There's Gotta be away to turn this business around...

Need advice beyond belief. Getting desperate. A few years ago, both my parents got sick and needless tosay. long story short, business got put on the back burner. Was digging out well till the gas prices went up and people weren’t spending. I live in a small town with about 8.000 people, 5 pizza shops, a subway, mcdees, two restaurants, 4 bars, competition from neighboring towns with a pizza/deli/market, and a fox’s and another small restaurant (open mostly breakfast and lunch). There is also construction outside on the road into our place but that hasn’t seemed to affect too many people as we are in a strip mall with a dr.s office. I’ve exhausted all the loan possibilities, I’m back on the rent, some to the IRS, and credit card debt. Looking for cheap suggestions to get people in here. Expanded menu to incude “real food” as we have a much older population that doesn’t really go for pizza all the time. Also opened up an extra room with a tuscany feel for people to meet, got free press for that one. That is pulling in some different people than usual. Planning buffets with themes, (mexican first, chinese for the olympics, german for october). Using other shops coupons, which most people think I’m kidding, and I’m just perplexed as to how to get out of this jam. handing out menus to the surrounding houses when we deliver which has been down. I’ve noticed with the gas situation, more people are dropping in than pre ordering or delivery. Waiting for answers and advice. I’d prefer not to go belly up.

As a small town operator myself, I can appreciate your position.

Bottom line, my biggest competitor right now IMHO is not another pizza joint but the gas pump. People are tense, money is tight, and to many, even pizza is a luxury that just isn’t very affordable. Many small town dwellers commute, which means they’re even more affected by gas prices. (Yes, it’s true that they should be more likely to shop locally with higher commuting costs, but only if they have anything left after filling the tank.)

This year has produced the ugliest numbers I’ve ever seen (at least since the first few years, when the business was small and growing slowly). I think I can trace the biggest drop with the sharp rise in gasoline prices. Unfortunately, I think they’re going to stay up for a while. (Lots of debate on that one.)

My first thought regarding your situation is to stop throwing money around if you don’t have it. (The foolish farmer wastes his seed if he sows it in the middle of a drought. Without rain, it will not produce.) I can’t put money in a person’s pocket. I may be able to entice him a bit with some marketing, but ultimately he must be convinced that what I offer is worth more than the other items (not just food) which compete for his hard earned dollar.

Take a good hard look at your business and customer base and figure out how to grow them. (Why do they come back? Do they tell their friends? What is unique about your product?) Was the business ever really successful? Why?

In a small community, there are no quick turn arounds because the folks tend to be a bit more sophisticated than big city types. They can smell a phony a mile away, and they’ll typically solicit or wait for personal referrals before giving a new (or not so new) place a try.

The different cuisines may work against you in that they might confuse the customer regarding your product, and they may draw away from the main event. (A local competitor, who at one time had the entire county to himself before I joined the fray, eventually expanded his menu to include all type of fare, including seafood, steak, burgers, etc… Bottom line was that his pizza didn’t really have the appeal which we all strive for, and once a better pizza was available, his pizza sales alone could no longer sustain the business. I think it’s become a nightmare for them.) There is a fine (and not so fine) line between creative marketing and desperation. (They may be one and the same on our side of the issue, but the customer shouldn’t sense it.

There may be restaurants making big money right now, but none around my town. We’re all just keeping both hands on the wheel, running a tight ship, and hoping to ride out the storm (or lack of wind, whichever you prefer).

These are the times which test our strength (or staying power). But you’ve also got to know when to cut your losses and move on.

Best Wishes,

Hi There,
Welcome to the message board, sorry to here you are in trouble and need help.
The best info you can get here is in the 3rd Sticky from the top. It contains a lot of great info and it is indexed to make it easy to find answers.
Another thing I would recommend is to talk to your customers and see what their opinion is of your food. Put a suggestion box in and see what shows up most often that could be useful.

it is very stressful to go through what you are going through right now, and i know that your mind is racing, trying to figure out what to do. i agree with pizzachop about what you are trying to do with your menu. it may not only confuse your customer, but adds to your stress in a couple of ways. first, it makes you and your staff have to know, and prepare more food. this can slow the kitchen down while running a pizza based menu only runs quicker and smoother, and customers get their food quicker and are happier. second, carrying a larger diverse menu requires you to have a greater inventory of products. this increases the chances of things going bad and ultimately costs you more money. you are spending more money on inventory at a time when you need every dollar that you can get.

on to some other ideas that may help. try contacting a local radio station and or tv station and barter for advertising if they will. usually there should be one or more that is willing to do this. offer give aways in addition to any trade.

if there are blood drives or fund raisers going on in your community, get involved with them. give a small pizza to anyone who gives blood. this builds good will, and gets people in your shop.

good luck, i hope you pull out of it!