Business and Operations
Pizza on fire: Deciding to feed the party
By Tom Stankiewicz
By Tom Stankiewicz
The arrival of each spring always gets people eagerly anticipating those
gorgeous summer weekends to spend outside with their families.
The arrival of each spring always gets people eagerly anticipating those gorgeous summer weekends to spend outside with their families. It’s tough not to notice the many well-promoted and -attended local festivals organized by cities and towns. And, no matter the occasion, there are always vendors offering food. Don’t be surprised if your sales volume decreases a bit because some of your customers are eating at the festivals.
Whether to register as a vendor at one of these events or simply concentrate on what you’ve been doing for years is a big decision. The answer is never a simple yes or no.
The first thing you need to analyze is the actual cost of entering the event. Normally you must pay a registration fee and obtain a permit in order to operate your business outdoors. You’ll need to invest money in purchasing such equipment as small gas pizza ovens and fryers. The equipment will largely depend on what you plan to offer. Nonetheless, you’ll have to purchase some type of equipment: you won’t be able to borrow it from your existing pizza store, as you’ll need to have both locations open at the same time.
Events are great opportunities to introduce your product to new customers. However, it will be impossible to offer everything that’s on your menu. The goal is to have as many people try your pizza as possible, so it helps to keep the menu very simple. For example, pick no more than three pizza toppings and limit the combinations. To speed up the process and avoid long lineups, create no more than three special offers. With fewer choices, people are less likely to get distracted, and will be able to place their orders quickly. From a business perspective, keeping things simple is very efficient because it allows you to prepare the slices ahead of time.
You will also need to decide on the actual structure of your venue. That is, will you operate your business from a specifically designed tent or from a movable vehicle such as a converted RV? The tent option would definitely cost less than the RV, but, on the other hand, the RV is probably more durable and will last longer. The decision will come down to how much you’re willing to spend and how often you plan to participate in such events. Size will matter as well. My understanding is that the RV is usually smaller and more congested. In a tent you have more freedom to arrange your table and equipment to suit your needs.
The cost of additional advertising will need to be taken into account as well. You will need some flyers or signs posted in your store to let your customers know that you will be there. It’s a very good idea to have discount coupons printed to give to every purchasing client at the event. This will encourage them to visit your pizza store and become a loyal customer. That being said, the money you put into advertising for the event should definitely pay off through the simple fact that hundreds of people will see your business logo. That is a huge advertisement on its own.
The weather is one thing that you can’t control, but it is the most important factor in the success of the event. If it happens to be cold or rainy, then you might be looking at minimal sales due to lower crowds visiting.
Unfortunately, there isn’t anything you can do to prevent bad weather. Unlike other risks that you can at least minimize, this one is all up to Mother Nature. It alone could affect your investment negatively.
There are some businesses that are always visible during those outdoor festivals. At first glance, you think that it must be profitable to be there if they are always there. One thing to remember is that some of those businesses are part of larger franchises that most likely have money set aside for such events. Small independent pizza businesses like ours need to carefully determine if the cost of participation outweighs the benefits of advertising of your business name. Sometimes it’s necessary to pay and lose some money in order to gain and increase your profit in the long run.
Tom Stankiewicz has been in the pizza business for more than 15 years. He has been the proprietor of Bondi’s Pizza in London, Ont., since 2000 and is president of the Canadian Pizza Team.