Getting nervous even as I write this..

It has been a very interesting experience so far. I have seen how my idea has changed since I first thought about it. A roller-coaster for sure.

I decided to sell DDP that I made from home to see if my friends were just praising because of my friendship or because they truly liked the product. The response has been overwhelming, got offer partnerships, invitations to social and community events etc… Asked my friends to put pictures in their fb’s feeds to hype up the pizza and the strategy has been proving to be a good one, since a lot of the orders came from there, also some of the invitations. Since we are the first ones to sell DDP in my hometown (and home state) the sense of novelty is pretty strong. And the response is promising. I live in Ensenada, Baja California btw.

Now, the thing is that I may had overrun the hype. Meaning that I expect a lot of people in opening day and I don’t know how to handle that. I got a very strong social network. I have 2 brothers and 2 sisters. The males are both football coaches and my two female sisters are big in the social scene, so they got little brother’s back. I also play football and many of my friends are just waiting for me to start, also have a career in politics and many of my acquaintances are waiting for me to open.

Some of the things i’m planning involve:

[]Pre-put the dough on the pan and refrigerate it a half hour before opening, and making sure that the strategy is a constant during our work day.
]Small menu. I can control costs and keep things under control with preparation.
[*]Everything is gonna work like a franchise, from the making of the pizza to the business side of things.

Now, my place is going to be small, not big, small. With a minimal staff that’s gonna specialize in very specific menu of DDP pizzas. And I don’t want to crash and burn. So here’s my two questions for you guys.

1.- How can I handle a big influx of people?.

2.- How can I sustain that in the mid term?.

I have this oven ready to use.

Thank you so much for your patience and time.

First, congratulations. Your journey with deep dish sounds somewhat like mine. I’d really need to understand a little more about your procedures to answer your questions. What types of pans are you using? What is your bake time? Are your pies Chicago with sauce on top? How many seats do you have?

For us, we pre-pan all of our Chicagos, nest them with sheet liners, and refrigerate. When we go to pull them out we have to pull the sides up a bit, but that’s it.

Have you considered par-baking? We don’t, but I have done it for festivals and have seen others do it with good results. Pi pizza in St. Louis appears to par-bake all of their crusts, for instance (or at least run it through their conveyor 2x).

Your oven. Before we expanded, we had 15 tables and a bar that seats 15-20. We had three deck ovens the size of yours and we couldn’t keep up. Of course our pan pizzas take 30 minutes, so your results may vary.

I think I’ve documented my opening day disaster on this forum. The bottom line is that we got crushed on opening day and had to close for 2 days to re-group and rethink some things. It was for the better, though not the best strategy. If I had it to do again, I would have limited it to dining room only for the first 5 days - no takeout. This drastically lowers your output requirement and allows you to get the kitchen running smooth. I bet you’ll find you need a 2nd oven in those first 5 days alone.

Good luck!


It is FAR better to turn away business than to accept the orders and screw up. If you are too busy, just politely tell the customer you can’t take any more orders. Much better to have a dissappointed customer telling people “they were so busy we could not get in” than a PO’d customer telling people “we went to that place, it was mess… we’re never going back”

Consider a soft opening with zero promotion… just invite some friends, not open to the public.

Both responses above are good ones. I like the idea of serving only those seated at your tables for the first few days. If your friends and family have oversold your opening, and customers are backed up out the door, GREAT!!! A line at the front door is the best free advertising ever. If the lines out the door are long, maybe ask a relative to call a local radio or TV station to “ask” them what is going on … I see nothing wrong with manipulation of the media. And maybe order little peel-off stickers (like the ones they give you at election time that say “I Voted”) that say “I GOT THE BAJA DEEP DISH PIZZA” to hand out … anything to create a “buzz”. Just try to turn a possible negative into a GRANDE positive. Remember to concentrate on the best product you can offer. Even a slightly less perfect product (in order to meet excessive demand) will be perceived negatively. You spent a lot of time developing a great pie, so give them the best you have.

Thanks Pcuezze for your very valuable help, to answer your questions:
[]Black 2 inch DDP, Sizes I will manage 12, 10, 8 and 6.
]Approx. 20 minutes, rescued the tip of first putting the pan with no sauce in it, then after 15 minutes of baking, we add the sauce.
[]Giordano’s style is the pie we are aiming for…
]We have just two small booths to seat. Our store is going to be pick up and delivery only for the first months. We hope to capitalize ourselves to expand. I haven’t even started but mouth to mouth propaganda picked the interests of investors.

Also thankyou bodegawhy and Piedad, dully taking notes.

That is too many sizes. I would start with just 2 sizes. The ones I would do are 8 and 12. (Or consider 10 and 14) Maybe just offer an 8" at lunch time. That will simplify operations and prep too.

Very interesting point Bodegahwy… Almost all of my orders are either 12 inches or 8… Maybe leave the 6 inches for food festivals.

Giordano’s isn’t a deep dish, it’s a stuffed. There’s a pretty big difference that you want to research, because you are going to need different flour, dough management and pizza production than for a deep dish.

It may be a matter of semantics for those outside of Chicago, but deep dish and stuffed are two different things.

I’m aware Piper of the differences. It was just a matter of speaking. :slight_smile:

Ok, so we’re on the same page then…

We do a stuffed that is very similar to Giordano’s, and in ten years we’ve never been able to make pre-prepping the dough in the pan work.

The reason I brought up the difference it’s that I’m pretty sure pcuezze above does a deep dish, not a stuffed. Prepping the dough in pans works just fine for that.

Unlike a deep dish where the dough proofs in the pan, the Stuffed dough is rolled thin (or usually sheeted) and that starts the clock ticking on quality because the cell structure of the dough is destroyed… the dough is basically “dead”.

We’ve tried lightly parbaking them too, but then it’s impossible to seal the top to the shell.

Just something to think about as you plan your process… I haven’t found a way to do it while keeping the quality up in ten years of experimenting.

Also, your idea of adding the sauce after cooking is great… took me 3 years to figure that one out. It took about 10 minutes off of our cook time.

We don’t even add the sauce now until the pizza is done. Our fully cooked sauce is held in a steamer on the cut table. Pizza comes out, removed from pan, sauce is applied and then cut.

Great points Piper, if you don’t mind me asking. What’s the time table you had for Prepping your dough?. I did an hour max prepping and had no complaints. I only put the first layer of dough in my pan, at max 30 to 1 hr mins before I put them in the oven, fully stuffed. I don’t have a sheeter, everything is by hand right now.

But, I have for my advantage the fact that the vast majority of the people in my town has not even heard of Chicago Style Pizza. So, as long i’m not serving cardboard and the feedback remains positive, I can twerk it a little bit. Here’s a photo btw:

We will keep a Stuffed shell for about 30 minutes max. When read your first post, I thought it said you were going to pre-prep all of your shells for the day in the morning. I see that I read that wrong now - that you’re planning on getting a batch ready and continually restocking them throughout the day.

Are you planning on getting a sheeter?

Yes!. A sheeter in cases like ours is like truly a God send.

One more random tip. It can be VERY difficult to tell these types of pizzas apart in the oven. Buy a metal engraver (about $30) and engrave numbers on each pan. Write the pan number on the ticket. That way you know exactly which pizza is in which pan. I got this tip from somebody else on the forum. I’m sorry I don’t remember who it was so I can’t give them credit :slight_smile:

Excellent!. Thanks!.

If you don’t mind the question, how do you price your pizza?.

Since we only do a few deep dish each night telling them apart has not been a big issue. We put a single black olive on top for a combo that includes black olives or a sliver of onion etc etc to tell them apart.

That was me… pay the Piper :cool:

We are actually re-engraving our pans tonight. It needs to be re-done every year or so as they get baked over.

Pricing is tricky and there is some disagreement. Obviously, you first need to know your cost for a pizza. This requires precise portioning and you must take shrinkage into account. It is time consuming to build a pizza ingredient by ingredient while carefully weighing and recording each one, but it is essential IMO. After that, you need to figure out whether you’re going to discount regularly (like the big boys do) and go from there.

In my experience (we don’t offer standing discounts or issue many coupons, but we have a few discount programs out there for schools and such), you need to add 8-10 points to your THEORETICAL FOOD COST to get to your TOTAL COST OF GOODS in my full service restaurant. I know many people will disagree with this number, but it holds true for me. So if my theoretical cost of FOOD only is 20%, I can expect my total COGS to be 30%. For me, 3-4 points of that is paper and chemicals. the other 5-6 points are discount and shrinkage (waste, theft, and over portioning).

All that said, I don’t think you can price your food in a total vacuum - you need to look at the competition. I gathered the menus from my 3 direct competitors (local, sit-down pizza parlors) and made sure my prices were in line with theirs. I recheck their prices every time I redo my menu. I’m not necessarily matching prices with them, but if somethings way out of wack, I will investigate and change my price or determine if we have that big of a product differentiator. By the way of example, the restaurant next to me adds bacon on to any sandwich for $.50. Every restaurant in the city charges $1.50 or more for this so, in my opinion, they’re just leaving money on the table - no one is likely to go to the restaurant because of the $.50 bacon, nor is anyone likely to refuse bacon because it’s $1.50. So if you’re sodas are $1.75 and everyone else is charging $2.25 - RAISE YOUR PRICES!

Finally, count on cheese fluctuating 30% or more over the course of 3 years. It’s very high now and looks to be coming down, but who knows. Plan accordingly.

Hope that helps! Patrick

Thanks Pc, I’ve done exactly that regarding my prices, took the medium and since the product is new in my town I have the room to make a little bit more expensive than your regular pizza even though I have manage to make it relatively cheap.

I don’t plan to do discounts to be honest, except for business or big, big orders.