Canadian Pizza Magazine

The Pizza Chef: Continuous learning

By Diana Cline   

Features Business and Operations editor pick


There’s no such thing as too much education. When you’re a small business owner, it’s important to continuously develop and to educate yourself and elevate your business. The Japanese have a great word for it: “Kaizen.” This term essentially means continued improvement in all areas of your life and business.  

Attending industry trade shows like the Pizza Expo in Las Vegas, Pizza Summits presented by this magazine and restaurant shows are great avenues to do just that. There are definitely costs involved: travel, hotel, meals, and sometimes additional costs for the workshop or course being offered. But if the information is applicable to your restaurant, then it’s an investment.    

Years ago, I belonged to several restaurant mastermind and marketing groups, which were quite costly, but also extremely beneficial in personal and business mindset development, and skills specific for my restaurant. I learned that I couldn’t work on my business, if I was always working in my business. This is an important distinction, because working on my business is what grows sales. Working in my business is a job, or rather, several jobs. Many people who initially get into the restaurant business, myself included, make this mistake in the first few years. Some never correct it. 

I learned I could easily burn myself out working too many hours and doing all the jobs between myself and my then business partner. I learned that with a well-trained team to help run my business smoothly, using checklists and procedures, I could enjoy my business and a life supported by the business. I learned that my pizzeria was never meant to be all things to all people. We couldn’t be both top-quality pizza and the cheapest pizza in the city – the math just doesn’t work. And so, rather than being offended at non-customers who spoke against only our higher prices, I learned to educate my existing customers and stand in confidence on the quality of the ingredients we offer. 

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I learned that I couldn’t run the same marketing campaigns as the big chains. I just didn’t have the budget, but more importantly, I learned that the typical large-chain budget consists of many wasted dollars. I also learned how to market my independent pizzeria using cost-effective strategies and tracing return on investment. It’s been a 30-year, hands-on education. You might be tempted to think that it’s enough, but even veterans in the industry like me know that you still need to sharpen your knives if you want them to work well.   

I recently stumbled across a great resource for restaurateurs: the Manitoba Tourism and Education Council. They offer a variety of courses, from half-day workshops to full-day and multi-week courses. While some are paid courses, like their full-day Food Handlers course, many are free to individuals like ourselves in the tourism industry. They deliver the courses in person in the classroom and some are available as online classes through Zoom, which makes them more accessible to those with a busy schedule.  

I signed up for a social media course in April: Reels, Stories and Shorts Strategies. You may be thinking, “Don’t I already use social media?” Yes, but could I learn to use it better? Also, yes. Turns out, it was a very informative session: I learned several good tips to help elevate my posts, and they covered Canva, a resource that I am already using, but hadn’t realized that I could also use for Facebook, Instagram and even YouTube video content. It’s really great when you find out something you’re already familiar with is capable of doing even more!

I also signed up for a six-part Business Plan Development Seminar Series. The last time I wrote a business plan was in 2007, when it was necessary to grow my pizzeria to the next stage. You may wonder why I’m interested in writing a business plan for an existing business. I think it’s important for continuous growth to go through the exercise and refresh your mindset about your business, reassess your competition (no doubt it’s changed), review and update your goals, your team, your equipment, your financials, and also to plan the next few years. I’m three-quarters of the way through it and have found it very informative. Through the course, you also gain access to an online Business Plan Creator template that walks you through each section. This course breaks the process down into manageable slices, with plenty of examples and additional support along the way.  

The other big lesson I learned years ago is that the information itself is incredibly important, but without putting it into action it has very little value. It’s only by putting it to work in your business that you’ll see the return on investment. Until then, it’s just another expense. Sometimes we need a little help to get the information or the strategy into an actionable, tangible thing. A good coach, mentor or course can be just the right combustion recipe to get things launched. May you find the inspiration to seek out one or all of these resources for your own continuous development. Until next column, be well and make great pizza!


Diana Cline is an award-winning pizza chef, a partner with Diana’s Cucina & Lounge in Winnipeg. In addition to creating award-winning recipes, Diana is a consultant to other pizzeria owner/operators in menu development, creating operational systems and marketing to help operators grow their business strategically.
Contact her at diana@dianascucinaandlounge.com


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