Following a dream, want to avoid a nightmare. Any suggestions welcomed!

[SIZE=6]Following a dream, want to avoid a nightmare. Any suggestions welcomed!
I love pizza and have been making awesome pizza at home for friends and family for years. Everyone says my pizza is great and if I open a pizzeria, they will come.

I currently work full time to support my family. I have no clue where or how to get started except with a business plan, after that I’m not sure what’s the next step. I want to get started and open in 3-4 months. The area I live in is a perfect area as all the pizzerias in a 10+ mile radius have closed.

Any help, suggestions, mentoring would be awesome and greatly appreciated!

Thank you.[/SIZE]

Get ready for someone to rain on your parade. Many have been in your situation and have asked the same questions. Making a good pizza at home and starting a pizzeria are very different endeavors.

Start by reading all you can here on Think Tank.

If you have never worked in a pizzeria getting a position in one is a good first step.

You need to understand all the nuances of business from human resources to menu planning. Go to a food show such as Pizza Expo or NAPICS. There is a wealth of knowledge shared by everyone at these events.

Raining on a parade, or sharing the cold hard truths, and the many pitfalls associated with operating a restaurant without a boatload of working capital and a few years previous experience in restaurant management?

I am all for someone following their dreams, but it is a very tough industry.
It’s real tough, for starters I would suggest taking a “Serv-Safe” certified food safety class to learn some food safety skills. This will go a very long way when you meet with your local health department. Many inspectors get very aggravated when you meet with them and it is obvious that you have little to zero knowledge of proper food handling rules and facility requirements. I guess they forget they work for the public once in a while.
, my latest recertification class was rather disappointing, because the instructor didn’t really teach proper food handling and safety techniques, I felt that she only taught the class on how to pass the test.

Maybe it would be helpful to get a job in the industry at an entry level position to learn the ropes on the commercial side of things, I wouldn’t openly tell your potential employer of your plans, it may limit your opportunities of finding work.

I ended up in my restaurant through catering first, but I legally could not call myself a caterer because I did not have a physical certified kitchen, I had to work under the rules for “Contract Cook” We specialized in BBQ, and did most of the prep work at the location of the clients venue. I also worked for a friend part time to help them out, and we traded work for cooler space and late night prep work in his kitchen. And a place to have my deliveries come into.
We got lucky, we got very popular quickly because we actually caught the BBQ wave before it was even a ripple. 3 years of “Catering” and we grew too big to continue our ways, and we were forced to get into a restaurant situation just to meet demand.

So using my method, consider trying a food truck for vending or catering first, maybe have a local bakery make your dough recipe for you, and ask if you can rent some time/space for warewashing, getting potable water, and dumping your grey water. See where that takes you, and if it works, go bigger. If it does not work, you will have lost a much smaller initial investment for start-up as opposed to trying to go big right away.

I hope I have helped you, and not discouraged you.

If i were to do it again, i would do something else… Lots of hours to work and lots of headaches.

As Gotrocks stated you need a lot of money.

If you have no experience I suggest you take a job in a pizza shop to learn the ins and outs of operating a pizza shop. There is a lot more to it than baking a great pizza.

George Mills

I started with 0 knowledge and 55k all together, bought bankrupt pizza place cuz i thought it was a great deal. I’ve been open now 29 yrs and doing great. Hit a lot of bumps in the road, almost went broke once, glad i did it. I would be glad to share advice (free) earned the hard way ! Go for it ! Carefully do your homework so you do not get into a cash crunch, i’ve noticed that the real small undercapitalized shops tend to have a lot more trouble making it. Tell us : dine in, carry out, delivery, sq footage, pre existing, or new buildout, working capital etc , we’ll help!

The very first bit of advice I would have is to ask if your market will support a well run pizza shop. If all the pizza shops in the area have closed, it’s important to find out why. If you can do something they couldn’t, you might have a shot. It’s not all doom and gloom, but it’s very difficult too. I’m currently working 65+ hrs most weeks for what’s amounting to less than minimum wage and wondering if it’s worth it.

Thank you all for the great advice. I have worked for Pizza Hut way back in the day and several other food service jobs. Gained a lot of experience but not in restaurant management. Plus some college education in business management. I thought about the food truck idea and still will. Omaha has had a major shift into this area in the past year, so it is questionable. But, that maybe a more plausible idea for my neighborhood. The two places that closed was the Pizza Hut I use to work (closed due to robbery and several cases of food poisoning) and the other was Godfather’s (not sure why they closed but my guess would their high prices for the neighborhood). I do plan to get more education thru a ministry pizzeria downtown, Table Grace, that offers 10 day internships. I’ve considered using bplans dot com for my business plan and contacting SBA for assistance. So, I’m going somewhat in the right direction?

Also find out what food distributors you have available to deliver to your area. Is there a local Restaurant Depot or something similar? Learn all you can about food cost and how to track and control that. Start out with a clear vision for what you want your brand to be, but build in some flexibility in case you find you need to change to meet your market. I forget the speaker that I saw that said it, but I feel it’s true. I’m paraphrasing: “You can make money being the cheapest, and you can make money being the highest quality. But it’s hard to be successful in between.”

Also, begin looking at the successful shops in your area to see if you can find out what makes them successful, I work with a lot of people in your shoes and I always hear the same thing said, I’ve experimented to the ends of the earth and I think I’ve got the best pizza ever and I’m now ready to take it commercial…can you help me? The first thing to think about is that perfect/best pizza ever, you might think it’s great as do your friends, but what about all those other potential customers walking through your door, will they think it’s a great pizza too? This is why it is important to look around your area to see what people are buying and accustomed to, a take off of the local pizza is perfectly acceptable, but something entirely new could present a boom or bust situation. So how do you handle this? Provide a pizza that your customers can relate to, but do not replicate someone else’s pizza, then offer your creation as an added menu option. Have you decided what kind of equipment you’re going to need yet? Remember, an oven is not just something that you bake your pizza in, it must match/compliment your store concept as well as the pizza concept too. Check my archived articles, I wrote an article on this very topic not too long ago. Did you attend Pizza Expo? NAPICS? Have you started putting costs down on paper yet (property, lease/rent, utilities, insurance, equipment costs, signage, permits, wages, and associated costs, operating cash until you can establish a line of credit, and a little socked away for maintenance/repairs. At times you will think people are just lined up with their hands out. Just a whole lot of things to think about and consider.
Tom Lehmann/The Dough Doctor

Also read, “The E-myth” it explains what you need to do to go from the guy that loves to make pizza to, the guy that operates a “pizza business”

I had never heard of this book. I’m halfway through the audio book and I love it. This lays things out perfectly so far. Some great information.

This made me chuckle =)