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The pizza Chef: Changing tastes

Changing tastes


November 10, 2008
By Diana Coutu

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If you were to compare the first menu we had in our pizzeria to our current menu you might be tempted to think they were from two different pizzerias.

If you were to compare the first menu we had in our pizzeria to our current menu you might be tempted to think they were from two different pizzerias.

And in a way, you’d be right.

We created our first menu over 10 years ago, and it was a rather simplistic menu compared to what we offer our customers today. It’s true that the market was different back then, but mostly our understanding of our business was limited, and even somewhat flawed.   

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At that time, we thought selling pizza was all about the price. We drank the kool-aid on the ‘2 for 1’ and ‘3 for 1’ pricing strategy. If we saw another pizzeria down the street with even cheaper prices we would quake in our boots.

And even though they wouldn’t last for more than six months, there was always someone down the street with even cheaper prices.

We were, in fact, not just doing a disservice to ourselves, but also to our customers and the pizza industry as a whole. We were, in fact, limiting our own growth potential and prosperity with a myth about price and by what the guy down the street was doing. 

Thankfully, we adapted and changed with the demand in the market. We added some specialty crusts, cheeses, sauces and what was, at the time, considered “unique” toppings.

And we raised our prices. We were no longer concerned about being the cheapest pizza in town.

Nowadays you find some of those toppings on a lot of other pizzeria menus. Back then things like chopped baby spinach, barbecue chicken breast and smoked oysters raised eyebrows, although today the average Canadian consumer has more sophisticated tastes and appreciates the variety above and beyond the typical 12 common pizza toppings. That’s not to say that ‘traditional’ is out, but boring, same-old-ordinary is definitely not in. 

Perhaps it’s time to assess your menu; how much has it changed over the past year, or two, or five years? Have you found that your sales slumping?

If you’re not careful, you can easily get tunnel vision about your pizzeria and find yourself stuck in a rut.
Are your sales up or down, compared to this time last year? You could just blame the economy, or you could shake things up a bit. Why not add some new and exciting tastes to your menu?

Entice that average Canadian consumer back with a not-so-ordinary specialty cheese that makes their mouth water with anticipation.

Or perhaps it’s time to break out that incredibly odd creation your staff members make just for themselves. You know; the one that they rave about, the one that you already have all the ingredients in stock, but it’s just not on the menu. Enlist their help to give it a great name and offer it to your customers.

There’s a saying “if you keep doing what you’ve been doing, you’re always going to get what you’ve already got,” so if you’re not happy about what you’re getting, it’s time for a change.

Perhaps you’ve been where you are at for a while and aren’t sure where to start, or what direction to go. Finding an expert coach to help break you out of your usual thinking will get you moving forward again.

Some of you might be reluctant to hire a coach, but even Tiger Woods has coaches to help him improve his already great game – it’s a habit among the best and most successful individuals. Don’t think you can’t reach incredible heights too, every expert started off as a novice – myself included. 

Our menu has expanded to over 40 toppings, more than four cheeses, over nine types of crusts and four choices for sauce and we are always bringing in something new for a limited time. My customers can’t get bored, because we’re always creating some new taste sensation to intrigue and entice them back again and again.

Some of these creations are so popular that they end up on the menu; like our “Sweet’n’Spicy Devine Swine” with dry-cured pepperoni, fresh hand-cut pineapple, barbecue pulled pork with a splash of hot sauce, smothered by a blend of medium-sharp cheddar and mozzarella cheeses. Just one bite and you know it’s in the “extraordinary” category.

And just from the name alone, the average Canadian consumer knows that it isn’t a ‘2 for 1’ priced pizza.

Diana Coutu is a two-time Canadian Pizza Magazine chef of the year champion, internationally recognized gourmet pizzaiolo and co-owner of Diana’s Gourmet Pizzeria in Winnipeg, Man., in addition to creating award-winning recipes, Diana is also a consultant to other independent pizzeria owner/operators in menu development, creating systems to run a pizzeria on autopilot, along with marketing and positioning to help operators grow their business effectively and strategically. She is available for consulting on a limited basis, for more information contact her at Diana@dianasgourmetpizzeria.ca.


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