Canadian Pizza Magazine

Features Business and Operations Marketing
Customers and coronaries


We’ve got a couple great articles in this issue that address the sauce and cheese of the pizza business: your customers. They’re as good at paying your bills as they are at inducing heart palpitations. I’ve often heard that you can tell a lot about a person’s character by how they act on a golf course, where the game mandates a degree of integrity and etiquette. I’d argue you can tell even more about a person from how they behave when they’re ordering food. Hunger can bring out the worst kinds of impatience. I’ve found that for some, being served by others can cause them to impersonate a petulant child offering up their ego in exchange for a meal. These characters, who are not the majority of customers, but still a painful minority, make us all the more grateful for the good ones.

We’ve got a couple great articles in this issue that address the sauce
and cheese of the pizza business: your customers. They’re as good at
paying your bills as they are at inducing heart palpitations. I’ve
often heard that you can tell a lot about a person’s character by how
they act on a golf course, where the game mandates a degree of
integrity and etiquette. I’d argue you can tell even more about a
person from how they behave when they’re ordering food. Hunger can
bring out the worst kinds of impatience. I’ve found that for some,
being served by others can cause them to impersonate a petulant child
offering up their ego in exchange for a meal. These characters, who are
not the majority of customers, but still a painful minority, make us
all the more grateful for the good ones.

I have worked at several restaurants as a server and in the kitchen.
Diana Coutu’s stories of the customers she’s had to “fire” because they
were more hassle than their dollar was worth, reminded me of a few of
my ‘favourite’ migraine inducers. There was the lady at a private golf
club who read me the riot act for serving her a cup of tea without the
saucer (just what I needed in my twelfth hour). I really liked the guys
who dined and dashed off a patio in Ottawa’s Byward Market after
swilling $80 worth of beer. I actually saw the tail end of their mad
dash and debated taking my childhood track career to the streets.

I also had just plain favourites. I often found these in the regulars
that got to know you a little bit and who always ordered the same
thing. Pizza, it seems, is particularly prone to this repetition with
the menu. I would see certain customers coming and throw his or her
slice in the oven before they walked in the door. They always seemed
surprised and appreciative to receive that little bit of extra speed
and attention in their service, although I failed to see the surprise
aspect as they were as consistent at ordering the same thing as the
grass is green.

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 Pizza delivery in the “30 minutes or it’s free” days had its
challenges. Customers were commonly standing with their doors open,
staring at their watch as you pull in the driveway, and they’d insist
their clock was right. You really had to be there in 25 minutes to
avoid a debate about what the official time was with some of them. Cell
phones weren’t common then so it was always a matter of the accuracy of
your watch. I’m pretty sure they’re the same folks that turned their
outside lights off at night so I could hardly see their house numbers.

Sometimes the customer was right—they waited too long, the pizza was
cold, burnt, devoid of cheese, not what they ordered, etc. The
understanding ones are your best customers. They realize error is human
and are happy with whatever is done to remedy the situation. They call
you again next week faithfully knowing most of the time their order’s
done to perfection. They keep you going when the last voice on the
phone made you want to go outside and kick the tires of your car
repeatedly.

It’s been a tough year economy wise and the landscape is competitive.
What better time to think about how well you’re taking care of your
best customers (and see the humour in some of your worst).