New Operator Q-and-A: Meet Babylon Detroit Style Pizza
By Canadian Pizza staffFeatures Business and Operations Profiles editor pick profile
Babylon Detroit Style Pizza started with the simple idea of bringing the best Detroit Style Pizza to the people. The popular spot in downtown Sarnia, Ont., is within walking distance of the waterfront, was designed with an “urban vibe” says founder Red Seal chef and MBA graduate Raine Laing, under his Laing Restaurant Group.
How would you describe Babylon Pizza?
I think it’s an experience. I think it’s a very thoughtful pizza. We make all of our doughs in house. We cold ferment them and we have our special processes that we go through with the doughs. The red sauce – again, simple in flavour but just absolute perfection when you eat it on our pizza. It has the right amount of sweetness and acidity to just cut through all the nice rich, cheese that we have. Our cheese blend is a custom blend that we have in house. We have our special recipe and with Detroit style pizza, one of the signature things is the cheese gets spread from edge to edge. We are going from edge to edge and it creates this glorious, cheesy little crown that is a little delight to look forward to after you’ve eaten the pizza.
What differentiates you from other pizzerias?
We’re a food-centric brand. That’s what our main focus is, so everything that we do in house here facilitates that down to our décor, our lighting, our music, our service and all of that stuff. What makes us different is the thoughtfulness, the care that is put into every single recipe that comes out of the kitchen. We’re consistent. If you came here to Babylon on a Wednesday, you’d get the same pizza on a Sunday, whether it’s when we first opened or near closing time or anytime in between, any day of the week, it is always the same product. I think it’s also a different experience because we’ve combined an urban vibe – so we’ve got urban music, R&B, ‘90s throwback, and when you think of Detroit, a lot of images may come up. I’ve been to Detroit many, many times and what I love about it is the juxtaposition that you get between the grittiness and the refinement of it all.
Tell us about one of your favourite pizzas on the menu.
Babylon Pepperoni is our popular seller here. We’ve loaded it up with our cup-and-char pepperoni, our signature red sauce that we make in house, a whipped mascarpone cheese, and then to finish it off we drizzle it with hot honey. It’s hot in temperature: we keep it warm because it improves the viscosity of it when we’re pouring it on. It allows us to put just the right amount on it. The other part of the hot honey is, it’s hot because we steep it in Scotch bonnet peppers. So you’ve got the sweet, the savoury, a little bit of heat.
How has your business background informed your work as an entrepreneur in the food industry?
In another life, before I became a certified Red Seal chef, I obtained a master of business administration, but the corporate world really wasn’t for me. I didn’t feel fulfilled in my job and I think it was a good thing that I did it that way because what I took into the world of cooking and the restaurant industry, was a firm grasp on business. Marketing, strategic planning and the financial aspects of it too. I had that background and I understood how to standardize recipes, how to create food that I needed to create for whatever concept it was I was working on. Having those two skill sets, I think has put me at an advantage, because I understand that while cooking is an art and a pleasure and there’s so much joy in making food for other people and making them happy, we also realize it is a business and there is a bottom line that has to be adhered to.
What was the most challenging thing about opening your pizzeria?
Opening a restaurant near the end of the heightened crisis of COVID was difficult. I just didn’t let that stop me. There were supply-chain issues. For example, I ordered a brand-new oven months and months in advance because I knew there would be a supply-chain issue, and even still, when it came time for the oven to be delivered, I had to wait another five months. I had to do a buildout in the space we have, supply-chain issues hit me again in terms of material costs, in terms of finding material and in terms of finding qualified contractors to do the work. That was another hurdle to overcome. I’ve become very handy over the last year now.
What marketing strategies do you find most helpful to get people in the door?
The number 1 strategy is word of mouth. It’s been tremendous and overwhelming the love and support the community has shown us. They come in here and they are our biggest fans. They go out and tell people about Babylon. We’re a fairly new pizzeria and we’re located downtown. It’s regentrifying but people are slowly returning to the downtown core. We have customers who are our ambassadors. They’re out there in the field, snapping photos on Instagram, sharing stories, talking to the staff, talking to customers that come through the door. Word of mouth cannot be overestimated.
Any future plans you’d like to share?
We have plans to expand across North America, and, hopefully, we have another location by the end of 2023. Meanwhile, we continue to make the world’s most amazingly delicious pizza every single day that we come into work.
Have you opened a pizzeria in the last year? Let us know! Email editor Colleen Cross at email@example.com
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