In the Kitchen
Pizza on fire: Rockin’ a recipe
By Tom Stankiewicz
By Tom Stankiewicz
The task of creating a new pizza recipe is a fun and inevitable challenge for pizzaiolos.
The task of creating a new pizza recipe is a fun and inevitable challenge for pizzaiolos. A new recipe can be a way to combat declining sales, attract new clients, or simply expand and update your existing menu. It sounds like an easy job: just mix some toppings together, put them on your pie and the pizza will fly out the door in no time. If only it were that easy.
Anyone can make a pepperoni, mushroom and green pepper pizza. If you take a minute and type “pizza recipes” into an Internet search engine, thousands of results will turn up offering step-by-step instructions for different pies. The trick is to pick that perfect combination of ingredients that will result in a unique but very tasty pizza.
I’d like to share with you the simple process I follow that helps me create successful recipes for my store and competition. First, you need to know who your customers are and why you are introducing a new pie at this time. Perhaps your menu could use a new recipe to give your customers more choice. This is a great solution if your clients are telling you that they’re getting tired of ordering the same thing over and over again. Rather than let your customers get their “new” fix from your competition, it is definitely worth a try to add a new pizza to your menu and keep their loyalty.
If you’ve noticed your weekly sales slowly declining, there are a few techniques you can use to investigate what might be behind the slide. Ask your staff if they have recently received any feedback from customers. Design a short comment card and place it at the front counter so customers can provide their feedback on the spot. If you’re not doing it already, it might be a good idea to spend some time at the front counter and deal with your clients directly. This will give a small window of opportunity to ask them a few questions while they are paying for their order. There can be many reasons for a decrease in sales, so it’s important to identify what they are in your specific case. You might discover that it’s as simple as not offering enough choice on your menu.
If you’re planning to attend a pizza competition, your end goal is not only to create a fantastic and delicious recipe, but also to win. A recipe that will be judged at a contest may have to be more unique or adhere to certain restrictions, unlike one that is just being created to refresh your menu. Give yourself some time to think carefully before deciding on a final draft.
When it comes to your menu, selecting toppings can be tricky because you already offer the best combination of toppings for your clients. Some combinations are so commonplace they’ve become classics, such as Hawaiian and all-meat pizzas. When you’re trying to introduce a new combination of toppings that will appeal to many people, you have to prepare yourself for a rather long process before you get a winner. My suggestion would be to avoid introducing something that is drastically different from what you already offer. Stick to what has worked in the past, but add a unique flavor to get your customers’ attention.
Another factor to consider these days is your dough. Pizza dough is not just plain anymore. Many of us offer whole wheat, herb and garlic and jalapeno crusts, just to name a few. It takes trial and error to find out which toppings taste better with one kind of dough than with another. For example, jalapeno pizza dough can be a winner if it is complemented by mild, rather than spicy, toppings (unless, of course, you’re trying to create a super spicy pizza). Keep in mind, too, that if you are creating this pizza recipe for a selected group of clients with health concerns, gluten-free and low-sodium dough might be worth exploring.
When it comes to sauce, I’ve found our customers never question what type of sauce we put on our pizzas. Most assume it’s a tomato sauce with various spices. However, I have a few clients who request barbecue sauce on their pizza instead. On the odd occasion, I will have someone ask what we can offer besides tomato or barbecue sauce. Our alternative is olive oil with either herbs or our special seasoning.
If you need to create a new pizza recipe, ensure that you have the answers to the big question: Why? Without understanding why you’re doing it, and for whom, your new pizza recipe could be a disaster for your store. But, under the right circumstances and done for the right reasons, your new pie might be a winner.
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.