Kustom Pies, choose your krust, sauce, toppings, 2 minutes, bada bing bada boom

In the next six months I hope to open Kustom Pies Pizzeria ‘artisan pizza krafted by you’.
I am new to the pizza business. I have a successful non-food related business located next door to the restaurant space. It is an opportunity to try something different. I want to make a quality pie, fresh, quality ingredients. It is a small space 600 sq feet, seats for 30 inside, common outdoor seating area shared by three restaurants in the building.

First up is the engine, the pizza oven, electric. Plan is 11 inch individual thin crust neapolitan style pie with a two to three minute or less bake time. Open from 11am to 1am, 200 pies a day. Choose your krust, sauce, cheese, unlimited toppings. (unlimited choice of toppings, not unlimited topping quantity) Simple menu, pizza, couple pizza style desserts, soda, beer, wine.
I think a deck oven best for quality and also entertainment, ambiance for customers. Outside contender is stone deck conveyor.

BakePartner, PizzaMaster. specifically a PM722 Xtreme 932F, 2 decks that can hold six pies each, max capacity 12.http://www.bakepartner.com/brochures_pdf.php?pdf=pizzamaster_brochure_english_electric_series_350_400_450_550_700_800_900.pdf

Cuppone http://www.cuppone.com/products
Donatello 345/2 http://www.cuppone.com/resources/images/static/products/pdf/cuppone_donatello.pdf
or Michelangelo ML435/2


I live in Whistler, BC, a destination ski resort, expensive place to live, hard to keep staff. Bit concerned about skill level needed for deck ovens. I also need to find a pizzaioli with ownership opportunity to run the operation. I appreciate any and all feedback regarding ovens and anything else. Thank you.

Having owned a pizza business in a ski resort (Steamboat Springs) for 16 years with exactly the issues you mention… I have plenty to say. Start with searching the old content first though. If I could pass on one single thing to you it is that during high season you need to seek to maximize the business you can do and on the off season you switch your focus to controlling costs. No amount of arm waving in the mud season will turn dollars like having town be full of people.

Conveyor ovens are capable of whatever quality you are looking for and you are correct about trying to find crew to run deck ovens in a place where half the jobs you will be able to offer are not year round. A key consideration is being able to make as much pizza as you can sell FAST when the demand is there. You are talking about single serving size pies at 11". You are going to be running really hot ovens to cook in the short time you are talking about and that certainly takes an experienced oven tender as you mention.

If you are planning to have someone else run the place and have an ownership stake that presumably pays them some return above what they would make as a manager and you do not own the building you are in, you will not make ANY significant money. That is not to say you will not make money in season or in good years… but when the economy sucks, or there are forest fires in the Summer or you get a really bad snow year… you will not make money. You will loose money in the off season no matter what as long as you are paying someone else to run the place.

I would be VERY hesitant to just give an ownership stake to someone… how do you handle it when they move on? You have to buy them out of something they never had anything invested in? If they are an owner do they work for free during the slow cash flow of the off season?

Hey Bodegahwy,

I saw your post on marijuana earlier and that you live in a ski resort. Your avatar inspired me, hope you don’t mind the high praise of imitation.
Noted, search old content. Will continue to do that. I love this part of it.
Noted, maximize high season revenue, control costs low season. Makes sense. Another experienced person told me essentially the same thing; you need strong local support to see you through the low seasons and the tourists in high season will be your gravy.

Interesting, you say conveyors are capable of whatever quality I am seeking. From what I have read I would not have thought that . A regular conveyor oven, for eg. a standard Lincoln, can bake a good quality thin crust pie? What about speed? I already have an old Lincoln, you just saved me 18K :slight_smile: One concern with conveyors is the moving parts, maintenance, repairs. I thought a deck oven would require less maintenance.
The chains like Blaze, Pieology etc. have high heat ovens. How do they do it with their staff? Good training programs, scaleability I suppose? I thought giving staff a creative job, an opportunity to be an artiste would challenge and motivate them. Its fun working the line, pulling pies out of a 900 degree oven all day long right? How long does it take to learn how to use a deck oven with a one size pizza? I still like the “pizza oven” being the showcase for the shop, versus a conveyor.
So you would recommend a conveyor? What about the Italiforni stone deck conveyor I listed?

I will not make any money paying a manager a slice of the profits to run the place or if I give them a stake of the business. Not good. But I just want to do the fun stuff, design the business, taste the pies and let someone else do the real work, manage/hire/fire staff, order food, make dough, solve problems etc. etc. You mean I have to do some work to make some money? Hmm.

Though you say in good years I could still make some money. Space has a few positives. I would say the key things to why I want to do this.

  1. excellent location. previously had a successful pizza operation for years.
  2. Located beside a Subway shop. I plan more or less same biz plan but instead of sandwiches it will be pizzas. And I can do it way better. Instead of crappy, stale atomosphere I can design an eclectic, original, funky, comfortable spot, good music, couple big screens etc. And instead of the crappy subway vegetables and meats I can do quality. My price point will be $7.95 for a pizza, $1,95 for a drink (cane sugar, Jones fountain soda, bottomless cup). 200 pies a day, $2,000
  3. The other next door neighbor has a new sushi/noodle take out/sit down that is doing well. One high volume location with sandwiches, sushi/noodles and now pizza.
  4. Whistler is busy with high disposable income tourists. We just had poorest snow year in 20 years and place is busy. Bookings are strong for next year. Shoulder seasons continue to get shorter. Nov to April busy winter, June to September busy summer. October and May two quieter months. But locals will spend $10 on lunch, dinner, after bar so its not like there is not any biz those months. Lots of rich kids living here on Daddy’s dime.
  5. It is right next door to my main business. I can run both of them at the same time, same location. And I can go next door for lunch everyday. That is already $10/day in revenue.
  6. Someplace to put my kids to work.

Fair concerns regarding another owner. My thought was give the right person an opportunity to work toward a piece of the business. That way they will care, work hard, make me money and I can go fishing. Maybe not too realistic. Or I have a simple business, hire good managers, compensate them well and I can go hunting.

Lots of good stuff to think on. I looked over your websites and postings, will continue to do so, lots of good stuff. I love the elk, wild game etc. on the pizzas. Is that a game changer for your pizza shop? I am a poor (new, inexperienced) hunter but maybe I just needed the right motivation. Thank you very much for your sharing your time and knowledge.

Enclosed are a couple of names and logo designs for feedback.
I think Kustom Pies is descriptive, cool name.
Bandogge is authentic, I have one by my side most of the time and drive around with him in back of my truck. And i could use the marketing budget to get him a girlfriend.

Talk to George Mills about equipment. I have no feedback for you on the ovens you are talking about except to say that with the right conveyor oven and other tools, my guess is that you can get what you are looking for from an oven that a new hire can operate after a short bit of training. I started on deck ovens in 1979 and they take more attention for sure. Especially for the high temp fast cook that you are talking about. Yes, conveyors require maintenance. I have not found that to be a problem.

One major problem with staff in a ski town is that they do not stick around for years. A few do, but you will not be able to offer full time hours 12 months out of the year to more than a handful of crew. The other crew will leave for Summer jobs that are outdoors, or simply not be able to get by during the mud season. We go from about 20 employees in winter down to 10 in the mud season, back up to 15 in summer, down to 10 again in the fall and on and on. Restaurants in cities can train staff and employ them all year which means a lot less turnover.

What you are talking about, design the business, hire someone to run it is exactly how I have done it for 16 years and yes, we make money in the good years, not much in the slower ones, but we do better on the property side of the deal since I also own the building and the business rents it from me. If I could not own the space I would not pursue this business model as more than half my income from the project comes from the property side.

We have exactly the calendar you describe. What you will find though, is that April, November, June and Sept are not bad, but not nearly equal to the better high season months. The resort is not as busy at the ends of each season. So, there are four good winter months, two good Summer months, four OK shoulder months and two really slow months. For us, April is actually pretty lousy and November is not as good as June or Sept. Do you know another restaurant owner well enough to ask them what percentage of annual sales they do in each month of the year? That might help with your planning.

Yup… my kids started working in our places at 14. They are both away at college now though.

Wild game has been good. Nice sales, but more importantly makes us stand out as a place with something different to offer. Pretty hard to price shop an elk pizza too.

Restaurant sales do not come in a flat “200 per day” flow. You will have days when you sell 30 and days when you could have sold 600. You can’t build only for peak volume because your overhead grows with the space but I think that scale will be one of your challenges in making money. 30 seats will not allow you to maximize revenue when revenue is available. A business this size can make a nice living for an owner/operator. Being next door certainly helps, but after you pay a manager there will not be a lot left at the end of the year. I would certainly make the manager’s pay dependent upon managing costs.

Think about revenue in table turns and average ticket. A good friend here in Steamboat who owns several sit-down restaurants tells me that his model for testing the proforma is one turn per day for the year. He might get 3.5 turns on his best day, but that is offset by the low season. According to his model, you would be assuming #of Tables X whatever your average ticket per table is likely to be plus some assumption for carry-out. Take that gross revenue and apply your cost model to it and see what is left for you at the end of the year.

Also, no reason in the world to charge the low prices you are talking about. Ski resorts with the kind of customer base you have can sell a sandwich to go for $10+ and a slice of pizza for $6. If you are in the heart of things, I think a handmade 11" pizza with some nice toppings on it would sell for more like $10-15. You will need that margin in order to cover resort rents, resort wages etc etc

For the 10 years I had my second location at the base of the mountain we rocked a lunch business with a line out the door during busy times in the season. We had 400 square feet with seating for 15 inside and shared seating outside. Even there, though the business slowed in March when the outdoor decks on the mountain opened and people stayed in the sun to eat. We peaked at about $4,000 per day between 11AM and 5PM doing slices and fountain drinks… but in the slower weeks (still in ski season) we did much less. Our average sales per day during the ski season were about $1200 per day and we would not have done that if we could not have taken advantage of the $4000 days when they were available. The ONLY way we could do that volume out of 400 feet was by having prep and stock at our other location. No way we could have stocked and prepped out of that small space!

I opened a fast casual place about 3 months ago. We use Turbochef conveyor ovens. Our bake time is set at 3:00. The pies come out great. We have a double stack, and they can handle a large number of pizzas per hour. The only time the ovens have ever gotten backed up on us is when we did a fundraiser night and we had people lined up 100 deep for about 3 straight hours. With that concept, the speed of the pizzas going into the oven is governed more by the customers than the people making pizzas. The only downside to the Turbochef ovens is that they are very loud. That can make it hard to communicate with customers.

Thanks Jim. Did you consider the Turbochef Fire or are you familiar with it? http://www.turbochef.com/site.php?PAGE_TYPE=PRODUCTS&nav_id=111248 There is a place in Vancouver using one that I am going to go take a look at.

This idea sounds just like the other guy from Whistler that was here for a short time a few years ago…Wonder what happened to him…I thought with such a “grand scheme” he would have let us know how he made out…

I have to ask… what is up with the “K” misspelling? As a consumer, I have always found that annoying rather than cute. I expect to see that on antique “shoppes” that smell like potpourri and attract women over 60. Sorry to poke at it, but have you asked around what people you know in your area think? I could be completely out to lunch but it has always been a pet peeve. There is a ski and bike shop here that goes by “Ski and Bike Kare” and it has always bugged me even though they are a great store.

Not at all, I came here to be poked.

My wife does not like the name little less the K. I don’t know, I guess it is a personal thing. I just prefer Kustom as opposed to Custom. The K reinforces the idea of customized because it is a customized spelling. Don’t you like Krispy Kreme or Krusty the clown, Kraft dinner? And I think K is a more interesting letter than C. But I hear you though, I don’t get Bike Kare and I’m not a big fan of potpourri.

My wife, bless her, loves grammar and is very particular. Here is just some of her feedback “First thought, Kraft has been taken. Second, People don’t craft the pies. It’s hands off. Customized is better than Custom because only in North America is custom an adjective. People might think it’s an error. Custom also has another meaning, as in a cultural custom.” aye, aye, aye.

Anyways, the name is not finalized, I don’t think Kustom Pies is going to make the final cut. Names under consideration to date have been Bandogge, Prodigy, UFAB, Gusto. What I like about Kustom Pies (and UFAB) is the name reinforces the main idea in that you create the pie yourself. I know you don’t really make it, I guess you direct it in real time as you go down the line. I like ‘Pies’ vs ‘Pizza’ for no particular reason, just different, a word I like saying.

I guess you could have a bad name that hurts your business. You obviously sink or swim with your product, location, how you run your business. There is a Roman pizza al taglio concept in Vancouver called Sciué. People don’t know what it means or how to pronounce it but they have opened a half dozen restaurants and appear to be doing well. I think the only person the name matters to is likely me, I should just choose something I like. Though I think from a marketing perspective a good name is advantageous.

So my idea sounds like a ‘grand scheme’.

I see you are from Montrose. My nephew, Dexter McLeod, played for the Trail Smokeaters (now that is an awesome name) this past season. If he returns next season and I get to visit him I’ll stop by your restaurant.

I hope your reply wasn’t meant to be as condescending as it sounds. The fast casual concept is not a “grand scheme”, it’s a proven concept that works. It takes hard work and dedication just like any other restaurant or business venture, but there is certainly more than one way to sell a pizza. Just because the product is cooked quickly, that does not make it an inferior pizza. The traditional pizza sector is over-saturated in most markets. This is a new spin on pizza that really brings people in.

You state.
It is a small space 600 sq feet, seats for 30 inside, common outdoor seating area shared by three restaurants in the building.
600 sq ft is not enough space for a pizza shop with out any seating much less with 30 seats.
We would suggest 1500 sq ft or better for that size operation.
George Mills

Jim I have been on this board for long time and I am sorry if my post came across as "condescending…But I have seen many folks come here with their ideas and then leave and never be heard from again…As far as quick cooked pizza, not something I have had the opportunity to try because no one in my area does anything like that except Subway and their’s leave a lot to be desired…

Kustom, I have been out of the pizza business for almost 20 years…These days I sell fridge magnets, stadium cups and other promotional products…The Smoke Eaters had a rough ride this year…Maybe next year will be better…

You may be right. Part of the reason for a very simple concept, limited menu is the small space. The landlord has said I can use additional space in the building for storage. The landlord also owns a number of successful restaurants/bars in Whistler and he has helped me with the layout. It is pretty much laid out with the basic equipment from the previous restaurant
and seems to all fit.
Subway next door is the same size and it has 10 seats.

I thought it had been quite a few tough years for them, they are in a tough division. He still had a great year and enjoyed his experience and living in Trail. Maybe next year they can make the playoffs but I think some of the really skilled guys are moving on to college in the US.
Sorry about assuming you had a restaurant. I though about that after I had already posted my reply.

WE have designed,planed and equipped thousands of pizza shops.
Send me a copy of your plan and equipment list and we will check it out. no charge.
George Mills

i’ve used seemingly all the ovens out there…and I like the fast caus approach, 'specially in a resort town, where $$$ isn’t as important as the vacay…

i really enjoyed our rotating WFO…it turns out a pie super fast & quality, if you are into the whole WFO thing…

Using a press & tempered dough, I can handle a pretty big crowd, with little skilled help, but a fast oven man will be required…

I would be into the WFO but the space will not allow it due to zoning. Do you have any thoughts on the electric Pizza Master I noted in my initial thread? Seems to be well built, reaches high temps and will maintain them. Reading through the archives there seems to be a view that gas is better than electric; easier and less expensive to repair as well as a better bake vs the electric dry heat. I don’t believe gas is an option but I am going to double check.

Sounds great, I’ll get to work on that. thank you.