Some feedback please!

Hey Guys,

I was just wondering if some of you can shed some light, give some advice/input, and relate some of the things to expect when opening a new store.

Here’s my scenario:

*Open for 35 days, DEL/CO only
*Awesome location
*Great visibility
*75k population in our town w/ roughly 7-9k resident addresses within 1 mile
*100’s and 100’s of business within a 3 mile radius
*Sent out 2500 postcards for our soft opening, and seeing about a 3-5% return
*I’m a working partner, 25 y.o., been in the restaurant and pizza biz for at least 8 years, business/manager experience with at least 10 weeks of corporate training that includes traveling around the US to see how others operate, extremely passionate and proud of my product and services I offer.
*Getting very positive feedback from my customers, a lot of repeat customers, and surprisingly, at least 10 customers so far that took the time to call back and compliment us. Which to me is huge.
*0 complaints and 0 mistakes/remakes so far (knock on wood)

*Went WAY over budget for final build out costs. (easily 30% over budget) - Right now running VERY lean
*HUGE road construction project that stretches for 3 miles on our major road, sometimes with NO turning into our parking lot coming from the north.
*Bad timing with the economy
*My partner REFUSES to do any type of advertising
*He has NEVER been in the restaurant industry, let alone the pizza biz.
*He’s NEVER at the store, only looks at the numbers
*His theory is “build it and they will come”
*He is ready to give up already and refuses to put any more money into the place, even if its a necessity and could benefit the company
*Working 100+ hours a week as an actual worker (because I just let my key employee go, and his first thought was not to replace him and let me do the work), no days off, no time off. It’s wake up, work, sleep, wake up, work, sleep EVERY SINGLE DAY.
*For the first month, our front pick up area was unfinished as far as decor and the walls are concerned. Very boring and awkward for the pick up’ers. It took this long to squeeze a tv out of him and some pictures/pizza related knick knacks. (not sure if that is relevant or not)
*Our average weekly net sales is about $1500 (which I know is almost nothing) Our busiest week so far was our opening week.

But anyways, how were your sales for the first month? First 6 months? About when did you start seeing some kind of break even points, profits? Did you advertise, if so what did you do? Were there any days that were just completely dead?

It’s really getting to me to have to deal with the lack of sales, and then him on my back making stupid comments that either ends up making me upset and/or makes me lose my motivation/morale. Should I keep my chin up or just let him and this place get the best of me and just close up now?

I’m not sure what kind of help I’m looking for but it would be much appreciated if I can hear some of your success/failure stories.

Thanks everyone!

Well there are way to many things for me to get into right off the get go. I am sure the other posters will touch on many of them as well.

First off, 1500 isn’t going to cut it. Second, are you getting paid as working employee? With 1500 I am not sure how that is possible but are you drawing a salary and if so how much. What kind of agreement do you have with the partner about operating decsions? Answers to that will open a bunch of other info.

Funny thing about advertising, you can go anywhere in the world probably and say Mc Dees and I would bet 95% of the population would know what Mc dees is and they still advertise. So why do they advertise?

You mention in your pros “*75k population in our town w/ roughly 7-9k resident addresses within 1 mile
*100’s and 100’s of business within a 3 mile radius” it is not a pro if they don’t know you are there. What are you doing to let them know you are there?

As for the intial postcards…if you got a response why are you not following up on it with another round?

You can do some marketing for pennies…although I do believe having quality marketing supplies makes a difference if you can’t afford it something is better than nothing…so on your computer make a flyer you can do a landscape page with two flyers to a page…heck you can even do 4 the size of a post card and get double the advertisment. Include a “special” and your name phone number address and hours. Go to the printer and get black ink and colored paper (yellow has been proven to be an eye grabber and easy to read) Have the printer cut them in half. If you get over 100 (200) you will get them for 5 cents or 2.5 cents each and you can get smaller quantities. So for 5 bucks you can get 200. You also should be box topping every order. It would be nice if you could include a magnet and a menu with your orders but it sounds as though you can’t spend any money on advertising.

In the morning go around to the hundred of businesses and introduce yourself briefly and drop a few coupons.

Put a fishbowl at the front counter for business cards and while you are slow take your laptop and make a database with the cards in there. Send out some postcards for a “lunch special winner” give them a free small pizza with one topping. (They most likely will have another order with it.) Not to mention when the post card arrives in the mail the whole office is excited there was a winner.

You have a lot of issues going on and like I said I was just throwing out an idea or two. You will not last long with those sales (financially, mentally)and what worries me is when we opened we were slammed and then things started to die after about 6 weeks and that is when our marketing became key.

If you have not had a grand opening have one.

You need to really have a meeting of the minds with your partner…I don’t see that anyone with a brain wouldn’t advertise.

That is it for now, please answer the questions above…that opens the real can of worms…


How much money have you got in this place? Are you on any debt instruments?

If possible, I would consider cutting your losses. If the partnership is this bad now, it will only get worse.

There is no doubt my current sales are going to cut it. We really opened at a horrible time with this construction, I can not stress how bad it really is. 99% of the business’s I’ve talked with thus far are feeling effects from it. Jewel, Dominicks, a 15 y.o. very high output Pita House (same stripmall), 24-hr Mcdonalds to name a few. All of them are witnessing RECORD lows since they’ve been open - no joke.

No I am not taking any sort of pay or salary… once in a while I get some gas money, but literally thats it.

Operating decisions are usually mine for the most part. He’s basically putting all of the trust in me. If its going to cost money, we’ll make the decision together.

As far as letting the 75k people know… you are absolutely right about that. What are we doing so far to let them know we are there? I would say within a mile, I have hit at least 50 neighbor business’s personally with an introduction, a couple menus and some coupons. I’m still doing a couple a day. We do need to get the ball rolling on some letters to my customers for the ones that did turn the postcards in and the ones that have ordered regularly. We should have started that already and I’m kicking myself that I haven’t. But better late than never.

I will also start doing some kind of box toppers to let people know of our specials and deals. That is a great idea I’ve thought about many times but just never executed it.

Kris, I like your ideas, and very grateful to hear your views. Thank you for that.

And Charles, its a large number. Lets just put it that way. It took over 7 months to open with permits and build out.

My partner is a crazy crazy man. He wanted the best of everything. He felt we needed 2 brand new a/c units up on the roof… (c’mon, a del/co pizza place with a/c? (which I had no input because it’s his money and if he wants to spend it that way, then so be it and I always figured he was smarter than that to afford it and still be ok for times like now…)). Theres way more to it than that, but thats just one example.

If things were going better, he would be on top of the world knowing that we are coming somewhat close to breaking even. Its just a shocker for him when you think you’re doing the right thing by buying the best of everything only to come to reality now that it massively affecting the bottom line. He knew from day one it would be at least a year if not more before we could start breaking even on a regular basis and a couple years before we start seeing some profit. But reality sets in like I said and hes now paying for it, mentally.

It would be extremely difficult to just cut our losses at this point. Neither of us want to truly give up. Especially him cause of the money part obviously, but me… I put 8 months of 24-hour blood, sweat, and tears into this place. I’ve been dreaming of this since I started making my first pizzas when I was 17. This is my pride and joy. I know I have something good here, its just a matter of getting my name out there.

I’m not saying I’m perfect by any means… but I really am trying as hard as I can here. We rarely rarely talk on a regular basis and when we do its short, unsatisfying conversations that lead no where. Its good though that I ranted for a bit on here and got to express my thoughts on paper rather than just my mind, and to hear what others have to say.

Thanks for the input so far guys. You got my wheels in my head turning.

It sounds like you need to lose the partner. If he’s unwilling to help with the growth and success of your business, yet criticizes you and what you’re doing, then he’s bad news. It will get worse.

No advertising… Yikes.

What will it take to buy him out?

As for your business, did you put together a business plan before you opened? What are your projected sales compared to your actuals? If you’re falling short, are you able to pinpoint why that is? Maybe you should call some of your customers; not just the ones that are repeat, but also the ones that only came in once. They may have some enlightening information. Remember, just because someone doesn’t call to complain, doesn’t mean they’re entirely happy with their experience.

Good luck!

That is exactly right, I like the way you put your first paragraph.

I bet I could buy him out for 40% of what he put into it so far. That is if he was really willing to part ways.

I never thought of actually calling the ones that ordered just once, I guess I never wanted to intrude on their time and put them under pressure on the spot. Although I have thought a million times about why they haven’t come back yet… Maybe I’ll get some plan going with an incentive and give that a try. Great idea.

Thanks for the reply!

Do not believe that 99% are feeling the effects of the economy…Some may be feeding you a line to make you feel so bad you bail…I talk to pizzeria owners everyday and many are holding their own and some are ahead of last last year…When I look at my sales to pizzerias I see that I am up 18% so in my mind there is still opportunity…Now real estate is another matter…

As far as the partnership, it sounds like you need to part ways…I have been in great partnerships and partnerships that are ugly…If your partner is not willing to adjust it may be time to part company…

And yes you need to survey your clients…You need to find out the good, the bad and the ugly about your operation…Start your phone call by thanking them and then ask if they have a couple minutes to talk with you…If they say no, just move on…

There are tons of posts by talented folks on this board…Spend some of your free time reading back over the years and you will get lots of ideas…

Good luck…


I’ll be blunt (as usual) - but from the way you word your posts, it looks like you are wanting us to bash your parnter - while you are not really answering some of the most important questions that are being asked.

Let’s have a base from which to work - tell us why $1500/wk is not enough. Tell us about your (and your partners) business plan - what were the projected numbers there? How much $ did the business plan include for sales, advertising, fixed costs, etc. How do those numbers compare to your actuals?

For me, nothing else really matters at this point.

Royce, thanks for the reply. I am going to start today with the calls. That is great idea. And you are right about the economy, although maybe a small small percentage could be the reason, I don’t believe its one of the main reasons.

R.G., again, thanks for the reply. But I would gain nothing from wanting you guys to bash my partner. That was never the intent here. Intentionally, I wanted to hear some of your success stories, failure stories of how everyone first started out so I can compare and not feel alone here. I wanted to print it out to show my partner some of the posts from established places that have been through the same thing we are going through now.

Our business plan that included our projected sales for starting out were 3k/week. Not that thats breaking even, but its a good start. He never included a advertising budget because, like I said, his whole theory was build it and they will come. But we had no idea construction was going to start right when we opened and last this long.

1500 will not cut it because: labor is around 1k/week, food cost/paper goods is about 30-35%, 2200/mo rent, 150/mo for cable/phone/internet, approx 400/mo electric, 150-250/mo gas, and for some reason I drew a blank and just got and order for 10 large pizzas, so Ill be back later!

Thanks again guys.

He’s definitely a fool. Like Kris pointed out above, why does McDonald’s still bother to advertise? Everybody knows who the are already! Oh, maybe everybody knows who they are because they are a marketing machine.

He’s a numbers guy, so make him see the numbers…

You said you’re seeing about a 3-5% return on your postcards. That’s not great considering you’re brand new, but it certainly isn’t bad! Calculate what your profit was on those cards that came back. Divide that by the cost of sending them and arrive at your ROI. If you’re getting a positive ROI, it makes no sense to not do more of it. I know you’re getting a positive ROI on those cards… If I get 5% return on a saturation mailer my ROI is usually over 200%.

Bring it to your partner and say “We’re getting a 200% return on investment (or whatever it is) on this… we need to do more of it.” If he’s truly a numbers guy he should jump on it. If he still doesn’t see the light, I’m sorry, but your situation is hopeless. You’ll never be able to convince him that you need to advertise and it’s time for you to walk away.

The thing is, I think you have all of the power. You said the investment was substantial and it was all his. How would he like to lose everything he put in? Tell him he either starts funding advertising or you’re walking away. Forget about your dream of owning a pizza place; you’ll find another opportunity. Your leaving is going to send him into a panic, because he doesn’t have the money coming in to pay somebody else and it doesn’t sound like he wants to do it himself.

Based on the numbers you posted, he must be pumping massive amounts of cash into this thing to keep it afloat. At $1,500/wk and not advertising to grow, it’s only a matter of time. This place isn’t going to make it, and if he won’t change his ways I don’t see why you should keep doing this to yourself.

How are you spending $1,000/wk on labor for $1,500/wk in sales? During our slower months we spend about $1,700/wk in labor (not including management) on over $10,000/wk in sales.

BTW, are you in the Chicago area? I’m kind of guessing based on the reference to Jewel and Dominick’s.

The bottom line for new businesses (as well as existing ones) is market effectively or die. Blunt and to the point. You are the operations guy who needs to develop and pitch a marketing PLAN to the partner. It needs to be a three month plan with a range of activities directed at introducing your business and identity into the marketplace as often and in as many ways as you can imagine and afford. You should include as many elements of the community and as many ranges of types of marketing as you can. There will be cheap ideas, time intensive ideas, and some money expenditures. Find apartment complexes, college campuses, business parks, large commercial complexes, factory/assembly places, schools, anywhere that people congregate in groups.

If you cannot sell your partner on a marketing plan that you can both live with, then you will not have done YOUR job in the partnership, which is to develop ideas for growth and vitality of the business and work with the partner to implement what you both can agree on. Sell your plan!

Build it and they will come. THEY means the bill collectors, tax collectors, government agencies and loan agents.

Market and they will come. THEY here means curious potential customers.[/u]

Steve, forget my question about if you’re in the Chicago area. I think I figured out where you are based on your posts. You have a very large corporate headquarters only three miles from you… I’d be down there every day with free pizzas and menus.

In that area, you have tons of business parks and offices within 3 miles. Drive some free pizzas out with menus each morning. Your partner doesn’t even have to know… Not only does that pick up your lunch business, but it gets your name out for dinner as well.

You’re in a very competitive area for pizza. I’m guessing most people on this board don’t even realize just how competitive the Chicagoland area is for pizza. There’s pretty much a pizza place on every corner in most parts of suburban Chicago. There’s no way you’ll make it in that market without advertising.

Yahoo’s yellow pages returns sixty pizza listings within 5 miles of your address. SIXTY. And that’s a city of 75k people. How can you cut through that noise without marketing? Heck, I think you have a huge uphill battle even with unlimited funds for marketing.

Thanks again for all the insightful and helpful posts guys. Its an honor to have read some of your replies.

Piper post 1, my labor is about a grand a week because I have a main pizza maker that puts in 75 hrs/week (salary, no overtime) and our phone girls: 1 during the morning for 3 hours and 1 at night for 3 hours. I also do the deliveries so if need be, I can count on my two people to handle it. My cook cannot answer phones (no speaka English), and vice versa, my phone girls can’t make pizzas. After 7 pm, I’m by myself, which sometimes even with an extra order or two it can get hairy. Especially if I’m wrist deep in sausage and the phone rings. But anyways, that’s not the point.

Nick, I really like your post. Especially the build it part… I got a real good kick out of that, its sad but its true. I will start a marketing plan and present it to him when its complete.

Piper post 2, just out of curiosity how did you get my address? Yes, I am in the northwest suburbs of Chicago, and there are tons of pizza places out here. But none of them are really that close to us. None of them have the residential areas or the exposure that we do. But all of them advertise lol. And truthfully, I am NEVER one to knock the competition (I believe that’s bad biz ethics and I cannot stand if someone else uses that method to try to win my business), but I do believe we offer a better tasting and better quality product with very comparable prices. Not saying any of their pizza is bad, just a little notation.

Piper’s a smart cannoli. He guessed the town, figured where they were nearby each other . . . and looked for a 3-mile construction project near them. Triangulation and inductive reasoning. Or he made a good guess.

See? They think pizza guys ain’t smart :slight_smile:

Mmmmm… cannoli…

When you said Dominick’s it pretty much gave away the general area (I’m from Chicago.) Throw in some other places that you said you’re near (really just one) and it’s pretty easy to figure out :slight_smile:

I didn’t post about the abundance of pizza places to imply it’s impossible… just that I think it’s impossible without marketing. If you can’t convince your partner of that, I honestly think you should walk.

You’re in a developed, mature area. People have already chosen their pizza place and have probably been ordering for years. I just don’t understand your partner’s “build it and they will come” mentality in that market. It could work if you opened in a brand new area and you’re one of the first pizza places there, but I don’t know how you can break into that market without significant advertising.

I’m frustrated for you. I think you have an awesome location and great demographics. You’ve shown you can pull a response with postcards. Why does he not want to do more of that?

I am not asking the amount, but who incurred the debt or made the investment. In other words, can you walk away or are you saddled with some financial exposure. The reason I ask is that it seems this guy put up the money and you are supplying the labor. You need to have a clear partnership agreement defining the responsibilities and authorities. Right now, you are in a doomed relationship and will eventually wear yourself out.

So what are the financial arrangements (not the amounts)? That will determine your course of action. You must KNOW this is an untenable situation.

You need to “decide who decides” or move on. The expenditures so far are “sunk costs” and should not factor into your decision. Look at TODAY and the FUTURE. The past is the past. Just because money was spent foolishly in the past is irrelevant.

Look at it from the point of view of someone entering into this business for the first time. What is the debt situation? What is the equity arrangement? What is the current operating health? What are realistic future projections? Who has operational authority and responsibility? What decisions must be shared?

Then ask yourself: “Considering the above, would I join this business?”

HECK!! Send a rolling campaign of postcards and doorhangers.

Week 1 postcards to area 1
Week 2 doorhangers in area 1 postcards to area 2
Week 3 doorhangers in area 2 postcards to area 3
Week 4 doorhangers in area 3 postcards to area 4
Week 5 doorhangers in area 4 postcards in area 1
Week 6 doorhangers in area 1 postcards to area 2
Week 7 doorhangers in area 2 postcards to area 3
Week 8 doorhangers in area 3 postcards to area 4
Week 9 Doorhangers in area 4

You two consecutive weeks of print assets hitting each customer, then 2 weeks off, then 2 more weeks. I find the life expectancy of a print marketing item is maybe 3 weeks. So, you get some overlap. You can drop to three key areas, and get more frequent hits in a shorter roll period. You decide the size and number of pieces used in a given “area”. All the while, you are pitching your business to HR personnel, Receptionists, newspapers and church secretaries in the area.

I gotta say, I read your post more than a couple times… those are some real good eye openers. We never had anything between the two of us ON PAPER. That was a mistake. We had talked a few times about writing down some mutual agreements, just actually never got around to it cause I guess we just figured verbal was good enought. But its not too late hopefully. Points well taken. The past is the past, and you’re right… Look at TODAY and the FUTURE.

As far as the financial backing side of it, it is all his (except sometimes I pay for things out of my pocket and forget to turn in the receipts so that counts right? lol)… But yes, 99% sweat equity for me including the whole menu, ideas/concepts, hiring, training, pricing, name of the business, inventory, and literally everything that goes on inside except pay the state and the IRS.

But after re-reading this whole thread, maybe you guys got the wrong idea. I did not come on here to bash my partner, or expect any of you to say anything closely related to that thought. There is no real beef between the two of us at all except his lacking of desire to advertise, his lack of involvement as far as marketing (although he did personally stamp the 2500 individually), and his cry-the-blues stories that really do wear me down. If you read my first post, its mostly wondering if any of you guys were slow when you opened the doors the very first time. I want him to understand the importance of advertising and how extremely crucial it is to a pizza business. He has always said he does not expect much at all for the first couple years, but right now, I wonder if theres any truth behind that. It seems to me he really expected to rock the world off the get go and now reality is setting in and I need to teach him that we clearly NEED to advertise.

Thanks again for all the posts guys.


I am not sure if you have read the story of the hot dog vender but it is worth looking at again.

The Man Who Sold Hot Dogs
There was a man who lived by the side of the road and sold hot dogs. He was hard of hearing so he had no radio. He had trouble with his eyes so he read no newspapers. But he sold good hot dogs. He put up signs on the highway telling how good they were. He stood on the side of the road and cried; “buy a hot dog, mister? And people bought. He increased his meat and bun orders. He bought a bigger stove to take care of his trade. He finally got his son home from college to help him out. But then something happened. His son said, “Father, haven’t you been listening to the radio? Haven’t you been reading the newspapers? There’s a big depression. The European situation is terrible. The domestic situation is worse.” Where upon the father thought, “well, my son’s been to college, he reads the papers and he listens to the radio, and he ought to know.” So the father cut down on his meat and bun orders, took down his advertising signs, and no longer bothered to stand out on the highway to sell his hot dogs. And his hot dog sales fell almost overnight. “You’re right, son” the father said to the boy. “We certainly are in the middle of a great depression.”

I know this story has been posted a few times but the message still rings true. You MUST advertise. Yes word of mouth is the best advertising a place can get but, you can not controll when and if it will happen. With a planned marketing program such as Nick has suggested you will get more word of mouth advertising because it will get you more mouths to advertise for you.

Now for the other side of the coin. There is a train of thought the I tend to lean toward when I can. Public Relations vs Advertising. I have found that my participation in Fire Prevention Week ( see the thread on Fire Prevention Week for details) has been by far the most effective expenditure I have made. I have also teamed up with a new school in my area to help fundraise for their new playground equipment. This type of venture gets my store noticed by the participants as well as the local media. This type of coverage is not only cheaper than standard advertising but place you as a part of the community that you are serving.

In short you must have a way to be in the eyes of you potential customers. Whether your choose to do post cards and door hangers or support local causes you need to be a household name that people will remember when it comes time to buy pizza.

I know that every place is different but what I experienced during my first year seems to be fairly common. I was extremely busy in the first few months. I was new and business was gangbusters. Then after the third month, I saw a significant slowdown. For a new owner, it was scary. After two months of dipping sales, things leveled off. About my 8th month, I started seeing an increase; not as much as the first months, but it steadily got better to finish year one. My take-away is this… the first few months were artificially high due to “newness” and curiosity. After the dust settled, reality set in and I was forced to give more attention to marketing… or die. I think this is this the moment of truth where many restaurants aren’t able to overcome. That’s why 2 out of 3 restaurants fail in the first year.

My belief is that (unless you’re a truck stop or a vendor in an amusement park) you must have a good base of loyal regulars. These are the people that will buy from you no matter what. Once they’re regulars, they generally don’t rely upon advertising, although a loyalty program is a very good idea. That said, your advertising is really to get people in and then your food and service will convert them to regulars. If they don’t convert to regulars, then they’re discount shoppers and will go to whomever has the best specials. You need those type of customers too, but I’d trade 5 of them for one good regular :lol: