New Pizza Cutter?

February 4, 2009

I found this on Slice today

I have seen a lot of pizza cutters out theree, but this one takes the cake fro being the mosst interesting.

I can only guess it is a pain to keep clean though.

Got Lasagna?

January 29, 2009

This came to me in my email in box this morning from a Nation’s Restaurant News email.  They do a good job of sorting the wheat from the chaff and finding good pizza related stories.  You might want to check it out.

Today’s post is about Lasagna.  It looks like Pizza Hut is rolling it out in some markets.  Lasagna is something I have experimented with for years.  It is much easier to make than it seems and can be done easily with your existing equipment.

image courtesy of nrn.com

image courtesy of nrn.com

I tried with frozen products, refrigerated uncooked ones, microwave-ables, and none of them were good enough to put on my menu.  My problem was that I didn’t have a stove to cook the pasta on.  Little did I realize that you can make an incredible lasagna without boiling the pasta first.  Try it yourself.

With the possible addition of a bit of ricotta or cottage cheese, you can have a great new family dinner alternative.  Lasagna for 4 is a solution for a busy family, and easy to prepare ahead during non-peak times (you should be making a day ahead anyway).

I will post some pizza oven lasagna recipes in a bit, but I just wanted to get this (fully spellchecked and proof read) post out in a timely manner.

ps, anyone else out there make lasagna in a pizza oven?  Leave me a comment and let me know how you do it.

Where’s my Pepperoni?

January 28, 2009

I have singled out articles from The Onion before, but those have all been entertaining satire.  Well, today they actually came out with an article that is all too true in the pizza biz.  You can read the original here:

Chipotle Employee Just Gave Guy In Front Of You More Rice

I am a strong believer in portion control.  I haven’t always been as ‘mercenary’ as I am today, but back then I didn’t own 5 stores either.  The above article pokes fun at portion control, but the reality is that if an attractive person, regular, PITA, or any of these customers comes in, you are probably making an unconscious opinion of them, and that is going right to your hands affecting the volume of toppings you put on.

If it is a regular, you might feel food about throwing on a bit more cheese, as a special service.  The ‘regular’ bonus sop to speak.  The hook here is that you might not be making that pizza next time, and your staff, acting normally, will probably go with a ‘normal portion’, giving that regular customer a feeling of being shorted.

Now of course the customer probably isn’t watching you as close as they can at a Chipotle, but they do notice changes from pizza to pizza.  Pepperoni edge to edge, enough sausage in every bite.  Even a small change, or improper placement (all in the center for example), has a big impact.

Read The Onion article and think of a time that happened to you, can you afford not to make portion control a habit?

Is The Competition Kicking Your Ass?

January 27, 2009

The title says it all.  You know if it is the case.  Do they have 8 cars with lit car toppers in the parking lot?  Do you see their marketing materials all over town?  Do people mention their specials or coupons when they call your place?  Is their dining room full every time you drive by (Don’t tell me you don’t)?  There are tons of signs, and if you are perceptive they will jump out at you.

Today’s blog post was prompted by a blog post on the futurenow blog.  It is a pretty good read, and i recommend it for your RSS.  The title is:

5 Reasons Competitors May Be Doing Better Than You

(Click the title for the original post)

I will paraphrase it here with my own  commentary on what this means to Pizza 2.0.

They have great operations –

Domino’s started it.  They reduced the making time to the extent that it was really nothing compared to the time it took to deliver.  30 Second large pepperoni, 1 minute load times, HTA.  They really took operations training to a higher level, and that got them off the ground.  What can you do to raise the benchmark in your store today?

They do a better job at generating word of mouth –

Gob read the original for this one, it is great.  In terms of Pizza 2.0, it is obvious.  If people are talking about your pizza, they are buying it, and getting others to buy it as well.  Buss is contagious.  Donate a few pies here and there, get out and deliver some certificates for free pizza to local businesses.  Catchy phrases like, “Today there is FREE lunch” always help to catch the eye.

Car wraps, scooter deliveries, fashion conscious uniforms, window posters, and well lit car signs will do this as well.  Get your name out there, get a poster shaking giant pizza slice standing on the corner.  Your customers will notice.

They deliver as good of a product/service in a more customer friendly way –

You have eaten the local pizza pit, and it tasted like it looked, nasty.  Why in the hell are they selling pizzas by the truckload then?  The delivery guy always smiles.  The phone operators smile while they talk.  They hustle to the door, and never complain about tips.

A happy staff will trump a decent product any day.  Just think about how your customers will view your store after a driver rolls his eyes at them for only leaving a 50 cent tip.  The chances are that they are pinching pennies just to order from y our shop in the first place, the last thing the need is to be though of as cheap (and even if they are total tight wads, they don’t want to be told that).

If you have a customer who only orders a medium cheese every time he orders, then be happy to take that order.  Some day they might graduate from school, get a promotion, or even win the lottery, and when they do they will remember the pizza shop that delivered the cheapest pizza on the menu with a smile.  The flip side is that they will also never patronize the pizza that ridiculed them with their eyes and voices every time they ordered the cheapest pizza on the menu that just happened to be more than they could afford.

They do a better job at being found when people need them –

If you have a marginal location then think about relocating.  You can do it fairly cheaply now, and with falling rent prices, it is a renter’s market.  I have a whole post on that topic almost ready to go, so look forward to it.

The bottom line, is if they can’t find you, they won’t order.  Although very important for location, Location, LOCATION, it is also becoming important for the internet.  If I can’t google your pizza shop for your number I am not going to call 411.  If you are ignoring the internet today, then you are giving someone else a percentage of your sales.

They developed a culture that continuously optimizes the customer experience –

The reality of Pizza 2.0 is that your customers are your customers for life.  The long term ROI is what we need to look at.  Forget the sales pump on Friday night from putting out a few hundred fliers.  All of your marketing and training should be geared toward long term customer retention.

Lazy mailers, d-mail, e-mail, and SMS are key tools of Pizza 2.0.  With electronic delivery of marketing materials available, marketers are quickly learning that repeated customer contact generates more and more business.  The old metric of 3 customer impressions in 10 days is just the minimum now.  You need to entertain them – not just at the Super Bowl, you need to educate them – Pizza has lycopene, you need to fulfill their needs – Your family will be satisfied with the economically priced family dinner combo.

As the OP concluded his post, I ask as well:  How can you leverage these strategies to drive your own growth?

Domino’s Taking on Subway?

January 24, 2009

Hey readers.  I haven’t even heard of the new Domino’s subs, but it appears I have had my head in the sand.  An interesting interview on the Wall St. Network gives some insight into the new products on the Domino’s menu.  I really liked the old subs that were available at some Domino’s franchise locations in the Midwest.  They are long gone, and the pizza has dropped a bit in my eyes, the last one I are had a weird crust taste actually, but these new ones look good.

There is an article today in a KC blog that tipped me off to the new subs and some of the controversy they are generating from their Subway taste tests.  I do wonder if Subway actually sent a letter.  Either way that response really reminded me of one by Tim Ferris of the 4 Hour Work Week fame in his blog post about How Not to Use a Lawyer.

Just out of curiosity, have any of you ever tried to burn something in a MM PS360 oven?  Paper doesn’t burn.  It gets sucked up to the top of the oven and turns black, kind of like coal, as there is no oxygen to ignite the flame, and on top of that, paper burns at over 400, so the oven isn’t nearly hot enough to get it started.

Has anyone tried them yet?  What did you think?

What I’m Reading

January 22, 2009

This is a new feature here that I have been thinking about. I do a significant amount of reading each week, and though my material might be of use to my readers.  I try to read something about pizza, and then split my reading between fiction and a good non-fiction book.  So, here you go, my first installment of “What I’m Reading”.

Wolfgang Puck Pizza, Pasta, and More! by Wolfgang Puck – This book has some great menu ideas.  If you are looking for something upscale, then go for it.  The book is only half about pizza though.

Pizza and Antipasti Cookbook (Easy Cooking) by Angela Rahaniotis – Although 14 years old, this little book is not a bad buy if you find it in the used section of your favorite book store.  The pizzas are very simplistic, each with only 2 toppings, but many of them do sound good, especially the oyster and mushroom one.

Changing the Channel: 12 Easy Ways to Make Millions for Your Business (Agora Series) by Michael Masterson and MaryEllen Tribby – This is an incredible book, I encourage any operator out there to buy a copy.  It does focus on internet and information product selling, but these are going to be the basics for the next generation of the pizza business, ie Pizza 2.0.  The in depth description of TV, Radio, d-mail, and print marketing should be mandatory reading for anyone who does any marketing at all (Just hope your competitors don’t read it first!).

Anathem – Neil Stephenson – My favorite author and writer of my favorite book: Snow Crash.  Totally out there with this book.  It has caught some flack for a ‘new vocabulary’, but even at the biblical size of 850 pages, it is a great read.

Speed. I am speed.

January 17, 2009

Something you might not know, I am the fastest pizza maker in Japan.  I entered the competition a few years back, placed first, and have held the title since.  How is your speed?

I gained that title by training, more training, and a lot more training.  It started over 20 years ago, when a supervisor came into the Domino’s I was working at and pulled out a stop watch, and the manager threw down a lage pepperoni in 30 seconds and I was hooked.  The 30 second large was my goal for a long time.

My first 30 second large looked like shit.  My dog would have wolfed it down, but any paying customers would have been unhappy with it.  Sauce on the edges, cheese so uneven it looked line the lunar surface, and pepperoni all over the make line, but it was a 30 second pepperoni.  I had broken the barrier.

My next challenge was to work on saucing.  I worked in a very busy campus store, and got the opportunity to work only sauce on Friday nights.  9 People on the make line, I heard a clap, and grabbed a screen because the next skin would be flying at me.  The manager slapped them out, tossed the skins, and clapped as a signal to slide.

Anyone else remember the old days of, “slide, slide, SLIDE!”  I had to catch the skin, throw it on a screen , giving it that last stretch and sauce it before the next pizza came flying at me.  Sadly, I haven’t seen days that busy in a long time, but you never forget those 300 pie hours.

So, how can you, in a shop that does a 20 pie hour on your busiest nights get faster?  Make it a priority.  We all know you have enough time to make that next pie, but why not work on speeding it up?  Can you shave a few seconds off shaping that dough ball?  How about 3 seconds off your sauce time?  Only one trip to the cheese bin?  Sooner than you think, with less work than you think, you will be twice as fast.  A pizza in the oven one minute faster is a pizza in your customer’s stomach 1  minute faster.  How important is a minute?

5 Ways you will fuck up your shop in 2009

January 9, 2009

I though about making a post on new year’s resolutions, but then got the idea from another blog to come up with a ‘prediction’ of your business fuck ups for the upcoming year.  It is actually based on my own experiences, so you probably aren’t immune either.

  1. Have your equipment break down. When was the last time you cleaned the fins if your coolers?  Not just the filters, but deep down in the fins as well?  All of the manuals tell you do do it regularly, and working with flour only makes them dirtier than usual.  Preventative maintenance.
  2. Focus marketing on brand names and not benefit to the customer. We all know what grande is, same goes for Stanislaus Saporito, but how about your customers?  Is reading “We use Grande!” going to be more effective than “When you are hungry, we will satisfy you”.  When you write advertising copy that focuses on things the customer isn’t really interesting, they tend to tune out.  Focusing on the benefits of your food to the customer, you throw the ball into their court, and create a need and at the same time a solution to that need.
  3. Sell shit nobody wants. The Hula Burger, The Dominator, New Coke, and the Edsel.  If you have 100 pizzas on the menu, you have 90 too many.  Stocking too many toppings becomes a health hazard if you aren’t moving the product, and the only make single serving cans of a few products.  You might love that re fried bean sauce, but if you have to fight a living carpet to get to it (I have seen it done, not in any shop I was related to, but I have seen it done), then you have all together too many products in your store.
  4. Lose your data. You upgrade your software with something incompatible.  You have a fire.  Lightning throws a surge through your power grid.  A customer drops 18 Oz of soda on your server.  Mice eat your machine.  How long will it take you to re-build that customer database?  How many regulars will be unhappy they have to go through the process again?  How much lost time and labor cost?  10,000 addresses x 30 seconds each x $7.50/hour…
  5. Don’t track your marketing. Because really, faith-based marketing is the way to go. By all means, don’t measure your d-mail returns or marketing expenses.  Sector Analysis?  What is that?  The Make-a-Wish foundation model is all the rage these days.

Bonus:

Play ‘at’ your business instead of playing for keeps. So you are breaking even, or have the positive cash flow to weather a few bad months.  Quit bitching about a poor economy, poor health, or poor mileage.  If you spent that time getting fliers out door to door, you would see results almost instantly.

Hide behind your perfectionism. Because if one pizza is off, the world will know it and no one will ever buy your food again. Unless you completed it from the dough ball to the box you shouldn’t show it to anyone or even consider making a penny off of it. A misplaced pepperoni might – just might! – wreck your entire year.

Cling to hope. As Tyler Durden says It’s only after we’ve lost everything, that we are free to do anything. Lately I feel like I walk around with a little voice in my skull chanting This sucks, it is all so screwed up, everything is so screwed up, what are we going to do. Hope is not a strategy.  Hope is a commodity.

Thanks Andy W. for the inspiration for this post!

Bacon Double Cheeseburger Anyone?

January 5, 2009

2 Of the top selling pizzas in my shop have bacon bits on them.  I remember back in the early 90s when Domino’s first added bacon bits.  Now they have become a staple topping in the pizza industry.

The first UDSA food recall of 2009 was realeased today and it is the possible Listeria contamination of bacon bits.  I was trying to figure out if there was another sector in the restaurant biz that used as much ‘Precooked Bacon Topping”, as the pizza industry, and nothing came to mind.

What does this mean for you?

Hopefully it will not generate as much unnecessary hype as Mad Cow or a generally localized Ecoli contamination, but if you are in the effected areas, California, Colorado, Florida, South Dakota, Texas and Wisconsin, you might want to prepare a simple response for any customer inquiries.

Something I Have Been Thinking About

January 3, 2009

If you don’t know Seth Godin, he has an impressive resume, and 11 best selling books.  Since his stint as the VP of marketing for Yahoo, he has really rested on his laurels though.  Moving into lesser and lesser niches while at the same time using his connections in the VC business to fund projects that in IMHO have no visible source of income.  Going from Yahoo to ning, and when another nonsense word wasn’t enough, he started adding vowels with Squidoo.com and then on to triiibes.com

That aside, his blog post today hit it right on the head for the pizza industry.  I will quote the first half here and add my commentary below.

If the local bank were offering a sale on dollar bills, ninety cents each, how many would you buy?

Most rational people would say, “I’ll take them all please.” Especially if you had thirty days to pay for them.

So, why, precisely, do you have an ad budget?

If your ads work, if you can measure them and they return more profit than they cost, why not keep buying them until they stop working?

And if they don’t work, why are you running them?

The time-tested response is that you’re not sure, that ads are risky, that you can’t tell. And for some sorts of products and some sorts of ads, you’ll get no argument from me.

I was in the PMQ online discussion the other day and this exact type of situation came up.  It was in regards to door hanging.  The bottom line here is that if you door hang and you get a profitable response then DO MORE OF IT!

If you come up with some excuse that “reality just doesn’t work that way” then you are copping out.  Either you have not measured your respose rates correctly, or you are living in la-la land throwing away money.