In the Kitchen
From the Editor’s desk: January-February 2014
Fresh and in fashion
By Laura Aiken
Food is as much a trend player as fashion. We all wear clothes and we
all eat. We are all as much creatures of habit as we are creatures of
Food is as much a trend player as fashion. We all wear clothes and we all eat. We are all as much creatures of habit as we are creatures of novelty, and that’s where trends come in and cure us of all that bores us, be it staid restaurant experience or dull closet. For the first edition of 2014, Canadian Pizza magazine has compiled the reports of various trend experts to create one issue jam-packed full of ideas for refreshing the look, guest experience and flavours of your pizzeria’s menu. This is the runway report for your pizzeria.
Many of the expert predictions in food and hospitality focus on what the cutting edge establishments are doing. Consumers drive trends in the overall sense through adoption of niche diets, changes in ethical mentalities towards food, demographics and what they buy at the end of the day. Suppliers set trends based on what they think people will buy, and then consumers decide whether or not these trends have staying power. There is one overarching consumer-driven theme that is conspicuously threaded through all the ideas and that should remain at the heart of reaching today’s customer. That concept is simply to always keep your customer in mind. How can you communicate a guest experience tailored to the individual (keeping in mind the old adage “you can’t please everyone” rings ever so true)?
In many regards, pizza is the perfect vehicle for giving customers exactly what they want in a build-your-own-pizza kind of way. I have noticed that dine-in pizza restaurants tend to gravitate towards fixed recipes where the chef has taken considerable time and care in creating a balanced and creative pizza. Options to build your own seem limited, or if customization is an option it is not typically explicitly stated on the menu.
I have dined with people who have expressed a wish for that feature to be a part of the experience. Perhaps there is room to use the menu as a vehicle for not just where ingredients come from, but also why they are served the way they are. There is always a balancing act in showing your guests the talents of the kitchen and delivering exactly what they want.
Is where your pizzeria stands with regards to ingredient exceptions and substitutions communicated on your menu and by your staff? Perhaps you are more flexible than your patrons think, or vice versa. Either way, you have good reasons for your policies. Perhaps the kitchen wants to avoid opening the door to an onslaught of requests that would affect functionality and quality. A simple line on the menu reflecting this reasoning may be a great addition to how pizzerias communicate with their customers. It’s an idea I’m throwing out there in light of how much effort is going into communicating the story of the food and the brand in the industry right now. Perhaps there is also a story of the service, from back to front of the house.
Service is a differentiator, and one that costs an operation in time spent training but not in hard goods.
Ask yourself, what can I do to surprise my customers today? It is often in surprises that expectations are exceeded. It is by exceeding expectations that we make a customer feel the experience was tailor-made for him or her, whether it is customized for dietary preferences or for the occasion.
Ask your customers, what can I do to take your dining experience to the next level? By asking just a few more questions before we seat them, serve them or deliver to them, we may find ways to communicate our way to more of a haute couture experience.