delivered cold and you bake it and have fresh piping hot pizza? Third is no cost of ovens and monthly utility bills to power the oven. Forth is I think I can have a pizza out the door and in the customers hands and the customer can have it baked in less time than it takes for a big 3 to deliver a cold pizza to the customer. Also hoping for a walk in business to take out.

I would also plan to market my smoked snack sticks and possible other meats along with the pizza’s.

That is what I am thinking about and wonder if I am on to something or do you think I need to find a good Shrink to get a reality check?
Chub of smoked spicy Italian that I sliced up.
Slices done with a knife as I was too lazy to get the slicer out so slices are not uniform and not professional for a nice sellable pizza. 7 oz of meat on a 14 inch pie.
Baked in home oven at 450 for 16 minutes. Crust was perfect and no fat out of the sausage.
Sliced up piping hot and 2 slices for my tummy. Yummy!

South Florida; Gulf or Atlantic side?
I was just down the gulf side a few days ago, and I remember seeing pizza shops on every block through Sarasota & Bradenton.
Would your proposed clientele patronize you, or just get the $5.00 little caesars or Hungry Howies due to price without even considering quality?

I am on the Atlantic side in Palm Beach County. Would my proposed clientele patronize me? I don’t have an answer for that at this point. I am still in the thinking and research phase. I don’t think I would set up a shop in the areas where the customers cannot afford a premium pizza. I am thinking that my target area would be in the more affluent areas and out of the delivery area of the Big 3. I am amazed at how the specialty food stores are packed with people willing to spend big money on marked up specialty food products. I “think” my target customers will pay for quality without batting an eye. The pizzas that I have been experimenting with turn out fantastic baked in a residential oven and even better baked on an outdoor grill. I don’t have a handle on what the true food cost will be at this point but I do know that I can make smoked pepperoni, Italian and Honey Ham for less than $0.10 per ounce including labor buying pork at the current $0.99 per pound. The $0.10 cost includes the moisture loss from the green weight cost.

I saw something on this forum where someone set up in a grocery store, they did take & bake pies along with finished ones, and they turned some huge numbers. Maybe consider that route…
I lived on both coasts of that state you’re in. I never found a fondness for the area, So my views may be subconsciously jaded.

I also do Charcuterie, but limit myself just to our Italian sausage for pizza at the restaurant. Once you cure things in a retail setting, many inspectors will want a HACCP plan filed. I’ve went a few rounds with my local inspector over trivial items like bacon & canadian bacon that I make in house. It took a call to the state for a clarification and to get her off my butt about it. She was reading code as “Anything cured needs a HACCP plan” when the state got it straightened out that they meant only dry-aged meats that are not heat treated like Pepperoni, and other non-cooked pork products she still got pissy with me. I even invited her to watch me mix my cure to show her it is measured to the 1/10th of a gram, and proper smoking is used.
I’ve considered doing dry-aged product here with a fermenting & drying chamber, but not worth the hassle and I’m too tight on time these days.
We both know we can put out better meats than we can typically buy, and for 1/4 the cost (including labor), but having the clientele that would truly appreciate that superior product is also a deal breaker. For my “Meat & Potatoes” local crowd, it be a waste.

Is it not amazing how uneducated the inspectors are? Cure #1 is used to keep the nasties from growing when low temp smoking. The food industry has created such a hoax with “no nitrate” added. Look at the labels of the products that boast “no nitrates added”. You will see celery juice power listed as an ingredient. Celery is loaded with nitrate as well as cherries and other veggies. The USDA will not allow product labeled with Celery Juice power to be labeled as “cured” which is a big hoax in itself. I have made stuff using Celery Juice power and it is OK but is very pricey compared to sodium nitrate (pink salt). I agree with you on the dry cured stuff using cure #2 and bactoferm. It takes way to long to produce any product but is fun to make.

Maybe I should make smoked sausage using celery juice power and then I can advertise “meats are all natural with no nitrates added” and then double the price for the organic “whole foods” crowd. If the public only knew that their saliva has more nitrates in it than what I put in 5 pounds of sausage.

Opening a USDA “plant” is not as tough as it sounds. It is no more expensive then opening a pizzeria. You do NOT have to pay for an inspector. They are paid by the federal government. You will need HACCP training. In my area, that costs $495 for a three day course at a University. You will need to write a HACCP and SSOP plan and get packaging approved. It’s really easier than opening a pizzeria.

The problem exists when you try to do both, To do items for wholesale within a certified licensed kitchen, it requires you to be closed to the public when doing your wholesale items, and all stocks must be kept separately.
and when doing anything with meats, an “EST” number must be had, and the onsite inspector which my research showed my that I must pay for that inspector, its not a freebie.

Don’t forget providing the USDA inspector a private office and a 24/7 parking place that can only be used by them.

All they need is a locked file cabinet or something to put files in. They are very accommodating. At least they are with me. I have never had to pay. They do charge if you have a second shift or run your plant during holidays.