Business and Operations
The Pizza Chef: Changing tastes in pizza
By Diana Cline
In my last column, I wrote about jazzing up the vegetable toppings on your menu and in this column I want to expand on that idea. Canadians are going through another big food and tastes transformation, and many are no longer satisfied with the usual pepperoni or ham and pineapple pizza offerings.
That’s not to say “traditional” is out; however, boring, same-old-same-old-ordinary is definitely not in. What can you do to keep up with current trends? Great question!
If it’s been a while, maybe it’s time to assess your menu; how much has it changed over the past year or two, or the past five years? Are 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. Thankfully, our pizzeria continues to adapt and change with the demand in the market. Years ago we added some specialty crusts, cheeses, sauces and what were at the time considered “unique” toppings. Nowadays you find some of those toppings on a lot of other pizzeria menus. Back then things like chopped baby spinach, barbecued chicken breast, pulled pork and smoked oysters raised eyebrows. Today the average Canadian consumer has more sophisticated tastes and appreciates the variety above and beyond the typical 12 common pizza toppings.
Lately I’ve been inspired to work with an unusual bunch of vegetarian ingredients. These are ingredients you might not think of finding on pizza, but that are actually very delicious and nutritious. Ingredients like chickpeas, black beans, cashews and baby corn. I’ve been working on a vegan cheese as well, after several customers said they believe I can create a better-tasting one than what’s currently out there and available to them.
This is how my gluten-free pizza crust was created and brought on the menu back in 2008. Dozens of calls every week came from celiac and gluten-intolerant consumers asking me to create a gluten-free pizza that tasted “like a real pizza.” At that time, the gluten-free pizza crusts that were available weren’t very palatable. Some even contained other ingredients that many people were allergic or sensitive to – like eggs – so these same starving consumers couldn’t eat them.
Are you getting calls asking for something you currently don’t make or source? Pay attention! That could be the next big thing for your market! Or perhaps it’s time to break out that incredibly odd creation your staff members make just for themselves. You know – the one they rave about, the one for which you already have all the ingredients in stock, the one that’s not on the menu. 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 which direction to take. Finding an expert coach to help break you out of your usual thinking will get you moving forward again.
Diana Cline is a two-time Canadian Pizza magazine Chef of the Year, a three-time winner of “Canada’s Best Pizza Chef” at international events, judge for pizza competitions in Las Vegas, Italy and France, and partner with Diana’s Cucina & Lounge in Winnipeg. She was a director for the CRFA from 2009-13. In addition to creating award-winning recipes, Diana is also a consultant to other owner/operators in menu development, creating systems to run a pizzeria on autopilot, along with marketing to help operators grow their businesses effectively. She is available for consulting on a limited basis. For more information, contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org