New Owner, Seeking Tips!

Hi Everyone. I have worked in the pizza industry at the same place for 15 years and through 2 owners. I have seen the ups and downs. 3 1/2 weeks ago the owner and good friend told me he was closing the doors due to financial and personal problems. Having been close to many of the business details I knew the store was just above breaking even before owner pay. I decided to purchase for the value of the equipment which was estimated at about $16,000. We were closed for 2 weeks before I could get everything together and the Health Department approved us to open. One other big note: I am keeping my fulltime accounting job and closing for lunches Mon-thurs. It didnt make sense being open anyway since we were lucky to be doing $100 for lunch. I have some good employees that are very excited that I am taking over. We are also closed on Mondays. After 2 weeks closed the first weeks sales came in at about $3000 which is about $500 under what it was doing, but we were also closed for 3 days of lunch we were previously open for.
I am looking to find cheap ways to market to bring sales back. The previous owner hasnt done much to promote the business. Over the last few years all he has really done is place newspaper and phonebook ads plus the normal box toppers which rarely change. I have ordered new door hangers with some greta deals to try and snag some new customers. I am ordering new menus with a few changes and slight price increases. I have started a facebook page and will continue to do box toppers. Also we have introduced some new dessert items. Does anyone have some suggestions? Are newspaper ads worth the cost?

Is there a pos? If so, I would be sure to mail the existing database.

Unfortunately there is no POS. I would like to add one once things start rolling.

Try to get email addresses of your customers. We have ran promotions that required the customer to give us their email address in order to get the promo item. This was a great way for us to build our database and you can inexpensively market through email. Also, keep up with the facebook page…it will keep you and your message in front of your customers. Have your employees suggest the page to their friends.

Thanks! I was going to start sending out our facebook address with each order.

Facebook! That was what we had up and running for nearly 4 months as we built up our restaurant prior to opening night. We’re a small community and “everyone” was interested in what we were doing so it was natural for us to utilize Facebook to keep “teasing” them with our progress reports and construction photos. When we were ready to open we invited only the FB “Friends” in for a soft-opening night as a “thank you” for their excitement.

Really an exciting time for you……What I would do is certainly advertise as you suggested, I would also take a good hard look at the products: concentrating on removing those items you don’t think are 100% to your liking and which may not be selling and investigate new types of pizza (supplement the existing menu to start). Also calculate your food costs so you actually know how well you are or are not doing(if not known already)

Reason is the place has been in business for 15 years (if I understand correctly) and closed up (basically) for one reason or another. Now you are the new owner and have an opportunity to make the food you always wanted to and put your heart and soul into the place. Make it outstanding!

What I have seen is that many pizza places just continue with the same old tried and tired stuff, once they get a menu they stick with it for a long long time. Overtime, with little to no variety, people want change and go to the “other” place(s). Owners seem to stick with the same sauce, same dough formulations, same cheese types etc…and unless the product is outstanding, the places just stay at those levels, worst case, lose business to the new place that opens up whose owner is hungry for business, aggressive and creative – with good products.

Maybe an idea is to keep it going as it is and work hard to develop new formulations that are outstanding, original and a step up from your competitors. Add those as supplements, maybe a new “classic” line or “gourmet” line or some other sales line and see how they sell (after testing like crazy). Be creative and put your special spin on the recipes – and supplement them into your menu. Research products, experiment and create a pizza(s) that are a step above. You have the shop to do it in now.

Seems everyone buys products from the same resellers, generally – hence in my opinion the pizzas are pretty much the same from place to place (hate to say that). Every strip mall has a shop and honestly, many taste the same to me – outside of spices.

Rather than call the distributer for meats, how about hitting the local butcher shops, Italian deli’s, taste the meats they have and keep trying until you find one that is outstanding, or ask them to make to your specifications. For cheese, research and find the award winners or call the dairy farms yourself and try what they have to offer and if you like it find the distribution channel. If none are local, many offer websites where you can have it mailed.

Staying away from what all the other shops do (in regards to recipe) can set your pizza apart – along with research, experimentation and trial and error

Thanks for all the great info. I have already decided to cut a few things from the current menu that didn’t reaaly sell and plan on trying to add new things a little at a time. My area is very cutthroat as I live in western ny. I think there is 10 pizzerias within 7 miles of my store. Because of this it is hard to cost items too high without losing a large portion of customers. I am trying to keep food costs at 35% which seems high but realistic for my area.
Does anyone have any opinions on newspaper ads?

I never run newspaper ads. Direct mail a beautiful looking menu and follow it up with a good package offer for you new desserts and other things. If you make your desserts from scratch…even better.

Smile…talk with your customers.

Smile some more…

Smile…keep you employees happy.


In this day and age it doesn’t seem like newspaper ads would be very good. Who needs to read the paper. For dessert we are offering apple and cherry dessert pizza with a cream cheese base and crumb topping and homemade smore rolls. Chocolate and marshmallow wrapped in an egg roll and fried. I was thinking about doing a raffle to collect addresses for all of my customers since i dont have a POS. Any suggestions for prizes. I was thinking hockey tickets, since the Sabres are pretty big around here.

'Smore Rolls…those sound interesting! Any special prep required or are you simply wrapping a piece of candy bar and some marshmallow in a won ton skin? (if you care to share that is…) We “stole” our apple pie pizza directly from the good Doctor, with a small bit of mods maybe. Take a regular pizza dough, brush with melted butter, we put on a nice layer of sliced apples, then a crumb topping from the std. oatmeal, brown sugar and diced up butter. After it clears the oven and is cut, we drizzle on a nice caramel sauce. We’re also doing a “Nutella” turnover that is super delicious and easy. Puff pastry squares, a good dab of a mix, equal parts, Nutella, cream cheese and sour cream mixed together, fold, bake, top with a drizzle of dark chocolate syrup and a dusting of powered sugar.

Smore rolls are simple but can tear easily if your not careful when wrapping. We take egg roll wrappers add hersheys chocolate chips and mini marshmallows. The chips and minis work best to prevent tears. So far nobody thats tried them has not liked them. Now we just have to market them.

Set up a website. Paying a server costs next to nothing (or can be free, though I would recommend paying a few dollars a month to ensure faster download times, etc.) so it is cheaper by far than newspaper advertising (and likely to reach a lot more people). I don’t know if you’re proficient at such things or not, but if not you can still do it yourself using a simple drag and drop site builder such as weebly. I’m sure there are others out there but that’s the only one I’ve used. Good luck with your new venture!


Updates on business if anyone is interested.
Since taking over in December a lot has been happening. I was originally going to be closed on Mondays and for lunches M-F (partly for lack of business, partly because I kept my full time day job). Then in early January my best employee told me he dropped out of school and is going to become a pastor. He really wanted to open on Mondays and for lunches to maximize hours he could work. His commitments to become a pastor are only like 1 full day a month for the next 2 years.
I decided to plunge headfirst with him being my daytime manager. So, January 23rd was our first official full week. Weekly total $3,500 / lunches M-F $500
Advertising in newspaper, some doorhanging, facebook.
I ran a seize the deal ad on the radio Feb 2nd, which is just like groupon. Sold 198 $21.00 certificates for $5 each. Got to get the customers in.
Oh, and I am having my manager deliver samples to 1 new business every day and dropping menus and letting them know delivery is free for lunch.
Last week’s total including $500 in Seize the deal certificates was $4600 / lunches M-F $700

My mailshark campaign started this week. I am on the 5000 one to see how good it works.
500 houses and 6 coupons back first 2 days
Lunches this week up to $850
Things are looking better. Wish me luck.

Also keep up to date on facebook, started a website (, and an email campaign

great! Wishing you the best, and thanks for following up with us. Keep it coming, and keep the lunches growing!

You mentioned there are several places close to you, but what type of community is it? If there are lots of businesses, lunch should pick up well.

Also, what are you doing for lunch? Slices? Personal pies? With a lunch crowd, speed is often the number one consideration, as you probably know.

I know some like these… and getting the food out there is always a plus…but selling $4158 worth of sales for $990! OUCH!!! I just feel you could have better spent that $3200 in advertising budget that you just gave away and it seems that the people that buy these deals are cheap and only really look for more of these deals. I wouldnt want to devalue my offerings from day one. You might get the reputation that you offer budget meals…and that can be a hard image to change or build sales off of.

Now all that said… like Eupher stated… what are the demographics as far as lunch is concerned. I understand wanting to work around your newly found daytime mgr…or as the Blues Brothers would say… “You are serving lunch on a mission from God!” Help me here Deacon… :wink: But you are only doinmg $100-150 a day at lunch. Is this a reality of something sustainable and more important… GROWABLE??? Is this town a potential $1000 a day lunch or just a barely cover labor setup? I know you might want to show some loyalty to your employee but he has found God… on the other hand… you signed the deal with the Devil…aka: THE BANKER! :twisted: Again…Deacon I need some advice here… I believe only one forgives!!!

You asked for advice so here it is …

Forget lunch. I know that area. The shop isn’t really located near anything. All of the industry is gone and the residential isn’t exactely overwhelming… not to mention the other shops saturating the area. Do you stay open late to attract the weekend bar crowd passing thru on NF (yea they are drunk and a pain…lol)?

This may be a stretch but what about trying to get on the NCC campus with some pre-mades for lunch (shop closed). Or is there anything going on in The Falls you could set-up in and do slices. How about a discount for the Air Force base. Don’t know if you are into bikes but maybe talk to the Harley Dealer on …Sheridan I think… about flyers … you’ll get groups riding thru there every weekend. They won’t stop if they don’t know you are there. Look for traffic trends … Cops, UPS, Fedex, BFI … thats a major artery…and market them. Is saberland still going up that way? Maybe a slice arrangement with them? You mentioned your day manager was working toward the ministery …what about providing for church groups?

This is just me brainstorming late on a Sat nite; there are no bad ideas in a brainstorm; there may be no good ones also lol.

I don’t think it has anything to do with your quality of food or service; it’s strictly a supply/demand issue.

Best of luck. Buffalo is my first home.

The lunch business is quite a mix, but we sell a majority of slices and subs. We actually have quite a few small businesses in the area that we have been targeting. I gave my manager an incentive plan this week that he would earn 10% of M-F lunch sales after the first $1000. I am trying to be cautiously optimistic but things are still looking up. Including about $500 in seize the deals this weeks total clocked in at about $5000! Mailing menus out with mailshark seems to be working so far, but I will definitely be tracking those coupons. We are really pushing some new dessert options right now too which are going over well once people try them. We have Dessert pizza (cream cheese base, apple or cherry, then a crumb topping), smore rolls (chocolate chips and marshmallow in an egg roll wrapper and fried), and fried dough.
We really don’t get too many drunks in at night. Really our late night business is sometimes nonexistent.

Well my first years goal was to get up to around $6500 a week so that I can leave my full time job. After 2 1/2 months I am proud of the progress that has been made. The previous owner averaged about $4000 a week for all af last year.

Your scenario sounds awfully familiar, so I’ll give you my input.

Drop the newspaper ads and look into ads on their online page and other package deals. I can promise you that your print ads will do you no good. You’ll get a much better ROI with an ad on their website (should be about $50/week). Stick with Mail Shark, BUT get a quality product. I’ve used them a lot with our past two stores, my main issue has been the quality of design work. If they could get a decent graphic designer on their staff, they would take over the restaurant marketing industry.

Get your facebook page, google places, yelp, urbanspoon, yahoo places, tripadvisor, and any other online directories set up and current. Even the lowest yielding site can still send you a $20 order every month and that’s $240 a year in free sales.

Finally, you’re going to need a completely new website. Your website just isn’t very good. Bite the bullet and pay for a new one, make sure you have google analytics installed so you can see the tremendous amount of people every week who look at your site…with the page you have up, I wouldn’t order from you. It doesn’t tell me why I should.