New to the business and neck deep already.

Hello All,

Here is my story. I was in public service for 8 years and just recently lost my job. I have been considering opening a pizzeria for over 10 years and recently secured a PRIME spot for my pizzeria. The spot is absolutley perfect and sits on on a corner lot on the busiest street in the heart of town…The location is perfect but I have to invest in building a kitchen and remodeling the facility…

I have lived in my home town of approximately 30K my entire life and know a good percentage of the people in the area. I have a good feel for what the community needs and wants. My town is a suburb of a larger city of approx. 120K. The area I live in is much nicer and family oriented than the larger city.

In my town of 30K there are 4 existing pizzerias. Dominoes is one of them, and then there are three independents. Two of the independents serve the same recipe because one was spawned from the other when a long time emploee left and started his own place. Those two places are very small and can only handle 15-20 patrons for dining in…but their pizza is about a 7 out of 10.

The fourth pizzeria is a mammoth of a place…4500 sqft. But their food is HORRIBLE (as is their service). I rate their pizza at about 4 out of 10…I wont even buy it. This place stays in business because it has the room for the local sports teams and organizations to hold their meetings and parties there. I cant tell you how many times I have heard people say “This place sucks, but there is no where else to go.”

My place is 2500sqft and has enough room for 70-80 patrons and a small party room. Rent is very reasonable.

This brings in me. A guy with no experience in this business,but I do have a little time to learn. I plan on serving a New York style pizza baked in a Bakers Pride model 452 deck oven. Also plan on serving subs, salad, and hot wings. The usual stuff…nothing fancy…simple.

So I know many of you are going to call me crazy, but my life philosophy is “What one man can do , another man can do.” I will make mistakes (already have) but I have and will learn from them. I know I will be successful if I just have a good product.

This brings me to my point of this drawn out ramble…can any of you poitn me int he direction of the best pizza recipes and models to follow? Or are there any of you out there that are willing to let me come work with you for a couple weeks to train me? I know this is alot to ask, but Im a 34 year old honest and hard working single Dad of 3 who needs to provide a life for his family…my decision has already been made…Im doing this, I just need a little help and direction.

Please save all the sarcasm and negativity…it doesnt affect me… :lol:

Good or bad economy I have never been afraid to take a chance so I wish you good luck…Many businesses started in bad times do fine after some “tough” slugging…

But have you looked for other opportunities to take something over?..I have heard of places going for less than 40% to 50% of the cost to fit up a new premises…Any money you save can be used for far more aggressive marketing than you might be able to afford otherwise…

Ahh…the water is fine. It can get a bit hot at times, but hey…life is for living.

I’m in somewhat the same boat, opening my own spot after 33 years in another totally unrelated business as mgr. and owner. I’m starting with a NY style and a dish, some std. appies, and hoagies/subs. I plan to add in some pastas, salads, and maybe someday even some BBQ.

I think you’ve found the best online resource there is out there, scroll through all the recipe bank, pop over to once in a while, there are some very good recipes over there that have been studied and tweaked for “home use” but b/c they’re listed in baker’s percentages they can easily be upped to commercial size batching.

I’ve found a lot of books on the subject, some worthless…I’m recommending “How To Open A Financially Successful Pizza & Sub Restaurant” by Shiri L. Henkel to be VERY useful in getting things thought out. Another that I reference, is “ABC’s of Making Money in the Pizza Business” by Gerald Ciccarone. Recognizing that NO BOOK will teach you what you need to know, but if we use them as guides, then they do hold some value.

It’s getting too late now, but I’d whole-heartedly recommend getting to a “pizza convention” like the Expo in Vegas or as I did, the NAPICS in Columbus OH… I’d also recommend getting to what I call “pizza camp” at the American Institute of Baking (AIB) in Manhattan KS, they do their Pizza Technology course only in October so try to get that worked into your life.

Most guys here, and most any book worth it’s salt will strongly recommend you go get experience first BEFORE unlocking your own door. Even if it’s 6 months working for a competitor in your neighboring “big town” do it. My experience is many moons ago, but I’ve been around restaurants and service cooking as a “sideline” for most of my life. I have a couple of years experience back in college with pizza in all fashions from delivery, to prep, to maker/oven guy. Have I retained that skill? We’ll see…one thing I do know for sure is, I’ve retained the LOVE for it. Without the LOVE, we’d be in the wrong business!

GOOD luck!!

Ive seen some of the industry experts offer consulting services. I dont know if Tom does, but Ive seen on other boards that Big Dave does.

You might consider hiring an experienced consultant to guide you and offer recipe and prep suggestions and help.

Why a Bakers Pride, versus a conveyor? if you are wanting volume and quality I am sure George Mills has some input he might add here too.

Tom Lehmann does do consulting on site as his schedule permits. It’s a per day charge, plus travel, I’m sure you can contact him through AIB if not here on his profile.

Welcome to the board and the business. Sounds like you’ve got a great opportunity ahead.

I know you said you don’t have pizza experience, but do you have general “restaurant” experience? Even this will go a long way to understanding the nuances of the pizza business. I personally did not have ownership experience, but I did manage a non-pizza restaurant and had a basic understanding of how things should work.

A few things that would be on the top of my list…

  1. Make a good business plan with good proforma financials; know what your break-even number is and figure out if you can realistically hit or exceed that number.
  2. Get a good point-of-sale- You’re the brain of the operation, but this is the central nervous system. Besides inputting orders, you’ll want to track customers, dispatch deliveries, manage labor, watch inventory, etc.
  3. Work on your menus and recipes. You’re grand opening will likely be intense. Make a good first impression and they’ll come back for more!

Good luck… let us know how things work out.

Generally speaking, it sounds like a good location and opportunity. Maybe the first question that jumps out at me is if the location is so great, why the reasonable rent? Or, why do assume its reasonable?

Do you have the cash for the build out “and” working capital? How many months can you sustain loosing money or breaking even? No matter how good you think the deal is, you really cannot assume you are going to make anything right away.

In any case, I don’t think anyone here would recommend opening any kind of restaurant without the experience in the industry. At least if you had been in “private” business before you would have something to draw from.

As far as recipes go, it really comes down to trial and error. The recipes that are posted on this site are great starting points. Play with them and tweak them as you see fit. You can learn a lot just by “searching” posts on these boards. There really are not any secret recipes or ingredients. Find a pizza that you like and emulate it, improve it and make it your own. I would recommend renting some time in a commercial kitchen to work this out as home ovens and refrigerators will not produce the same results as commercial equipment. Your most expensive piece of equipment is your oven and there are pros and cons to both deck and conveyor ovens.

No one can tell you all the in’s and out’s of what you need to know as so much can be taken for granted and not mentioned. No substitute for experience before hand.

Where are you located?

Hey guys (and gals), thanks so much for your help and input so far. Any idea what a consultant would charge for a week? my opening week…in a couple months…

You will get a lot more value from a consultant working with them well ahead of your opening than waiting until the opening. The beneficial things that a consultant can offer you are assistance with systems, costing, marketing etc, all of which need to be addressed BEFORE you open the doors to the outside world.

Rates for consultants vary widely based on the kind of work they do and often the size of the business they are working with. For a week, I would expect to pay expenses plus about 5K. For that you should get someone that not only knows the business but can also leave you with well developed plans and directions to futher resources.

You can certainly find someone for a lot less, but most likely not someone used to the consulting process. An experienced manager from a restaurant a couple of towns away from you will probably do it for a lot less but may not have much breadth of experience or the ability to teach and assist you. Doing and Teaching are two very different skills. If you are just looking for recipes that may be the best way to go.

You might also check with your local SCORE chapter to see if they have any counselors with restaurant backgrounds.

Another thought I have is that your best course of action might be a consultant for maybe two days up front to help you develop your plans with a second short segment a little before opening.

No matter what way you go, get the assistance you need during the formative stage rather than waiting for opening. If your systems are well conceived, opening will go smoothly. If they are not, no amount of experience in the kitchen during that opening push will really help.

No sarcasm, but this was a red falg for me as well. With no experience in pizzeria business, and not a fleshed out business model (delco, delco-dine in, dine-in only, bar or not, target market, etc.) It seems quick and a bit arbitrary to say a location is great.

Without some sort of “spitball” estimate of projected revenues, it is also odd so assume the rent is reasonable. Have you done your due diligence to find out what the going rate is for real estate in your area? The lease negotiation of property is possibly the single biggest decision you will make pre-opening. Bodegahwy has lots of experience in this area.

RECIPES: My recommendation, in the absence of keen knowledge of cooking and flavors, is to find out what sort of recipes are successful in your marketplace: sweeter, spicier, saltier, thick/thin, strong tomato flavor, high garlic, complicated falvors, simple seasoning, etc. Find a recipe you like that is somewhere in the realm of what is working. Then, use your palette and skill to develop a sauce that is yours that is vaguely in the area of what people expect. Going too novel to start with could alienate the cunsomer taste, but being too close to what competitors serve is poor as well. DO INVEST in a hig end tomato base wherever you end upwith recipes. Stanislaus and Escalon are to highly regarded companies that sell great tomato base products. Calling their customer service lines will get specs and descriptions of the products . . . they may even have decent recipes available for pizza production and development.

Get a marketing plan! Figure out and commit to the systematic and progressive means of getting your name, brand and product in front of people over, and over and over and over again. Develop print materials that are catchy, represent the personality and character of your business, and have lots of variations: business cards, doorhangers, post cards, flyers, takeout menues, and boxtoppers are good to start with. Full color or some sort of color impact is a great way to get attention. Heavy glossy paper for the takeout menues will also get attention.

Just a couple ideas off the top of my head this morning.