Glad to be back

After a few years in the wholesale side, a couple more years out of the industry completely, and a couple of major life changes, I’m thrilled to be getting back into the pizza business, and back into the TT.

I’m a week into this now, it came up sort of suddenly but it will happen, unless costs are totally out of whack with finances. I don’t think that will be an issue.

I’ve identified 2 likely locations, one about 3300 sq ft, the other about 2200. The bigger is a strip mall, smaller a self-contained building, no real room to expand. Not a problem. Now to get a design idea, contractor, etc, and see what we can do with the space. Ideas are flowing! Full service, deliver, CO. Likely a salad bar, lunch buffet, large beer selection.

Suppliers will determine menu to an extent. I have experience with just a couple of primary meat brands, which should be readily available, but I’m prepared to make adjustments if they aren’t. Cheese is a big concern for me; I really like Sorrento, but can’t seem to find a distributor in my area. A call to Buffalo will help.

My biggest, unable to even get a good idea problem is the hook to the place. Yes, the food is the draw, but something to make people remember the store itself besides the food (which they could get delivered.) Beer selection may not really be practical in a small town, I’ll have to see. But, what to do theme-wise, to bring about a fun feeling, not corny, something to make someone want to come in again.
Three general trends seem to be high-tech, low-tech, and kitsch.
Low-tech, the Cracker Barrel idea of table games etc.
Kitsch, the Applebee’s/Chile’s/Roadhouse/whatever other chain with lots of silly looking crap on the wall. It can stimulate conversation, but it always looks like junk to me. Wendy’s used to have the neat tabletops with old newspaper clippings on them, that was fun–for a while.
High-tech, I’ve seen a PC at every table, video games, jukebox consoles, tvs, lots of things. Expensive, and to me it’s overkill.

I’m not so much looking for advice as what you do, what you’ve seen work and not work, and even if it’s necessary. Should the food be enough in this era?


I don’t think so. In fact, I get the feeling that you can often get away with lower quality food if you have a cool “hook”. Our pizzas are the best in town and you can easily tell ours from any competitor, but it’s never been enough.

One thing our store did before the current digital age was give away a free large pizza to anyone who brought in a picture of one of our pizza boxes in a unique place and then we hung them on the wall. Pretty cool, but nobody prints out pictures anymore.

Those corporate places with all the “junk” on the wall actually have trained professionals who go out and stockpile that stuff for stores. But, it’s all fairly generic, so you could probably take that rout and still make it something special to your town. There’s a burger place in Kansas City where you pick up a phone at your booth and place your order, then a model train comes out on tracks along the ceiling and drops off your food when it’s ready. The meals are a couple bucks more than they’re really worth and they have to be saving a ton on labor doing that way…but it’s a hook and they’re always busy.

What comes to my mind is Excellent Service! Pair that with either quality food or great prices and you have a winner in any era.

Excellent service stands out in any consumers mind. I hear all the time “You don’t have to go that far” from customers but in the end they are glad you did.