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Pizza on Fire: Driving the business

Driving the business


September 30, 2008
By Tom Stankiewicz

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Many pizzeria owners wonder what can be done to make their business more successful.

Many pizzeria owners wonder what can be done to make their business more successful.

First of all, to stay in business – never mind make it successful – one has to continually monitor if the current prices on your menu make sense. Are you barely making it because you haven’t changed your pizza prices for the past five years? Or are you leaving them unchanged because you’re afraid your customer base will shrink?

The truth is that pizza prices must be adjusted as our economy changes. You can only stay behind for so long and then your business is just not profitable anymore. By the time you increase your prices most of your customers would have already expected
it, especially in today’s volatile economy.

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Customers understand that prices for fresh produce and supplies increase, so logically the same will happen to your pizza prices. Otherwise, you might be faced with a tough decision of whether to stay open and make no money or close your pizzeria for good. 

The second most important thing is to save or cut costs whenever possible. Sometimes it’s as simple as changing the supplier that keeps increasing prices on you. If you’ve been with the same supplier for 10 years it could be a tough decision to make, but remember that in the long run every dollar counts. Plus, if the higher costs run you out of business, you won’t be at the winning end of this deal. If you can get the same quality supplies for a lesser price somewhere else don’t hesitate to take advantage of it.

You may discover that sometimes your existing supplier may be willing to adjust prices a little bit to keep your account on the books. Be sure to examine your most recent invoices and check if that box of pepperoni is costing you $15 more all of a sudden. Add higher prices for a few other things and you might discover why your profitability has shrunk over the past several months. 

Another smart and proven way to drive your business is to stay connected with other businesses in the area. It is becoming more common for companies to order lunches for their workers to show their appreciation for their hard work. Don’t forget that everyone has to eat and sometimes businesses that you would suspect the least become your most loyal customers.

Although they usually place orders less frequently than your regular customers, they might just prove to be more profitable as they usually place large orders. If they know your product is good, they might order it for a business party or a meeting.

Let your customers know that you have the capability of preparing bigger orders and you have special prices for catering as well. You could very easily distribute catering menus to all businesses in your area, or simply place them in a highly visible area in your store so people can pick them up.

Some pizzerias encourage customers to leave their business cards for a monthly draw. The winning prize could be a pizza or a gift certificate to be spent at your store. This comes along with an added benefit, as employees from those businesses could potentially become your new customers outside of their working hours.

Don’t forget the youngest customers of all: kids. They also hold a great deal of power in the decision-making department. I think that we can all agree that they love pizza, especially pepperoni and cheese. So, why not create a special price for pepperoni and cheese pizza? You might feel like you’re giving it away for free, but you know that whatever the parents order will compensate for it.

I’ve seen a few pizzerias advertise their pepperoni and cheese pizzas as free with a purchase of another pizza. Some picked Mondays while others chose Wednesdays to offer this family special. In the end, you need to customize your specials in such a way that they bring customers back every week and also make sense for your bottom line.

Driving the business also means treating your employees with respect. You get to call yourself the big boss, however your employees are, in a way, running your business with you.

We all know that we wouldn’t be able to survive even one day if we had no one working at the store. We’ve all encountered situations where we were greeted by an over-tired waitress or someone who felt their contribution to the business was overlooked and unappreciated. Such experiences don’t go hand in hand with exceptional customer service.

As a customer myself, I’d think twice before going back to that restaurant and more often than not I simply wouldn’t go back due to poor customer service. Employees who are unhappy could actually drive your business down as their faces represent your brand. The last thing you want to hear is someone saying, “I went to ‘Blank Name Pizza’ the other day, and I can’t believe how unfriendly that place is.”

So keep in mind, if you are not careful, neglecting your employees’ needs and feelings might one day drive you out of the pizza business.



Tom Stankiewicz, owner of Bondi’s Pizza in London, Ont., has been working in the pizza industry for 15 years. You can reach Tom through pizza@annexweb.com .


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