Should I open an Indie Delco in Spain?

Warning:This is a long post so read on only if you have a small chunk of time.

I’m 28 years old and live in a town in northern Spain with a population of about 200,000. I’m having a hard time figuring out if I should go for it and open up a Delco operation. I’ll do my best to explain the current pizza environment in Spain to give you guys some background and maybe you can tell me if it looks good or if its a bad idea. Maybe I should just keep to my day job as an English teacher? (My pay ceiling is pretty much fixed at no more than 24kEuros/year for the rest of my life). I’ll also outline my own experience and the pros and cons I see in opening a delco regarding my own personal situation and opportunities at hand.

Spain and Pizza
Despite Spain’s geographic proximity to Italy, Spain has jumped on the pizza bandwagon quite late. In this town the first pizza restaurant opened up 15 years ago and now there are 2 Dominos, 2 national brands, and about 2-3 indies. The rest are formal italian sit down restaurants with no delivery. The town has a university with a student population of about 7,000.
We all know what the Dominos of the world tastes like and how they make their pizzas. One small Indie has been around for 10 years and is quite popular on the weekends by serving a square pizza with a french bread type crust (gets wet in 5 minutes) with canned tomato pizza sauce and generous amounts of cheese. In other words, the culture of pizza here is pretty much zero. Unless you’ve traveled to Italy or the US, you would have no idea what a good pizza really is by eating the pizza here in Spain. Quite an interesting fact due to Spain’s incredibly rich culinary heritage.
The question presents itself, “Will this town support a good to hopefully excellent quality pizza by American standards?”

My Experience
I have no professional experience in the food industry…but please don’t stop reading. I’ve been cooking pizza from scratch for over 10 years, eat it once a week and hardly eat outside of the house. I’ve eaten my way around Italy more than once and live in the northern part of Spain which for many culinary nerds is regarded as a Food Mecca. I took part in a two day process of slaughtering a 400lb pig and made kilos of blood sausage, chorizo and cured ham. I can now duplicate all of my mother in law’s traditional recipes with comparable results which is no small feat(my wife is basque) With that being said, I’ve developed a signature pizza/pasta sauce that is just about as good as it gets according to my palette. This has been a 10 year process and I’ve finally got it down. I love eating, I love food and I love where I live in a great part due to the strong food culture and superior quality of products due to the tradition of small scale production of local produce and meats… In short, food is a big part of my life.
Back to the Delco. Due to the lack of quality pizzerias in Spain, I committed the cardinal sin of getting a job making pizza at Dominos. Its not all bad. So far Dominos offers three things. It lets me get a sense of the demand of the area and what the clients are buying. It teaches you to make pizza at a break neck speed. And most importantly, due to the long list of ingredients on their bagged sauces and frozen toppings and cheese, the list reads more like a chemical experiment than an ingredients list. I haven’t even licked my fingers once yet on the job which of course would be immediately followed by vigorous and prolonged hand scrubbing with soap;)

-It seems as though the Spanish are developing an appetite for pizza due to the presence of the big chains.
-The downward economy should lend itself to pizza, right?
-Spanish people’s concept of pizza is store bought frozen pizza and pizza from the big chains apart from the random Indie.
-I think I can make a better pizza with my sauce recipe and dough made fresh everyday in the store like a normal pizza joint. I can also advertise natural products by buying my meat and cutting it and preparing it there in the store. No frozen veggies etc…
-Hours of operation are lighter here in Spain. The Indies here work only five days a week and store hours vary between 6-8 hours per day. This is due to the populations ‘‘traditional’’ meal scheduling. Eat dinner late and lunch starts at 2 and ends at three…no matter what. For example, NO ONE buys food between 5-7 in the evening or orders for delivery. So no 14 hour days in this neighborhood. Most operations (except national chains) are open from 1-4, then 7-11.
-A very qualified family member has offered me free image for a logo and design layout of the store to build a store brand.
-They just banned smoking in the bars so more people are staying home (the bar is the cultural cornerstone in Spain…there’s literally two on every block…for now)
-I have access to a so so location that would work fine for delivery but walk ups would be less frequent. However, the location has been used as a fresh pasta store and currently is used as the home base for a catering business. So some of the infrastructure minus the oven, mixer and refrigeration counters will need to be bought.
-Due to the demographic layout of the town, almost the entire population lives within a 3 mile radius of the proposed store which is a plus for delivery.
-I’ve spent the last 5 years working with teenagers so I’m assuming this would help with the training of employees and the service end since I genuinely like people and am able to put up with gargantuan amounts of crap as a teacher from irrational and emotionally charged human beings:)
-My wife says my pizza is the best (she lived in Milan Italy for a year and ate lots of their pizza) and has been telling me for over a year to start a delco.

-Deep price discounts from the national competitors. However I’m contemplating the notion of a Papa Murphy’s concept to compete on price.
-Extremely traditional society, especially food wise. The rate of pizza consumption is much less here than in the US. Although pizza is popular with the younger age range. 40+ year old people eat pizza with much less frequency.
-My lack of professional experience. I really should move back to the states and work in a banging Indie restaurant to really get a grip on what the Indie business is all about.
*I’m sure you guys can think up a million others.
-My sauce is excellent yet I really need to work at a place with an exquisite crust to get my pizza chops up in terms of recipe as well as throwing dough.

If you’ve made it this far, thank you. I’m looking forward to any advice as I’m essentially a newb yet am loving this web page, the forum and the magazine archive.
A serious one up since its in English and the Indies here are probably not following it!!!
Thanks again.

Forgot to mention that I am an American and grew up in the US. I’ve been blessed with a family who only ordered Indie dine in and takeout.

More financial info might/should be required for a truer picture…
Now much cash on hand do you have vrs what is needed to open an support the business…

How will you support yourself? Will this be cash flow positive in the 1sr year? Loan payments? Gross sales? Are you comfortable with financial statements? Have you a formal business plan?

You may have the passion for the business, but let’s make a complete list of the challenges that must be overcome & make a game plan to accomplish them…

These are all concepts I really need to write down and work out the numbers. My next post will be a posting of a business plan, cost and itemization of start up costs, daily costs, license costs, insurance, utilities, marketing strategy etc…

I don’t have any experience with a pizza business, I am currently trying to figure out if I will startup myself. But what I would like to say is that the Basque’s are not open minded when it comes to food, at least in my opinion they are not. As was told to me “Why would you eat anything else when you have the local cuisine to eat.” And it is some of the best food in the world. These people grow up a truely believe that thier culture is the world’s best, and it is hard to argue against them.

My wife is Basque also, and when I was in Spain (Guernika-Lomo area) most everyone only ate at certian places and ate mostly traditional Basque foods. They are extremely proud of their culinary heritage. I made pizza when my inlaws came to visit, and it was the first time in years that they even ate pizza. There were a few places that were not Basque that when mentioned, they all made gagging faces.

How many Txokos are around? I would think these would be a place where you could as about feeling towards pizza, that is if they let you in. Txokos are the greatest thing ever, and if you are invited in, even as a guest, I recommed you go. Of course you probably already know, but every cook in the Basque country is the worlds best. :smiley:

In Donostia it is was a different atmosphere as there is a larger youth community and travelers that are eating out. I actually ate pizza at a small Italian place near La Concha that was good, but it was not packed like the Pintxo Bars and other places near by. The ratio of locals to visitors I do not know, but we were taken there by a local friend.

It may be difficult to market to the older crowd and their children because if “Ama” didn’t make it, they won’t eat it. The youth may love it and you may be wildly successful.

Just some things I see that could be challenges that you may not have considered.