John Schnatter locked me in his closet!

Our local school corporation lunch-pizza-slice contract came up for bid again last week. Although we had managed to get the thing in the past, even with the current super-low cheese prices it became obvious that our normal pan-style product was just too “heavy” to compete price-wise with Domino’s (who has had the contract for 3 or 4 years now) and our 10-minute cook time darkens the cheese too much for all the cafeteria managers’ liking. So, we decided to design a product that conformed to the “ideal specifications” listed on the bid which would allow us to compete on price.

We used Big Dave’s Old Faithful recipe to create our hand-tossed dough, based it with our normal tomato sauce and then topped it with a tasty fresh-pack cheese that our vendor suggested. A few weeks of testing allowed us to dial in the cook time to around 6 minutes which made for a gorgeous-looking final product and would also allow us to crank the pizzas out at lunchtime. Btw, I LOVE that dough recipe

Maybe we’re all just sick of our normal pizza after all these years, but everyone that tried the new product understood the need to be brutally honest and all really liked it. It looked great, we thought it tasted great, and at 33% food & packaging cost we were priced right where we needed to be. We put in our bid and waited.

They contacted us on bid-opening day and we learned it was between us and Papa John’s. I’m guessing they bid the same price (I’ll find out at the next school-board meeting) we did as they wanted to do a taste test with the cafeteria managers to determine who would get the contract. I felt pretty good going up against their frozen stuff with my arsenal of fresh ingredients (although I do remember from the commercials that they have that Italian-looking guy that stirs the big vat of tomato sauce and smiles as he sprinkles in the spices by hand - so, that point goes to Papa John’s). Anyways, we dropped off the pizzas and waited for their approval.

Finally, the call came back later that afternoon with the results: “We preferred Papa John’s.”

What. The. Heck.


I will say we for us over the years we have often fought for the special school orders but this past year after we butted heads with one of the gals and lost the orders (after be backed in a wall and kicked) I found that it has been fine. Really wasn’t worth the hassle. It would never fail the orders would be needed when we were already busy and they would be the neediest of the bunch. I may just be trying to soothe the blow of losing them but really it has turned out fine.

So what now…well you have a great new menu item. Maybe try it for a little while and use it to spark some life into the ol routine. Concentrate on building your lunch outside of the school…cuz good ol PJ is gonna be busy making pizzas.

Dust yourelf off and go full blast into marketing for increased lunch sales.


Schools will typically go to a Big 3 over a small chain or individual company many times just because they are afraid that a “small store” can’t meet their demands, and feel that a Big 3 is “used to all that business”.

I would take that new recipe and design a by the slice operation if you don’t already have one, for the lunch hour.

Sounds like you have a great new product offering for the menu at the worst…and that’s not a worst.

I’d market that to your churches, too.