Business and Operations
Pizza on Fire: November 2013
By Tom Stankiewicz
Consider the alternatives
By Tom Stankiewicz
You might have noticed that more and more consumers are opting for alternative food choices.
You might have noticed that more and more consumers are opting for alternative food choices. People are becoming more aware of the consequences of their food decisions, which ultimately causes them to adjust their eating habits. As consumers, they expect to see more options available to them that would allow them to pick the right foods.
We took notice and started researching how our pizzeria could add these choices to our menu. With an increasing number of our customers asking to accommodate their specific dietary needs, we decided to do it and haven’t looked back since.
One of our popular menu choices is our gluten-free pizza dough. The idea to offer it started with a few comments from customers who wondered why our menu choices lacked this particular alternative. Since our number 1 priority is to take customer feedback seriously and turn it into a positive experience, we started to explore how their suggestions could be incorporated into our existing pizza selection. It didn’t take long before the menu was updated and the rest, as they say, is history.
As a precaution and to avoid contamination with our other pizza dough options, the gluten-free one is made at a different facility. We decided to take it one step further and now our various meat toppings are also available in a gluten-free form. Our customers are simply ecstatic that they are no longer limited to traditional pizza dough.
From a business perspective, this was a significant decision that allowed us to create a positive customer experience by listening to our customers’ needs. It was also essential in helping us differentiate our business model from most other pizzerias. We saw an increase in our sales and gained additional customers, specifically those who are interested in gluten-free options.
Another alternative that we offer and our customers are raving about is the vegan cheese by Daiya. By far, this is one of the best selections of a non-dairy cheese alternative on the market right now. Cheese is one of my favourite food categories, and I have tried many different vegan cheese products; however, none of them matched what we know as “cheese flavour.” For people who follow a strict vegan diet, this cheese is quite remarkable and tasty as well. This small addition to our cheese choices allowed our pizzeria to reach a broader spectrum of customers who otherwise would not have considered our pizza for dinner.
Prior to carrying this product, we had customers who brought their own vegan cheese in a plastic bag and asked us to put it on their pizza instead of our regular cheese. Again this sparked an idea that maybe there are more consumers out there who would not only prefer but also require a vegan cheese option. After extensive research we determined that this new vegan cheese selection would further benefit our pizzeria. In addition to drawing positive feedback from customers, it also created a positive marketing image by word-of-mouth advertising.
Soya cheese is our third topping selection that is also very popular among our customers. While traditional pizza cheese is still by far the most requested topping, I have noticed that the orders for the healthier choices are becoming more frequent. To help us move forward with this new trend toward alternative choices, we need to stay focused on what’s best for our customers and identify their special needs. I’m sure that 20 years ago nobody imagined gluten-free products would be widely available in grocery stores. Since consumers demanded to have this alternative available, it can be found in almost every grocery store. I believe the same positive change will take place when it comes to traditional pizza toppings. That is why it’s extremely important that we all listen to our customers and consider their suggestions, even if at first they seem unusual.
I would not hesitate to recommend these additions to any pizza menu, especially for a pizzeria that is looking for new ways to attract more customers. If you have patrons who have expressed interest in any new topping for your pizza, my suggestion would be to give it a try. Initially, it may appear as though only a few customers are requesting the dietary alternative, but there might be many others who simply do not visit your pizzeria because that topping or alternative is not being offered.
From my own experience, I know that not every customer is comfortable saying what he or she would like to see on your pizza menu. Listening to the few who do voice their opinions might pay off in the long run. It’s good practice to give something new a try; otherwise you might not even know that a great opportunity has just passed you by.
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.