Lots of ideas and comments needed!!

Hello all.
First time poster but a lurker for quite a while. All the info on this board is so helpful Thank you to all who provide feedback as I have learned so much from reading the information here.

I have read this board for one solid day. I have searched sauce(nothing), Dough, blodgett, cheese and others I forgot about to try and learn more.

I do not know where to start here . Do not mean to ramble nor do I mean to bore you or sound as though I have no clue what I am talking about.

I have multiple dilemma’s going on here on whether to open a restaurant or not. Pizza included in the menu.

Hours 11-7. maybe later on the Friday and Saturday. Maybe only takeout pizza on Sunday for a few. It varies by the time of year here. When farmers are farming 24 hours. may need to adjust schedule.
Also for the next 2 years…about 200 wind generators are going up. about 300 extra souls a year will fill up camgrounds/parks,drives and motels and every house available.

I started in restaurants in 1979 for a couple months right before the labor laws came out and had to retire until I turned 16. Worked in the Happy Chef System out of Mankato, MN. until 1985 and then worked for a a Dairy Sweet. Came back to the Happy Chef in May 1987 and the manager I walked out on (i walked as had enuf crap from the asst who was questioning why I did not sack fries and made gravy instead) hired me back as an Asst. I was manager of that store in Jan of 1988 for all most 2 years. Moved to Phoenix in 1990 for a short time to experience it all and worked in Village INN for 6 months. Back to Iowa and in 1991 started working pizzas at the Caseys General Store. They could not let anyone know I was working that night as if people found out I would be bombed and you only work by yourself. Worked there for about 2 years and it was all part time. Going there after the FT job. Worked at McD’s for a winter. Still to this day pop behind the counter on a whim if she needs help at the Dairy Sweet. Have a friend that owns a pizza place in Des Moines so dabble there.
I somewhat consider myself a food connoisseur, specifically pizza. I live food and could eat pizza 24/7.

I will say for info sake that the most pizzas I ever did in one night from 430 - 10 at Caseys was 58. Giving that out there to help and think about my oven choice. 8

So with my long blabbering I am finally pondering opening a place of my own. Town I live in is 850+/- people. 7 miles each way is a 500 and a 1200 town. No restaurant in the 500 and a 50 year old steakhouse in the 1200 and I am friends with the owner there and treat his properties.
We have no REAL pizza places for over 40 miles. Only PH, Pizza Ranch and Breadeaux. Also Godfathers is in a couple convenience stores in other towns more than 10 miles away as there is a Caseys that serves take out pizza in town and all other towns…
We have a Subway and the Happy Chef and everyone complains and wants a real place to eat. As of July 2011 we had 2 restaurants on MAIN street and both were doing ok. One shut down as the owner did not want to be there and had a fling if you will. The other took off suddenly to CA to get away from Child Support.
We are a farming community and grain trucks go right by the store front I am looking at daily all day long.
We are also right on I-80, major interstate. My place would not be on the interstate. I dont want the hassle of being on I-80, big place, (more money for building) needing help, cant properly manage thieves that work for you and turn out bad food and offer crappy service. Needing to make way more $$$ for rent?purchase and utilities. I found a place for under $40,000 needing very little work. Other place is over 200k and needs much work.

I want to serve never frozen burgers, loin, chix sand and strips, ham and cheese, BLT, fish sand, shrimp, and 2 salads. homemade dressings, pies, soups. Have a real homemade special 2-3 times a week. REAL FF’s and onion rings with cauliflower and cheeseballs. Have ice cream, malts shakes, and such. I know quite a bit about this side of the kitchen.

I WANT to do PIZZA> simple pizza. thin crust and a thicker pan crust. Again we have nothign around here homemade for pies.
I like the Pizza HUT old crust from the 70’s, Dulonos in Minneapolis, MN is probably my fav. and the crust I want is like theirs. (recipe??) Need the pan as people around here like the thicker. We are not talking Chicago deep dish. Looking at ovens. NO CONVEYER!! Dont care if it is quicker, faster, stronger and can shoot lazer beams. I walk out of pizza places if there is a conveyer in the place. I aint havin one. We RARELY order Caseys.
I like a bold sauce(recipe?) like Dulonos or Little Franks on Burbank in Chicago. Fresh garlic sweet sausage, not italian spicy or mild. Ask me about my Fav pizza places.

Ovens…yes I have read anything under a bolodgett 1000 is nothign more than a baking oven. I do not think I would be doing that many pies to need anything greater. I really dont expect tot do more than 50 on a Friday or Saturday.
Thanks George and other!!!
Could I get by with a 901? Found one for $700.
Could I get by with a 981/951. Found one for $1300.
DOnt really need the hi heat for the thicker pies as have realized they need a slower temp to cook. Want them doughy. How my wife likes em.

I will be seating 50 or less in my little place. I could seat more but do not want to sacrifice service by putting people on top of people. Heck the bar seats 15-20. I will not be a bar. No liquor. No beer…well maybe. depends on demand.

I have no house pmt, own it. no vehicle pmt. I have some buziness debt that pays for itself from the lawn care side. Have a full time shop mechanic and repair shop. Have income from my lawn care buz which my son is gonna help in both and run the mowing and it pays for everything. I have contracts from mowing that pay 12 months of the year. Also have another emp who will do the mowing. Looking at another ex emp who will come back to help in both, good person. 2 old waitresses from my Chef days who one still works at the Chef 30 years later. and the other who left the Chef and works at COuntry Kitchen since, 30 + years as a waitress. Niece who is 19 and waitressed since 16.
I want name to get out to be a destination, not survive hoping the citizens of ADAIR will only come.

I have 3 (2 ss)acme dough rollers, 9 univex 30 qt mixers, 5 blodgett convection ovens, 4’ flattop gas, 1 gas fryer floor, 1 220 fryer floor, 3 bench 220 fryers. pizza prep table, reach in cooler and freezer, 12’ ansul hood, 8’ hood, 6 soda fountains, 600# manitowac ice machine, 1000# manitowac ice machine, Stoelting ice cream machine, schwans ice cream dispenser, numerous ss shelves and counter, 4 triple wash sinks, bench steam table, conveyer pizza oven, plates. All this above is paid for clear as I have accumulated it over the last 3-5 years. willing to sell and trade for what I need.

missing-some tables and chairs, hi chairs, pizza oven.

I no I have blabbered way more than I should. I have debated writing this and how I would write it and word it.
Reasoning is…I see many ask questions on what are your plans, where are you located, debt load, you know this restaurant stuff is long hard work with no profit in site, and many other things. I hope I have explained most of the questions one would ask. My lawn care buz I get calls starting at 6am till 10 pm and usually work 15-20 hours a day anyway…remember kid is handling this part for the most part now.He did last year…
I have my wifes permission. She asked tonight if I want her to quit working or stay working…I said stay and find a job that I dont have to pay $600 month for Health Ins like I do know. Her job now offers crappy health ins.

Is my oven choice terrible?? not planning on making over 50 pies a night.
Supplier? for Iowa. Someone I talked with Saturday said PMG. Only place to get 00 flour.
Sausage from B & B.
Stanislaus tomato products which I think have to come from PMG.
Have a great meat supplier in Des Moines. Brewer meats.

AM I NUTS TO DO THIS??? or just really really stupid.

I do not want to skimp on cheap inferior product. I want only the best.
I hate it when a restaurant bills themselves as a great place and has SYSCO ketchup.

By the way…I have dreamed of doing this for 20 years. Many I have told have said you have talked about that many times. Do it.

I forgot I also help run a local dirt track with my best friend and we have a concession stand in there. Races every Sunday night. He is gonna help me too along with my cousin who has worked at McD’s for 15 years and is a manager there.

Hope I gave you most of the info needed for comments back.

I appreciate the help and any info you can supply to me in my quest.

Thank you!

Real quick, the 981 could be an asset for roasting and/or baking in general . . . DO NOT use it as a primary pizza oven. It eould be a decent overfloe or emegency option. It is not pizza oven and has severe limitations in heat recovery when baking volume of pizzas which will lead it to cook itself to keep the heat adequate . . . I mean melt itself/deteriorate from the inside out.

2000 people is a teeny tiny group of people to try to eek a living out of. No matter hoe good your food is, they can only eat there so often. You will hit a quite firm ceiling at some point that can only be passed with incredible creativity and tenacity to locate and attract new customer bases farther and farther away. I lived the life of a 2500 pop town for 7+ years. It si a constant fight to find more and more customers to bring into the market. You will split the take with those other restaurants in the area, no matter what. You will all get marketshare, so it is worth long consideration how you intend to find market share and keep it fro churning more than normal.

Thanks for the reply. I forgot about that melting part that would/could happen to the burners.

I have found a 1000 Blodgett stacker I have to go look at next week for a decent price. They are minus the stones. For a good price too.

My big hold up in opening this place is the question of business, or enough of it… All though we get lots of traffic from interstate and people around here eat out day in and day out. But we also do not have the option to run down the road 10 to 20 mile to Applebees, papa johns, Culvers, Perkins and the like…
Closest Mcdonalds is 20 miles and you get that or burger King. or KFC or Taco hell.
AND there is no real pizza place anywhere close. 45 miles minimum. I also do not have to eek out a living soley on this. I DO not want to lose my arse either. I do not want to donate just to be open.

I feel the pizza will be a draw alone, or would hope so. Talking to people in the area I serve in my other business. We all talk about no real place and they know me as a pizza man. They ask where have you tried now. That said, eating a ton of pizza is not the same as being the pizzaola/grand pizza maker and a firm know it all on all things pizza. But I want to be and serve the best.
That is what I am asking for some assistance here.

There has been up until Sept 2011 a restaurant on Main St Adair and they did well for the last 30 years.

Thanks for the help.

And I too am still questioning doing it.

Hi Jim:

Nick gave you the correct information on ovens.

George Mills

The Blodgett 1000’s are work horses and will do well for your size town. If you double stack even better, depending on age BTU can vary. The old reconditioned ones are still around and there are plenty of them – pretty cheap too considering the price of new models.

The question to open or not in regards to pizza is a tough one. Never underestimate a PH, even though you may not consider them a “real” pizza as you have stated, people like PH – especially those in small towns as I’ve been up against them in other shops and lost – with what I thought was a “better” product too.

Here is the catch - #1 – people generally like PH, especially kids. #2 – small towns typically don’t have the pizza offering larger towns do, so for many years people become accustomed to the pizza that’s available in their own town – in this case PH. #3 – PH is less expensive (typically) and in some cases (more so today in this economy) people need and want deals – PH offers that. #4 – even though PH is a large chain, many are individual owned and WILL pay attention to their competition – in this case you. Don’t think because they are big they won’t be looking at you, because they will. IF you take some of their business, just like any other, they will fight it as to be expected. That’s business as it is. People get used to what is offered and it becomes the defacto standard. Come in with a new pie which is drastically different may seem like a good idea and a 100% winner, but it may not be. A way to tell is to see how busy the other places are. If they are packed, you will have a harder time taking some of that business. This would be because people like it and maybe not because there is no other place to go. Just because you and some others you hear from don’t like it does not mean others dislike it. If they are not packed, you have a real good idea that people need another shop. Everyone likes pizza right?

On the other hand, I have been in shops with 750 people in the town, with 2 other competitors and the place did fantastic – busy all the time and got with the schools to offer pizza for proms, football events etc……low overhead, selling lots of pizza, a great combination for the small town.

I would think that you would certainly be able to compete and you may have an advantage if you have low overhead. If you offer similar styles with maybe fresher taste or a better product (but not a whole sale deviation from the norm) it might be a way to start. The ovens are a decent choice and reasonable. You can make money in a town that size for sure – 750 is a lot of people if the majority eat at your place. You can have a captive audience the shops in the bigger towns wish they had.

You can always start small with a more limited menu which will give you time to fine tune your place as opposed to starting with everything. Then you can grow at the pace you want.

Stanislaus makes excellent products, another, Escalon is excellent too.

Yep, I wrote this all most a year ago. So get ready for the update.
Got very few responses.
Thanks and appreciate those who did respond to my first long winded plea for help, guidance, knowledge, expertise, and assistance in helping me decide whether I should be real stupid and do something like this.
I had read so many responses from other Think Tank members stating if you aint done it, had experience in it, have a couple million lying around and so on, you possibly should not do it.
Well I did not have a couple million, no real pizza experience recently. I Worked at Caseys Pizza, McD’s and Village Inn back in 90 to 93. Worked at a Happy Chef from 1980 till 89. Was manager in 88 and 89.
So after the first of the year in Jan 2012 I committed to a building in Adair, Iowa on Main St. A town short of 800 people.
Building had been a bar/restaurant before. Nothing great. We had to obviously do more work than you always expect. Oh the stories.
Bought used equipment. Wife quit her job at eo March and worked her but off cleaning, sprucing, fixing, and painting up. DId some changes to the place with the help of an employee that worked for me.
Expected to open first of April…you no how it goes…nothing goes as planned. Knew in mid MArch that wont happen. SO just kept telling people a “couple weeks”.
First of April I stuck my hand where it should not have been put and crushed the first 2 fingers on right hand. SO there goes any dough and pizza making skills for a while. Check out my facebook page under Jim Zimmerline in my album to see the lovely fingers.
We continued to run into snafu’s and finally planned the day of May 26 to open after we got the health dept ok about 7 days earlier for take out only. Sit down happened on June 23 after I opened my big mouth telling someone that the seating and us would be done and ready by then. Had to have the health inspector re-inspect the sit down stuff and passed. Mind you the day I opened for take out only it was me and the wife running the place.
Well I no when I first wrote this I had BIG plans, expectations, food, and the like. Well I downsized everything. Figured small is better. Keep it simple. Keep em wondering what, when , and if you will add something new. See what works and go from there. Dont start big and have a big menu, big inventory and have a lot of waste.
When I opened to take out only on May 26 I opened with pizza and pizza only. Take out only. No breadsticks, nothing like that. You had my own recipes I had got from certain individuals that I thank for their willingness to give/loan/sell to some idiot like me. Red sauce pizza only. I think I had various single top and maybe 6 specialty pizzas.
I could bore you more than I all ready have with first day sells etc, but wont unless you ask. But will say the VERY first Friday I was open I, yes me by myself did 76 pies. Wife was there taking orders and the like from 5p till 10p. To some might not be much for one person but for me who had not really cooked for some years it was a lot. I was swamped.
There are many things we have learned and still learning. One is wishing to a point of just being take out.
But if we would have stayed just take out…We probably would NOT have the business we have built up in the 5 or so short months.
People TRAVELING 10, 20, 30, 40, 50 miles and more to eat pizza at my little joint on Main Street Adair. We have people coming from all over in a 75 mile radius coming to eat daily and on the weekend.
Did I think that would happen. No!!
I have added things to the menu.
Different pizzas added here and there.
Added my own take on breadsticks and cheese-sticks after giving samples out as people came in to get their pizzas. They truly are probably nothing different than most do.
Added cinnamon sticks the same way. Tried cinnamon rolls and just could not get it right.
Have made different pizzas to sample for customers to get feedback on what is good or not.
Tried pasta. Great for some but everyone says, “we came for the pizza”. That is/was the second most asked question to “Are you going to be open for lunch”. Well pasta was added to some success but not enough in a 3 week trial run to keep on menu regularly so gonna maybe have it as a SPECIAL one time a month or so. Everyone loved it. but they want pizza.
Tried some sandwiches. Some worked some did not. Kept some, but again people come for the pizza.
We are only open 5-9 M - Thurs., 5p - 10p Fri and Sat and just opened on Oct 7 for Sundays 4-8.
DID/DONE NO advertising except Facebook and word of mouth up until the week of Oct 22 when I put an ad in the Anita Tribune as their Caseys was closing for 6 months. Building a new one. I then also advertised on KJAN-AM radio as our football team was in the playoffs again. The paper ad has really paid off. But I have to watch what and where I advertise so I have enough help etc to handle the business.
We DO NOT HAVE COUPONS nor run specials. i do not discount my pizza. except what you see below. My thought is if you want discounted …Get it somewhere else. The Cam Music boosters asked me if I would match Caseys buy one get one free. Told them no. But would for the school knock it down some. Which I do for the schools etc… Did not match Caseys that they ended up getting in the Adair Caseys Store as some in the group did not want to spend the extra money.
I did right after open to not throw away lettuce do a taco pizza special, but did not help. I figured out the lettuce usage.
Offered in Sept, night before we closed for a week to get rid of throw away stuff a large single top for $12. Did not sell that many.
Offered pasta one night after put it on menu for National pasta day for 5 and 6 or so. Sold one.
I did not have a ton of help nor could not no what to expect so I did not advertising. I did not want people coming in and have poor service. Long wait etc. We seat 60 which is more than I wanted. But it is not crowded and you do not hit chairs.
We sell beer and wine only. We are not a bar.
We have coke and pepsi fountain. Unlimited refills.
Salad bar on Thurs, Fri, Sat… Not great but picking up. Not throwing anything away either.
Serve on melamine and steel forks.
No skimping or inferior products.
Pizza is not cheap either.
We are have a highly successful Gluten free crust and have just from that gained a TON of business. Have one guy that drives home as he works in Des Moines and lives in Stuart. Well you drive 30 miles east to Des Moines and then comes back home to Stuart and then head 20 miles to Adair for pizza. His wife needs the GF crust which he could get in Des Moines… He does not get pizza in Des Moines.
We have added staff slowly and trained and still training staff. Besides wife and son, I have 4 cooks and 4 waitress.
I have NO POS!
I have a blodgett 1000 double stack.
We are doing pretty dam good. I hope. Books say we are.
I figured if I did $1500 a week I could get by and survive. Well, have not done under that and have always way exceeded that.

I could go on and on. I am writing this as to thank those who responded.
Thank those who did not respond as I may have changed my mind.
Thank those who have responded to others basically saying what they could have said on mine. Which is dont do it, you dont have experience and know nothing.
ALso to show or tell those who want to do it, it can be done. Did I do it right? Heck I do not know. But plan it out. AND READ!!
I do think starting small is a much better plan than having great big menus, seating and a place.
You can check me out on FaceBook at Zipp’s Pizzaria if you care.

Thanks for allowing me to post and thanks for reading. Hope I may have gave someone a good chuckle.

It is nice to see when someone is successful. You have done what many strive for by making your place a destination.

Thank you Jim…Great post…

Gee someone posts longer than Nick :mrgreen:
Great to hear you are kicking goals. Just keep the momentum going and stick to what works for you.


Thanks so much for coming back and giving an update on your success! Stories like these keep everyone motivated. Keep up the great work!

Liz Barrett, PMQ

Are you saying you miss J Roc?..lol…

PS…for those that do not know J Roc or others from the distant past, there is so much great information in the archives…While it is nearly 2013, the challenges faced by indies has been similar for decades…So taking a few hours (or days) to travel back in time will be worthwhile…