New owner looking for some general help

Sorry this going to be long and I’m sure you are going to have questions.
Ok, here is the story. I bought a pickup and delivery only place about 8 months ago with a partner. I’ve been in the food industry for about 20 years so I’m not totally naive. My partner on the other hand is oblivious to anything that happens in a kitchen (front or back of house). He is the money I’m the brains. I honestly haven’t had much experience in pizza shops. I actually managed an artisan bread bakery for the last seven years and hope to own a bread bakery once the pizza place is making enough money.

We jumped into the idea of owning a bit too quickly and ended up with a place that looked good on paper but not so good when you take into account that it was doing a lot of volume by selling their product for next to nothing. We were also a bit naive about the area the store was in. Lower-middle class with a nice sprinkle of junkies thrown in for flavor. They were for sure catering to the junkie crowd. The main specials they ran were 13.99 for 2 16" pizzas 1 with 1 topping and a 3 cheesesteaks for 13.99. Food costs were right around 55% we quickly changed the specials and tried to include higher margin items into the specials such as 2 steaks, 2 fries and a 2 liter for 19.99. The volume of business dropped significantly like down to 1/3. We had 3 months from purchase to change the name and get ourselves situated. My goal was to upgrade the food quality and try to eliminate the huge amounts of complaints that would come in each night because of food being cold, wrong, over cooked, and taking too long to get their food. I got thermal bags (they never used them here). I started doing the bulk of the cooking and that eliminated the issues with food itself. I do deliveries when I feel like food is sitting too long. Our current food and materials cost is still a bit high right around 36%. I need to trim back but we have already upset people by raising the prices to a more manageable amount. Our prices are in line with a lot of other middle of the road places in the area. How do I get a bigger bite of the pie for more “normal” customers. We are no longer the bargain basement pizza shop but we need to figure out how to market to the mid range crowd.

The area expects a big menu from a place like this so I accommodated and I’m regretting it. I also feel like I tried to appeal to too many of the old customers by keeping a lot of the old things on the menu. We are about 2 months out from reprinting the menu. Is it a bad idea to pair the menu down significantly? It seems like every time I make a decision to take an item off the menu that’s all I sell for the next 2 weeks. There will be a few pissed off customers but my guess would be they would pick something else. I added a bunch of unique items to the menu and I’m getting a lot of feedback with lots of enthusiasm over the “weirder” items on the menu. I feel like that’s where we will stand out is in creating and offering unique food that is good, consistent, and fairly priced.
I shopped around for cheaper vendors but it sounds like I’m still spending too much on cheese. Last week I paid 2.94/lb for diced east coast grande. I like the diced and no one seems to have anything else that is significantly cheaper. I was using diced saputo from sysco but they stopped carrying it so they could bring in galbani which is more expensive. I’m in the greater Philadelphia area Any options for vendors that I haven’t explored yet? I’m currently working with Savona Stavola, Cedar Farms, and Bova.
We are trying to rebuild back to the original volume and we are starting to pick up but obviously keeping payroll down is an issue. How do you guys deal with not knowing what will happen on any given day. We can have a random crazy Monday night and then the next week it’s dead and it’s Wednesday. It’s hard to know how to schedule and I hate when we get a rush not having the right amount of people on.

I have more questions but lets start here ask me any questions that you need answers to help me along the way.
Thanks for any help you give


First off, once you change prices it will piss people off. However, I don’t think anyone here can survive on 55% food cost.

Have you thought about shredding your own cheese? You can probably save 20 cents a pound . If you have a restaurant depot near you. Check it out. You’ll be surprised how much you could save. They don’t carry grande, but u can save on other things.

I went to Restaurant Depot and price matched. I get everything I checked prices for at the same cost or less from my suppliers delivered without a delivery fee. I didn’t check into shredding my own cheese and I don’t have to have Grande but I do prefer the diced. Is there an attachment for diced?
Thanks for the welcome!

We are right now basically breaking even if volume increases we won’t be doing too bad but finding and keeping the right customers is harder then I thought it would be. The customers worth having around here are the types that go to a place because their parents did and stealing them away from the generations deep custom isn’t that easy.

I was actually really surprised when everyone I know told me to go to the depot. When I checked it out I was very surprise plus having to waste my time going there and hauling stuff back here. Very not worth it in my eyes.

Change that attitude to the customers that are worth having are the ones that will buy your food. If the “junkies” pay $19.99 for your 2 16" pizzas, they are very worth having. I’m fortunate to not be in an area with generations dedicated to a singe shop, but that’s how it was in the towns I grew up in. All I can say is in the long term, great food and even greater service will pay off. Your other neighborhood pizza shop will have their nights of terrible service or be closed for two weeks for the owners vacation. Use these opportunities to gain a couple of their customers. Wow every customer you can with your food and service and you will become that goto place for generations.

If you are still operating under the same name and logo as the previous owner, it is understandable that people will be upset to see their favorite item taken off the menu and a bunch of “unique” items added. If you want to change the menu significantly, rebrand, even if all that is is updating to a new logo and tagline. If you keep the brand the same, people expect continuity.

I would worry less about your costs at this point unless cash flow is going make you close your door. You need a little added labor right now to keep your service top notch. Check with Roma Foods to see if there’s savings to be had on your food. They have a warehouse in South Jersey. If you’re changing the menu, create one that will make production easy and efficient and only include items that sell and are profitable. Also, in today’s day and age, make your place easy to find online and put strong consideration into having online ordering. It really is becoming important, even to the “kids” whose parents and grandparents have ordered from the same place for years.

Lastly, never forget that every customer is a valuable part of your future.

The junkies were the bulk of the business before we changed the specials. They were upset and stopped calling when we did away with the 13.99 specials. The volume disappeared because of that. I’m fine taking anyones money. I was just explaining where the bulk of the customer base was before we changed things. We did rebrand after the first three months all new menus, signs, and I am revamping the interior as well. I bought dipping cabinets and picnic tables with the hope that eventually we will have more people coming to us instead of delivery.

I’m working on the online stuff and online ordering is in the works as well. We are shopping for a pos currently because what we have now is a 10 year old system from PDQ that is not easy to work with and won’t do what we need it to. We have our choice narrowed down to speedline, foodtech with their delivery iq, and last on the list is point of success.

My employee moral has also taken quite a hit with their perceived decline in business. I can’t make them understand that we are actually making more now then before we changed things because our product is much more appropriately priced. We are doing on average 7K a week. In the next six months my goal is to get it closer to 9K. I will have to print new menus in the near future because we have already mailed a hefty amount of the 25k of “new” menus. Is it a bad idea to further edit and pair down the menu at this point? I don’t want to take the editing too far and alienate more people but it needs to be paired down.
Thanks for the tip on Roma. I’ve had a hard time getting new vendors to come here because they associate the store with the old owner who owed everyone money. He was sued by sysco because he owed them 50K. Who knows who else he burned Thumans wouldn’t even call me back despite me assuring them we had nothing to do with the previous owner.

infinity. We also are fairly new. I can feel you pain.

Im trying to get things going in the right direction with having more than one food vendor. We saved money on most everything. Even though the old vendor told us that sometimes companies will try to grab all your business by giving you great prices, then when your comfortable, they raise prices and stick you with them.

Hopefully it does not happen. My cheese prices droped from 2.59 per pound down to 2.49…and chicken wings went down form 1.67 to 1.52…per pound.

My advice even as small as it is…is try to get a couple food vendors to come visit you…they will learn that your not associated with the previous owner…and hopefully give you some great prices.

Good luck!


  • did you change the name of the place after you bought it? Most people that get burned by a place once, don’t go back. If you didn’t change the name and staff, potential customers may not even give you the time of day.

  • what is your niche market? Why would someone go to you instead of somewhere else in other words? I find that a lot of pizza places fail because they’re simply serving the same stuff the majority of other average pizza places serve.

  • You don’t need a big menu to be successful. That’s hogwash. Have a few things you’re really good at and stick to those, rather than having a bunch of things you’re mediocre at. Keeps your food cost low due to low waste/spoilage. Keeps your inventory fresh as it will constantly be churning new product.

  • Above all, have good systems and procedures in place. This will maintain a consistent product/service. Do your best to always be accurate and fast, the rest is history.

Yes the name was changed and we put out a new menu. As far as niche market, we put a fair amount of unique items on the menu and I want to go further towards that concept. The other local stores are all the standard places. Some of them have a single item they are known for but others are just the same old same old. I tried Roma wasn’t impressed with their prices I’m getting the same or better with Cedar Farms and Savona Stavola.

It sounds like you may need to revisit your business plan. Do you have one? I see restaurants fail often without one. It is you path and you should be using it.

Soooo many businesses treat their menu/specials like a dart board. Throw that dart and see what sticks. Unfortunately this thinking is penny wise and pound foolish.

Share you business plans and let some of the pro’s here help you adjust it. I am sure any here would be happy to help.