Unique situation-selling pizza without the store?

Hi everyone, I would like to start a business selling pizzas in Chicago. I love making pizzas and have been experimenting with unusual and exotic toppings, dough mixtures, and sauces for several years now. Unfortunately my research into the pizza industry shows an estimated start up cost of 10-20k in equipment (extreme conservative estimate on non-new equipment. I have looked into equipment leasing but I don’t know…) Rent can easily be 1,500.00-2,000 a month (for a hole in the wall no seating) and then of course there is the food supplies needed to start and the estimated opperating costs for at least 6 months of seeing no profit A.K.A “float cost”.

When all this is considered I simply cannot afford to launch a pizza business myself. And a loan for the amount I would need just isn’t going to happen for me especially in this economy and I don’t own a home (rent) so my collateral comes no where close to making me a good prospect for a bank lender.

I have however found a “rent a kitchen” that rents a commercial kitchen 24hrs a day 7 days a week, and is food inspected and licenses. So I could theoretically make pizza in this kitchen legally with out the store location (I already went to class for the food safety license). The problem that then arises obviously is, how do you sell the pizza to the masses with no store location? Naturally I researched selling pizzas online, selling pizzas from pizza carts or some kind of vending booth (which doesn’t seem to really be a viable idea, I don’t think Chicago allows food carts anywhere downtown, its more a NYC thing. At least I have never seen one.) Anyway back to my question: Can anyone think of a way I can make pizzas and sell them with out a store? Like ready made pizzas in a box to sell through local stores or something? Is there anything anyone can think of that would actually work?

Selling your pizzas through stores isn’t going to work either as there are just too many hoops to jump through, but, depending upon where you are in Chicago, you can get a permit to sell at local markets. Chicago has a number of super flea markets where you can sell food items from, and this might be an option to further explore. Check with your local SBA to see if they have any experience with others doing this same type of thing. If so, they might be able to give you some valuable insight. Keep in mind that you will need to be licensed in the community where you will be selling your food. I’m thinking that selling whole, smaller size pizzas as well as slices could be viable. There is an on-line listing of Chicago land flea markets. I don’t remember what the web site is, but it shouldn’t take too long to explore Google to find it. There is a large flea market in Alsip (south side, close to 127th and Cicero Ave. and I think there is another large one up around Melrose Park too. Once you go to one, you can get a listing of the others as they are usually promoting all of the flea markets from each location.
By the way, yes, I’m from Chicago, I’m a sough sider (Tinley Park).
Good Luck,
Tom Lehmann/The Dough Doctor

Making things “work” and making the venture “profitable” might be two different things…

A delivery only scenario…

Get a virtual PBX & have the tele # forwarded to a bank of cell phones…

Get P.O.Success & a couple of networked laptops & a printer (credit card solution may be required - mobile/cell?)

Do you have the walk-in space? Dough/cheese? Prep/Slap/Cut table…

Logistically, it might work, but profitability?

Thanks Tom and patriot, for your answers both are helpful and things I did not think of. I can’t believe I did not look into flee markets in Chicago I guess I just assumed there were none as I never saw one, and have been living in Chicago area my whole life (28yrs old). So gee I feel kind of stupid he. I had looked into the flee market in st.charles a suburb of Chicago but not Chicago itself.

I thought about the 2nd idea too just delivery only from the kitchen itself but the whole “how would I do it” discouraged me. So that info on setting up that stuff could help if I decide to go that route. A combination of doing flee markets to get some exposure and then delivery when the markets are not open could maybe get me at least out there learning the business, although I highly doubt id quit my day job to pursue this, im sure what ever money I make delivering will be just enough to buy the gas and cover the time involved. But the flee markets could be a little side cash and good experience. Only problem is I make more gourmets style pizzas that take a lot of time, and generally run more expensive to make than your basic crust, with vendor sauce, and common toppings. Am almost positive pizzas like that would not go over well in a flee market setting where people don’t expect high quality and higher price, nor would they want it even if I matched normal prices. But to get some experience I guess I could slum a little making cheap pizza, although the thought of making run of the mill food cringes my stomach… sacrifices must be made he he.

If anyone can think of a way to sell gourmet style pizzas with out some sort of store that’s where I am trying to place myself. Does anyone know about shipping food? I hear dry ice is the standard for perishables but its weight and effectiveness are severally limiting to profitability, are there other methods for online sales?

I would think selling pies online would be tough as that revenue stream usually follows a successful store front.

I’ve toyed with the idea of doing a store out of a commercial/industrial building location. You would have very cheap rent and plenty of space. You could service the workers in the area for lunch but you would have to advertise the hell out of the place to get a night business. The thought is the local work force could cover your costs during the work week and whatever your advertising brings in at night is where the money is made.

Figure the rent will be cheaper than renting a kitchen.


I’m in a similar situation but have some startup costs to do the barebone minimum storefront. I mean barebone. Even then if the hood is a problem I may forgo the plans.

I’m almost certain that you are not allowed to cator out of your home address. Call up the city and ask if you are allowed to do this and I’m pretty sure they will say no.

Its not out of a home address its out of a rental kitchen. The Law prohibits food to be prepared in a home kitchen or a kitchen in an area which is also used as a residence. Other than that as long as you prepare the food in a kitchen that has been certified safe by a food inspector, anything you cook there is ok to sell.

In fact caterers are the bread and butter of a rental kitchen

Then I would do delivery’s. Advertise and then deliver. That still takes a bit of startup capital of course. They won’t know the difference. Actually I spent years ordering from my favorite pizza place that I never even set foot in.

I thought a rental kitchen charged 25 an hour? So for only 4 hours a day 5 days a week thats still 2K a month.

Yea i would not be able to operate out of a rental kitchen as a substitue for owning a store front thats for sure. But i was hoping someone had some experience with selling pizzas through local markets or online or any other way that would allow me to rent the kitchen pre-make the pizzas, package and then distribute. I am pretty sure there is no real way to do this or many people would be doing it already.