Selling your sauce

Letting customers take home your signature products can promote your pizzeria’s brand
Yvonne Dick
September 21, 2017
By Yvonne Dick
If you have been in business for a while you will likely have heard compliments about some of the food items you serve. For those in the pizza business, these compliments might revolve around the various sauces and other ingredients that go into the perfect pizza. Have you considered selling your pizzeria's sauce?

Some businesses decide to harness the power of the praise and go the extra step to keep customers satisfied by offering their house condiments, sauces and other goodies for retail sale in their restaurant. Cook with hand-crafted balsamic vinegar from Gerrard Pizza in or house-made pizza sauce from Pizzeria Libretto in Toronto. Add the spicy homemade olive oil Montreal’s Pizzeria Napoletana sells as part of its line of products.

Or take home handmade strawberry jam from Pi Gourmet Eatery in St. John’s to go with the next morning’s breakfast.

As the owner of a restaurant that sells some of its pre-made dough, specialty vinegar, compotes and sauces, Meghan O’Dea of Pi Gourmet Eatery says, “If people don’t want to make a dressing at home they can buy one from us. It helps them and gets the word out about our business. We make everything from scratch so they know they're not getting a pre-packaged caesar salad dressing.”

Before getting into the retail products business with your restaurant, consider the following questions. Is this a project that will bring in some extra income? How will your products be manufactured, packaged and marketed? The considerations are many – will you ship your product to customers, where you will keep the surplus product, and what is your plan if you suddenly get a high-volume order? A good place to start is your province’s regulations governing food handling and sales.

At Pi Gourmet Eatery, the products sold are canned using mason jars. Fresh products such as the gluten-free and regular pizza dough are frozen or made ready to go. Some items, such as the strawberry or rhubarb jam, lend themselves to seasonal sales. Says O'Dea, “We sell it year round. I sell a lot more in the summer than I do obviously in the winter, but yeah, it's pretty popular.”

Will selling your award-winning, customer-engaging product retail make you any money? Here is some advice from Amy O’Neil, founder and chief operating officer of PhaseNextHospitality, a franchise-operating company based in Plano, Texas: “Consumers are very much interested in unique new flavours and open to bringing them home.”

O’Neil says the competition is stiff. “You have to start with something that’s craveable, that you know there’s pent-up demand for and that people want to take home from your restaurant.” Her blog suggests starting small, perhaps with only one or two products and preferably your most famous ones.

O’Dea says in her restaurant, “It's just a matter of making more, and bottling half and using half. It’s extra money so it’s good for my business. I certainly don't make a lot of money off of it but at least I'm well known to have it here.” She relies on word of mouth to market Pi’s products.

“I'm a small company, a mom-and-pop shop,” O’Dea says. Customers can buy the restaurant’s International Pizza Challenge award-winning cherry mango chutney in jars or buy it on the restaurant’s signature pizza, The Vegas Special. “We keep a shelf in our restaurant. We don’t get big orders per se – it’s just kind of a ‘grab and go’ impulse buy at the end of the night.”

“I would certainly love to do a bigger market with it, but my restaurant is not set up for it and if I wanted to go bigger I would need another kitchen to pre-do all of my stuff or hire a kitchen elsewhere to do it. . . . I think it's a good idea, especially if you want to expand or even just help your customers out [with their cooking].”

Starting on a small scale can help your business and give you a reliable way of testing out your market. If you get consistent orders and increasingly larger orders, scaling up might be worth the money. Otherwise, stick with that canned homemade sauce or pre-made dough and you just might make a few bucks.

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