Canadian Pizza Magazine

The Pizza Chef: Simple Systems for Pizzerias

By Diana Coutu   

Features In the Kitchen Tools of the Trade

Simple Systems for Pizzerias

Last year, I went to an intense, four-day operations
boot camp in Las Vegas, conducted by David Scott Peters of Smile Button

Last year, I went to an intense, four-day operations boot camp in Las Vegas, conducted by David Scott Peters of Smile Button Enterprises.

Peters shows restaurateurs how creating simple systems in their business helps to automate the whole process. I purchased his system the year prior, and received two complimentary tickets to his boot camp. But I didn’t make the time to attend until last year. Why? Well, part of the reason that I needed to attend the boot camp was because I didn’t think I could take the time away from my shop.

You may think: “Why would anyone who’s already in business need an operations boot camp?”


I already know how everything operates, I’m there every day and I know how my business runs.

Once upon a time my husband and I used to work every day in the store. Then we would take “days off,” which in a nutshell consisted of us running around like mad dogs, picking up food for the store, for our household, and the thousand or so other things that need to be done from week to week.  Mostly, it was an errand day, not a day off. And I’ll bet you already know that most of the errands were for the store. 

Sure we had some good staff. But my husband and I were always the management. So the rare day that we had planned to be completely “off” was often riddled with calls from the store.

I can recall one day wondering if we employed complete morons, because we had a call asking “We’re out of dish soap, what should we do?” I should point out that we are in a strip mall with a convenience store right next door. Now, I’m not talking about this newest generation of kids coming into the workforce being the major part of the labour pool we draw from, and how most of them don’t even know how to operate a broom. No, this article is not about them. You see, it wasn’t until we understood that we had set up our business to be this way that we could go about changing it.

That’s where Peters came in. His experience of being a former COO for a franchise chain that went from five franchises to over 30 in a few years has given him a wealth of knowledge, which he is passionate about teaching ordinary restaurant owners.

One of the things that franchises do well is that they have systems for everything. Things get done every day, every week, every month, even every shift change, like clockwork. It’s part of the company’s subconscious. Whereas with an independent shop things are rarely done the same way, by each employee at the exact same time of day.

Maybe you’re saying: “But I don’t want that rigid of a structure, I left a chain pizza place to open my own because I couldn’t stand the conformity and systems.”

Well that may be, however, unless you plan on working every day, every shift, forever, you’ll have some challenges.

You will quite likely have a staff member call to ask what to do now that you’re out of staples. A simple system can be as easy as a checklist for a particular task, like a recipe. For instance: How to wash dishes –

1. Fill Sink #1 with hot soapy water.

2. Fill Sink #2 with hot rinse water.

3. Fill Sink #3 with sanitizing solution of at least 50ppm. 

4. Using a sponge or green scrubby, scrub dirty dish in hot soapy water (Sink #1), until visibly clean.

5. Rinse dish in hot rinse water.

6. Soak dish in sanitizing sink for one minute.

7. Place dish on drying rack to air dry. 

Now I’m sure we all know how to wash dishes, you might even say that it’s common sense.

You may even feel that it’s a waste of time to type up a step-by-step process for doing dishes. And you wouldn’t hire anyone so dumb as to not know how to do dishes …

Well common sense is not as common anymore, and the point of creating simple systems in your pizzeria is so there are no misunderstandings about what’s expected to be done and how it should be done.  I’ve seen a 16-year-old kid “rinse” a dish under lukewarm running water and think that it was properly washed. I’ve seen a kid try and use a corner broom as a push broom.

Of course it’s pathetic, and once upon a time I would have just grabbed the broom and done it myself, but that negates the whole point of having “hired help.”

The nice thing about creating systems in your pizzeria is that once you’ve put them into place, you just have to inspect what you expect. You don’t have to rely on memory to train new staff, or hope that your trainer is thorough.

And when it’s laid out as simply as a recipe, literally anyone can be trained to follow it. Staff are easier to manage, they know exactly what each task requires. Managers know exactly what’s expected of them, and can easily supervise each task.

Since the boot camp, we have multiple systems in place, all very simple. Our store now operates much like a franchise does, which allows my husband and I to travel for competitions and business seminars and not worry that the store is burning down, or worse, that our customers aren’t well taken care of.•

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