What am I doing with my life?!

Hi Guys/Gals

This will be a long post, I apologize.

My name is Preston, I’ve decided to quit my 7 year career in IT (working 9-5) and open a pizzeria. I have a unique opportunity that I’ve given a lot of thought to. I’m buying the name/concept/recipes to what I believe is some of the best NY style pizza I’ve ever had. The owner is from another city and is going to help teach the ins and outs of industry/shop, as well as help open my store for a few weeks. I know I’m looking at long hours and lots of work, and i’m fine with that. Basically my decision came down one simple question:

If I pass up this opportunity now, looking back when I’m old would I regret my decision?

I’m giving up the “Safety” of a 9-5 job and a career in order to pursue this dream, I’m determined not to fail. However, if I do fail, I’ll be ok with it. At least I tried!

This will be a small dine in- (35 Seats) with Delivery/Carry out. Pizza/Salad/Subs.

In 2 weeks I’m headed to the owners store for 10 days to train there, then he’ll be coming here to help me open mine.

I have a lease signed, move in date March 1st. first two months free. Dining room/Kitchen are already built out but are in need of severe cleaning and some cosmetic updates. Place was previously a burger joint. I’m in a strip mall next to two major streets with 37,000VPD and 18,000VPD. Roughly 300,000 people within 5 miles, Median Income $46,000.00 (above average for our city). Shop is roughly 1500SF, lease is roughly 2,200 a month.

Here is a quick video of the condition/place now.

Here’s the current layout as I drew it up and took some measurements. Warning, things are not to scale!!

Some things I’ve confident about:
POS - System - Point of success
Bakers pride Y602 or equivalent deck oven(s).
Hours - Monday - Sunday - 11AM to 9PM (Dine in). 11AM to 11PM (Delivery Friday/Sat)

Things I’ve not sure about:

  • Closing all day Monday.
  • Hobart mixer (Person helping says 20QT is what uses) Everyone else seems to use 60QT P-660s
  • Online ordering - Big Holler? I know it ties into Point of success
  • Get rid of the big bench and add booths instead?
  • Initial marketing thought is to Soft open for 1 month and then do 3,000 Door hangers to lots of apartments nearby, followed by rounds of 10,000 EDDM to households within my delivery area.

Things I have no clue:

  • Specific details of having delivery drivers ( IE, the pay structure/Paying for miles, etc)
  • How many employees to start with.
  • Phone system
  • Lots more…

I’ve been reading around here for almost everything I can think of, I’ve started a couple conversations with a few of you (thanks!).

Really appreciate all the great knowledge here and hope that one day I can be helpful to you all.

Thanks for reading!

How exciting, Preston! Best of luck to you and welcome to the Think Tank.

I spent 30+ years working in corporate. I was afraid to go it on my own my first 5 years, when it was possible to do so. I recently had lunch with an old friend and a successful entrepreneur. He nailed the flaw in my logic early on that prevented me from going out on my own. Tom said: “Dave you always thought that if you failed you would be at rock bottom. You were wrong. If you failed you would just be back in corporate, doing what you did before.”

Best wishes on your journey!

Definitely wouldn’t recommend the 20 Q Hobart for pizza dough unless your planning on doing very low volume sales. 60 Quart Hobart would be a better choice.

There are zillions of things to consider, but just a couple of really quick things: 1) You will likely need at least a 60 qt. mixer (and don’t even rule out an 80 qt. if you stumble onto one at the right price, and 2) Mixers are either single phase or 3-phase … make sure your electrical service is compatible with the mixer specs.

Oh yeah, one more quick thing … before removing that hood, check with your local fire inspectors to see if it will still be needed for your ovens, deep fryers, flattop, etc.

I love all that traffic going by, as well as the population. Make a good pie and they will beat a path to your door. There is no reason to start off with pricing that is too low because you think it is needed to get off the ground … price your product like it’s as good as you have described. And if it’s that good, they will gladly pay for the highest quality. It’s always tougher to raise prices at a later date. Good luck. Keep us informed on your progress.

If you’re buying a mixer. You may want to take a look at Spiral mixers or a VCM before purchasing a planetary mixer.

After using a spiral mixer, I will never use a planetary mixer to make dough ever again! (yes, they are that nice)
But, with a spiral mixer, you just limited that piece of equipment to dough only. Altough I do mix our dry-rubs in it, and it does a great job mixing my sausage without generating heat that melts the fat.

These are all great replies. Thanks! I will look into Spiral mixers/60Quarts.

The hood will stay in place, It’s mandatory for my ovens and deep fryer.

Does anyone have recommendations on Décor/layout from the video/picture?

I feel like people don’t like sitting on one large continuous bench with other people, but that could just be me!

If your only seating 35 people (That’s my maximum indoor seating too) You may want to keep that counter and not have big comfy booths that will make people hang out longer (not turning tables as fast)

With us being so small,. We concentrated on turning tables as fast as possible. That means we dumped any and all table service and went self-serv counter ordering only, our guests order and pay at the counter, then they pick up their own food too, We only have bussers cleaning tables, and refilling fountain drinks, on a typical weekend, this has us seeing labor costs under 15% and as low as or under 5% at times when we are really hustling.

I left the corporate world in 1999, I miss having my 7 weeks of paid vacation annually, & having time to go play, and purchase my “Toys”. But I also went into ownership under a “10 year plan”
At the end of the 10 years doing this, I will hopefully be able to sell, or just walk away with a nice chunk of change.

One phrase you will need to know is “Working capital” Have enough for at least 12 months to keep the business afloat without making a a single penny of profit.
This’ll probably be the toughest thing you’ll ever do, so be prepared.
And I sincerely wish you the best of luck.

The place looks pretty solid Preston. Two quick things I noticed was I didnt see a walk in cooler or an oven for pizza. Two big ticket must haves. Shes a double edge sword at times this business is, but I love every minute of being an owner. Keep us updated of your progress and great luck to ya.

Congratulations on your new career! I was born/raised in the NJ/NYC pizza world with my mother from Italy’s family. If you are going to make it an authentic set up the pies have to be made front and center and not behind a wall. The customer should be only inches to a few feet from the pizza maker. Back home that is a must part of the experience. I would take out the front wall and the side wall that faces the tables so all can see the pies being made. Those are some long hours of operation to be on site. Are you going to be making all the pies? I ask because I will soon be leaving my public school teaching gig which is running a commercial bakery/pizzeria that trains special education students with disabilities for entry level work and opening our own pizzeria. It will be a small shop with just my wife, me, and a person or 2 with disabilities to do clean up and simple prep tasks. By charging top dollar for our pies and labor costs low we will be able to be open 5 days a week for 5 hours a day. That will allow for a couple hours prior to opening for prep and an hour after closing for cleanup for an 8 hour day. We will do no advertising and let the word spread naturally. We have enough $ to survive a year with no profit and do not want a frantic scene going on (too old for that). We are almost 60 with no kids, very little debt, and are out to keep our simple lifestyle and continue my work training/employing people with disabilities. Don’t go cheap on price and have to make a ton of pies to get by. Make a world class NY pie from jump and people will come. I would go with the Hobart 60 quart mixers specific for pizza dough. Those bakers pride ovens are standards. I use a stack of 1960’s Blodgett 1000’s and prefer them over the newer ovens- even top/bottom browning, faster recovery, and no rotating pies. Much success! Walter

exciting fun times !!! go with 60 qt hobart USED a lot of good deals out there and they last forever, i use a standard phone with call waiting and it has gotten me through some very busy nights ,7 k, save money any where you can , to start, i would go: one waitperson, one counter, 2 cooks, driver, no dishwasher (cooks,driver), no buser (you,waitress),this is dinner shift, good for up to 1500.00,being over staffed is a great way not to make money imho , customers will respect you seeing you work hard, my kitchen is open to dining room, i like it that way, but many times customers have informed me of cooks scratching themselves , wiping sweat etc, sometimes i wish my kitchen was hidden !!! how about a window to get the best of both , a little privacy, a little openness ,

Thank you everyone.

I’ve gone back and forth many times with my hours and days of operation (it’s probably the thing I think about and worry about the most!). The person who’s helping me has a store that’s in a city 1/5 the size of mine (less competition though) and he’s open 11AM to 3PM Monday-Saturday (closed sundays) and is having total sales of $5,000 daily! … I’m not him, I expect more struggles on my part, but that is an amazing pace for such small hours.

I have two small children under the age of 3 that I absolutely adore and love spending time with. I’m not afraid of working long hours, I just want to have SOME time to spend with my family.

Anyone have thoughts on the following :

Option 1) Being open 7 days a week - and hiring a manager for Monday/Tuesday so I can be out of the office those days.

Option 2) be completely closed on Mondays. Have a shift manager or other employee Open/Close some days to alleviate the long hours.

Other options?

I would pick at least 1 day per week to be completely closed,

Maybe you’ll be lucky enough to get some employees with that “responsibility Gene” and be able to have some time away and them handling things for you.

I feel your pain on this one I have a 3 & 4 year old that I would definitely love to spend more time with as well. I work the shop with my husband we alternate days so one of us is home with the kids all the time we don’t do babysitters. I think your hours would most likely depend on your area and how much competition you have and how much $$$ you would be losing not being open or maybe even repeat customers. I believe that a restaurant should be open 7 days but thats just my opinion. We have 2 guys that have a key to the shop that can open or close certain days of the week and I can leave early or come in a little later. We also moved close to the shop (3 miles away) so that we can get to and from work quickly. I can go home during down time and take a break. We have a camera system so I can watch from home as well and get back to work when things start getting busy. You could schedule your most responsible employee to work in your place once a week on a day that isnt too crazy so you can have a day off it just takes time to find the right people.

$30,000 weeks while only open 24 hours a week? That’s quite extraordinary in the pizza business. I consider it a good week when I hit that in sales in the 120 hours a week that I’m open.

As far as closing for a day, I wouldn’t recommend it. Plenty of restaurants do it successfully but I can’t accept the idea of my customers being forced to order elsewhere if they want pizza and I’m not open. But with that said, If you’re really needing that family time, that might be the only way to insure it. While I think it’s very important to have shift managers and such, if you’re counting on them for a day off, you’re sure to be disappointed, especially when you’re first opening up.

Divorce yourself from the notion that you have to be in your restaurant every minute your are open… or even every day (or even every week!) Create solid systems and train your people well and the place will survive just fine without you while you spend time with your family.

No matter how you slice it, being closed costs you money. Very few 7 day operations with a history of being open have a day where they do less than 10% of weekly sales. Your general overhead (rent, insurance, phone, etc etc do not change, so those incremental sales are very profitable.

Count me among the votes for “would not think of being closed one day a week!”

Hi everyone. Just a quick update:

We’ve been open for 2 weeks now. We did zero advertising for a soft opening. Money is tight and sales are slow, but it was expected. Our busiest day had been roughly 1k and slowest right around 300.00

Have a full page new business intro going in the paper soon. Thinking of doing some radio advertising and having the local chamber of commerce host a grand opening.

It’s been a long journey but it’s nice to finally be open, even if things aren’t as busy as I’d hoped. We’re getting very positive reviews so that’s a good thing!



Any tips/suggestions?


Have you seen the book the “Secret Formulas of the Wizard of Ads”?..It has some good discussion about how to use radio and how it can be a waste of money,
You can Google it and find a pdf download…Not sure if it is supposed to be online free but it is…

Good luck…

The audio book is also free online. The whole series of Wizard of Ads is a worthwhile read.

We’ve tried radio advertising with little to no success in my area, Yet I saw the exact opposite in other areas of the country.
The problem in my area is that our choices are either classic rock, country, or public radio And outside of public radio, they all sound the same.
Most people here choose to listen to public radio, but advertising on public radio is not an easy option.
Newspaper; We’ve gotten exactly ZERO return on newspaper money spent.
What we do see a high return on is high school related printed matter such as coupon books that students sell.

Social Media was nice, but FB decided to milk money out of biz pages to get better reach.
My latest addition to grab attention was to use a bright, multicolored DMX controlled LED light array for my sign made by these guys http://www.beehoppyllc.com/
They are designed for lighting large tents, I have mine set on a random color pattern through a chepy DMX controller for now, but plan to run it through a PC to get the light patterns and intensities that I want,
It grabbed attention, it got people in the parking lot, and got us noticed.