In the Kitchen
Pizza on Fire: September-October 2014
By Tom Stankiewicz
Super sides – How to serve up your menu’s high-profit side dishes with style
By Tom Stankiewicz
A pizza menu wouldn’t be complete without featuring various side orders that your customers can purchase with their pizza.
A pizza menu wouldn’t be complete without featuring various side orders that your customers can purchase with their pizza. Whether in a restaurant or a fast food place, customers are used to seeing these menu additions and expect them to be there, just in case they feel like ordering them. At a first glance, it might not seem important to include these items on the menu, but I would strongly advise offering them. Besides meeting the set expectations of your customers, they are also the most profitable entries on the menu.
Most customers don’t call a pizza store specifically to buy side orders, but it is part of your job to tell them that you do offer them. Like many pizzerias, our side orders include salads, garlic bread, nachos, and bruschetta, just to name a few items. I can purchase the ingredients for all these side dishes at a very low cost, which guarantees a high profit. It is important to review your sales on a regular basis in order to determine how much needs to be purchased for each day. It is always better to buy more if you run out of certain food than to throw it away. This is not easy to predict, but you should, for example, have a general idea of how many salads are typically sold on Fridays versus Mondays.
Some side orders are more difficult than others to deliver to customers in perfect condition. Specifically, nachos and bruschetta can cause a lot of headaches. Most of us have encountered customers who called back and complained that the bread was too soggy. Through experimentation, we discovered that what works best is to put the bruschetta in a cake box with a wax paper. To keep the nachos fresh, we put them in a pizza box with a steak paper. These methods seem to keep these items fresher for a longer time.
If you are not telling all your customers about your side orders yet, you’re making a mistake that is potentially keeping your sales revenue down. You can conduct an easy experiment that will show you the difference in your sales when side orders are offered by your sales staff to all customers versus only the ones who ask for it. The results might surprise you, or maybe not, but it has been proven many times that when you ask for business the customers are more likely to take you up on it. With the summer season in full swing, you could concentrate on upselling your fresh salads. Insist that your staff tell every customer about the side orders available at your pizza store. It will have a positive impact on your sales revenue and translate into satisfied customers.
Well-planned preparation of side orders could also help you with time saving and efficiency at your pizza store. Many side orders, such as salads, could be prepared in advance, which means they could be made in a less busy time, and, more importantly, you could decide well in advance when to make them. This is a win-win situation because it allows everyone to concentrate on other orders. What I have seen that works really great is to place fresh, pre-made salads on display right beside the front counter. You would be surprised how many customers pick up a salad just because it is there and it looks delicious.
A nice way to introduce side orders to your customers is to incorporate these add-ons into your weekly pizza specials. Usually, a family deal pizza will include salad and garlic bread. If you want to find out if bread sticks will be a popular choice, it might make sense to give your customers an option to substitute them with garlic bread.
Another way to upsell your salads could be introducing a special deal – for example, that every Monday all salads cost the same low price. If you notice that many of your customers order cheese or pepperoni pizza for their kids, it might be worth exploring how big this specific group of customers is. It could be worthwhile creating a special kids meal deal as a way to differentiate yourself from your competition.
With the ongoing emphasis on healthy eating habits, I think that promoting healthy side orders will benefit any pizza business. The challenge is to recognize when and how to let your customers know that side orders such as salads are a great addition to their pizza meal. It you’re thinking of introducing a new side order, do your research first and plan ahead to incorporate it into your existing specials to minimize cost. But most of all, think of many ways to let our customers know that you have something new to offer.
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.