Pizzeria Startup Questions

My wife and I are in the planning stages of opening a pizzeria. Our situation is a little more unique in that we will be renovating a historic structure an will have a chance to build out to our needs. The idea is to offer a dine in / carry out with a WFO, a couple salads, apps, wings, etc. The dinning room will be more mid range dinning, not fast food or high end white table cloth. We don’t have any restraunt experience beside waiting tables in high school, so we have a LOT to learn.

The population base is 30,000. There is a Dominos, PH, Papa Murphys and one independant stake house that does some pizza about 2 miles out of town.

The building is small and will take at least a small addition for bathrooms, some kitchen items and walk in. The foot print is roughly 26’ x 46’ with a full basement. There is an upper story that would be used as leased office space or apartments.

The plan is to possibly start with a trailer and cook at farmer’s markets to get a customer base and money while the building is being renovated.

I have read most of the linked discussions in the FAQ topics but where should I start with a business plan? I have never read or wrote one, but know this will be a valuable tool in designing the business. We have time to educate ourselves on the business aspects before we will be opening. What are some valuable books to read? I know SCORE is a good source, but nearest office is 180 miles away. Any other suggestions or tips?

We are basically young, ambitious, and willing to learn.



with both of you lacking any experience in running a pizzeria i suggest you go to work for someone else in the business and see what you are getting into first, the approach it sounds like you are willing to take is a recipe for disaster.

What is the valuable experience gained by working in a pizza place I do not want to replicate? Is it to learn to make pizza or to learn how they run their business? I know the big guys make a lot of money but I want to distance myself from them and offer a different product.

I’m going to disagree that being inexperienced is a recipe for disaster…only because my biz partner and I entered into this with no real restaurant experience, and now own a thriving place…
Anyway, willingness to learn and a strong work ethic are probably your best assets :slight_smile:

For a biz plan template, check out the awesome site www.restaurantowner.com

Very much worth the yearly membership fee, and has a huge database of downloadable forms, checklists, templates, etc etc. You will use them later down the road.

There are plenty of good templates out there, so there is really no need to reinvent the wheel here. We re-did our business plan a little over a year ago and used one of their templates and it provided a great starting point from which to expand.

That being said, using a template isn’t an easy way out for the time consuming process of writing a plan. One of my biggest suggestions for new owners is to dive into that plan like nothing else and get absolutely every ‘i’ dotted and ‘t’ crossed.

I think if anything, many new businesses fail due to lack of concrete ‘vision’, and writing a killer plan can help you focus that vision in a tangible form. That, plus of course figuring out if your idea makes financial sense.

A good biz plan should include the following:

Market research
Customer demographics
Target market
Your concept and ‘vision’
Employee structure
Projected sales
projected expenses
and probably more that I am forgetting about right now…

So, check out some templates and commit yourself for awhile. To give you an example of time frame, simply doing our rewrite took a solid month, and that was with business history so we weren’t having to guesstimate this stuff.

Anyway, good luck!

I spent 15 years + or - as a driver in just about all the pizzerias in my city before I opened my own place. I learned what to do as well as what NOT to do by working for someone else. There are things you would not even think about that you learn such as how to time the various parts of an order so everything is ready at the right time. You get to know suppliers/vendors that you may deal with. There are many more things that you just have to see first hand that a business plan does not deal with.

It has been said “in the hospitality industry there is a 80% failure rate.” Do your due diligence, work hard and success may be in your future. There will be many here who will tell you not to do it because we have seen many failed attempts. If it is your dream to do this, make sure you are going in with everything calculated to the absolute. I spent nearly a full year writing out my detailed business plan and still missed some of the variables. Remember I had the exposure to at least 15 working pizzerias over the years and there are things that just did not come to mind before actually being open.

If you can swing it I strongly recommend attending the Pizza Expo in Las Vegas. There is a special session on Monday Feb 28th for first time attendees and people who are new to the industry. There is a plethora of information to distill over the 3 or 4 days. It is also a good opportunity to look at the various types of equipment that you may want to consider in your pizzeria. All of the people there are more than happy to give you food for thought as well as assistance in developing your plans.

George Mills (a member here on Think Tank) is a good resource for equipment and store design and is always willing to help out.

Thanks Daddio for the endorsement:

Yes Ferrero:

I have a standing offer to do a free floor plan for any members of this Forum.

If you wish contact me when you have selected a site.

George Mills

Google “Writing a business plan” and click on one of the hundreds of sites that give you a format and information of what to consider.

If you have some questions or conflicting information from your reading, ask away. It’s not too hard. There is nothing mysterious about a business plan. It’s just common sense for business. AnnieK gave you some good info.

You didn’t ask whether or not you should go into business, so I think it’s kind of rude for people to cough up doomsday advice. Good luck.

Thanks for all of the advice so far. After rereading my initial post I think I need to clarify. We are not set in stone about opening a pizzeria, but we will use a business plan to evaluate it as an option. We are still out a year or more in the grant funding and red tape it will take to start the renovation. Our plan is to use this time to research, train, and evaluate our selves and the pizzeria idea. I do appreiciate all opinions, even the don’t do it ones, I would just like to know why and maybe some start up tips because I know we aren’t the only ones that would start without experience.

Forgot to mention that there is a local community college, the town is on a major interstate and we are the only community around for about 100 miles


I have mainly taken information from this forum and have had little to add, but I have to say that what has been said about working in a place before you venture into this should really be taken to heart. You might not want to be basing your business model on what is around you, but at the end of the day you could still learn a lot about the basics of the business by getting the hands on experience. A business plan is all well and good (and essential!!!), but there is no substitute for experience. And, as you said that you’re still not sure about venturing into this, I would think that some time working in a restaurant environment essential, not only for what you could learn, but, after seeing the work that it entails, is it really something that you want to do? Just my two cents.

One good start up tip that I would offer is to find yourself a trusted business mentor. Even though the restaurant industry has it’s own unique set of circumstances, business is still business, and many of the lessons are fairly universal.
If you don’t have anyone already, it can be invaluable to find someone of whom you can bounce those questions that keep you awake at night off of. I’d add to just make sure that you choose someone who seems to share similar values as you do.

As far as experience goes; I should have clarified a bit more. To be honest, no, I don’t think that previous restaurant experience is necessary. But! previous experience and knowledge in managerial and/or ownership positions of a successful ‘anything’ can be a huge asset.

From my own personal experience; I came from a background of management positions in the bicycle industry (of all things). All my mentors were folks from the cycling industry, and all my business ideas from there as well. So far everything I learned has transferred.
Yes, running a restaurant is really hard, but the core concepts that make for a successful bike shop also make for a successful restaurant. And I think that goes pretty much across the board, no matter what your background is.

So, in a nutshell, restaurant experience? of course great, but you can always learn. Solid business ideas? Super helpful and will probably make up the back bone of your success.

Annie’s suggestion to get a solid business mentor is something that I too endorse. But, if you will allow me one prejudice—the SCORE guys are usually not helpful in all things business. They understand balance sheets, P&L nuances, depreciation schedules, etc., but they probably know about as much as I do about a POS system (and that ain’t much), foodstuff ordering, delivery scheduling, etc… So, as others have suggested, maybe some hands on exposure to the restaurant business would be invaluable as a compliment to the mentor direction. I’ve been a student of this forum for about a year now, and I can assure you that there is a wealth of information here…from recipes to marketing ideas, from theft aversion techniques to mixer specs, and a plethera of other info that will make your life a little easier as you progress with your dream. Good Luck. Oh yeah, and keep about a 35% capital reserve handy for start-up.

Not to whip a dead horse, but the pizza industry is unlike any other food service shop around, and there is a lot to be learned from working for someone else before starting your own. My partner and I are looking at a startup ourselves, and we are on the fence, and that is with a combined experience of 15+years managing shops in the industry. What you ultimately gain from working for others is a very clear sense of what works and sells, and what does not. After working for others in several different shops over the years, I could quickly provide any of the owners with a dozen things that would up their profitability, and another dozen things that could be done to enhance the shop’s employee culture, which would result in better happier staff and therefore a better customer experience. With that said, I am still hesitant about the 100k investment.