In addition to pizza....

What other menu items are generally considered necessary to help one get and then stay profitable? Format would be: moderate+ price-point (i.e. not trying to be the cheapest place in town); possibly no delivery (that may be unrealistic); neighborhood location but close to large office complexes; west Houston, TX; no more than 15 tables.

A sandwich board is the logical place to start. Probably some pasta and lasagne. But after that, it gets more “iffy”. One of the best burgers I ever had was offered at a place called Panjo’s: it was broiled, wrapped in paper then served one a flat pizza pan with chips. I’d like to offer that. Would like to stay away from having a deep-fryer. Being in Texas, offering a few tex-mex items (crispy taco basket, guacamole with chips) might be a plus. Also, I can smoke brisket, so in addition to offering a shredded brisket pizza, could serve a brisket sandwich. One other thing: morning business can bring in nice revenue (coffee, kolaches, biscuits, pizza rolls…), but that means the morning crew (uh, would that include me?!) has to get in that much earlier, meaning payroll goes up.

My concern would be that adding too many things makes the place lose focus. On the other hand, by offering a variety of menu items, you move into more of a “cafe” category, and that isn’t all bad.

As you can probably tell, the concept and my thoughts on it are all in the infancy stage, as in: I just thought it through for a while yesterday! So I’m just in the tire-kicking stage, and this idea is still just half-baked (ridiculous pun intended). Any insight y’all can offer would be most appreciated.

Hi Alan

Most of our delivery- carryout clients in addition to pizza offer sub sandwiches and chicken wings, Many offer salads.

Most do not wander into other items, Keep it simple appears to work best for most.

Shops with seating are a different situation,those menus are allover the food spectrum.

There are shops doing a wide variety of foods and are successful. It appears though that to do a few items very well is better than trying to do a wide selection.

Let’s see what some of the other folks have to say.

George Mills

I only offer a huge array of pizzas (5 crusts types, 8 different sauces, 30 + toppings, & 20 different creations offers), fresh custom salads, and 6 different kinds of apps. I considered doing pastas, sandwhiches/beefs, and other things but I wanted to focus on my pizzas because that’s what I do best.

I can’t stand seeing a pizza place that no where says anything about best pizza in town, only for it to say “best beef in town”. Go figure. “Hi, welcome to blank’s PIZZERIA - home of the best beef in town” lol.

I hear you, Steve-o! Seems like if you’re going to open a pizza joint, then you should feel confident enough in your product to proclaim it the best then set out to prove it!

Yikes!!!..What makes you think you have to be the best to make money in the pizza business?..Wanting to be the best is just an ego thing!..And at the end of the day many restaurants run by folks who have a big ego go broke…If your customers want the best and more importantly are willing to pay for it, go for it…But the reality, most folks just want a little above average and will support “Above Average Joe” and he will make a good living…

And does a large menu really help the bottom line?..I am not sure about that…I have been in very profitable places that have a tiny menu and very unprofitable places that had a huge menu…So it is not an exact science…You need to figure out works best for you…

Good thoughts, Royster, thanks.

I am surely not driven by ego, and agree that if you can consistently deliver just a little bit more than the customer expected you should be in good shape. My comment was more approach-oriented, like “try us and see”, that kind of thing.

Your thoughts re. small v. large menu choice are exactly what I’m thinking of here. My hunch is to make just a few things at first, but make them very well (i.e. pizza, calzones, stromboli…), then expand later on once established and I can stretch my legs a little. What I DO NOT want it to look like is the typical office-building deli that has a gazillion things on the menu, none of which are particularly memorable.

This whole “discovery process” is fascinating!

I just closed a small shop w/a large menu & opened a large shop w/a small menu…go figure…

I’ll add a few more items to my menu, just using the things currently on hand, but will pass on the larger menu for the time being - based on market/business plan (or lack of one)

Keep it simple, keep it consistent, and control your costs.

We offer pasta dishes, both in entree and family-sizes. They are very easy to prep and only reheated when needed. The food cost is great; even lower than pizza (uses a lot less cheese) :smiley:

Anyhow, my whole reason for offering pasta is that there are some people that simply don’t eat pizza (go figure). So it’s a nice alternative to those folks. But I also have noticed that there are some families that alternate pizza one week, pasta the next, back to pizza. If I didn’t offer pasta, I may only see these customers twice a month.

The investment was minimal and benefits are good.

Hi Pizzafanatic:

Question: Do you have seating?
If so how, much of your pasta business is carry out?
Do you deliver Pasta? If so how do you Package it?
What equipment do you use to prepare Pasta?
What varieties of pasta dishes do you feature?

Just inquiring so if asked I can advise my clients.

George Mills

Hi George,
(Happy B-Day BTW)
I purchased a tabletop pasta cooker from Nemco (about $750 new). We pre-cook the pasta, cool and then bag.

We offer Baked Spaghetti, Baked Ziti (rigatoni noodles mixed with sauce, sausage, and cheeses), Pasta Primavera (egg noodles, veggies, alfredo sauce, optional chicken), and a dish we call Chicken Pasta Julianne (named after my wife); egg noodles, chicken, spinach, olive oil, etc. It’s tasty and light!

Yes, we have a dining room, but most of our business is carry-out and delivery. The entree pasta dishes are served in medium clamshell boxes, while the Family dishes are serve in Versatainer containers (they are much more sturdy and reheatable.

I should note that pasta only makes up about 3-5% of our sales, but as I stated earlier, it’s easy and the margins are good. So for us, it certainly doesn’t hurt us. Plus, pasta holds well, so I rarely have any waste.

Hope this info is helpful.

Hi pizzafanatic

Your pasta program sounds great.
Nemco is a good company. You made a good selection.
That low cost addition does not require any venting and that is a major consideration.

I will suggest your system to our clients who are looking for menu additions and I think some of the readers of this forum may give it a try.

Good Luck
George Mills

Hi Pizza,
I’m starting an all you can eat pasta night to help us with midweek economy slump. I’m interested in your storage techniques after cooking, for our fett we just put it in a plastic storage box with a little evoo and then toss it ini the fridge till we need it. I’m starting to portion all my stuff and would like to ask what type of bags your using and at what stage and how do you cool the pasta and do you add anything to it to keep it from sticking? will simply washing the starch of it work? I want to cook fett and ziti and offer 3 sauces. Lol not to bug you too much but do you make your own sauces? And if you do feel like selling a few recipes? Thanks for your time man, good luck!

                                       Willi

After cooking to al dente, we quickly cool under cold water and drain. Then we toss in olive oil and bag up single portions, using clear plastic food bags (I get mine from restockit.com, but you can get them from pretty much anywhere).

As for sauce, I cheat :lol:. I use red sauce from Stanilaus (Al Dente Pasta Sauce) and Alfredo Sauce from Knorr. Both are excellent. No prep needed so it helps keep overall costs down.

Good luck.

Awsome thanks , I too am probably gonna use Stockpot frozen soups and just add stuff to them like meat and such to get my sauces. They have a ton of choices, then I can just use them for both soups and pasta night. Thanks again,nice website.

For me, menu variety is a matter of survival. It is how we in our small market generate repeat business. Our cheese steaks are sales drivers in themselves some weeks.

It came down to analysis for us of our average ticket, number of potential customers and how to increase revenues. We are careful not to confuse our brand. No Mexican or Chinese or things like that. We stick with products that can be pulled into a semi American-Italian concept. Chicken Fingers can and do become Chicken Parm sandwiches. Fried cheese, ravioli and wings. We spend lots of effort finding ways to develop more “Signature Pizzas” using what we already have in the store. Multitasking ingredients saves our butts.

To many single-use items leads to too much inventory in hand = cash on the shelves. Spoilage rates can climb. Find out what it is you want to do as your core business, then decide what menu items you can use for up-sells and variety to drive repeat business. Stay true to the brand identity of your store. Fried Rice (an example) or tacos from a pizza shop can work, but it is kinda weird concept for most minds to wrap around.

Folks as the market gets tougher, doing more stuff from scratch will set you above the crowd you are competing with…Plus in some instances it is also a financial gain…Your staff’s spare time will not be wasted…

After contemplating this a bit, and reading the fine replies in this thread, here is what I’m thinking:

  • “weird” other items like a taco basket or a BBQ sandwich are things that could be experimented with down the road, i.e. once the biz is running fairly smoothly and the kinks have been worked through
  • these other items take TIME to prepare, meaning it would take time away from doing something more productive. This will be especially true at first, as I really learn the business and go through the inevitable initial struggles, which are heightened at first in part by being fairly lean in staffing
  • offer only the core menu items at first so the customers are buying the products we want to be known for (i.e. a taco basket is a taco basket, something they probably wouldn’t talk up to anyone else)

I have to tell you, this website is an incredible resource. I have been working backward to the older posts, and even though I’ve barely scratched the surface, it is like having loads of case studies at your disposal. At this point anyway, having one question answered but in the course of that finding 10 issues I hadn’t even contemplated is a real rush! One central theme I see emerging is that Yes, you have to have your passion and hold on to the dream to see you through, but you must temper that with the cold hard reality that it is a tough world out there and you better have a good plan and be fast on your feet to survive. Wouldn’t have it any other way.