Canadian Pizza Magazine

The Pizza Chef: Twenty-First-Century Pizzeria

By Diana Coutu   

Features Business and Operations Health & Safety

Twenty-First-Century Pizzeria

On the surface, pizzerias haven’t changed a whole lot in
the last 50 years. Just about every independent pizzeria still has the
basic deck ovens, a dough machine and phones.

On the surface, pizzerias haven’t changed a whole lot in the last 50 years. Just about every independent pizzeria still has the basic deck ovens, a dough machine and phones. Although when you look closer, you can find many improvements. 

Where we had basic phone lines coming in, we now have a phone system, which makes use of technology to hold calls in queue – in the order they came in – and then hunts for the next available line. We can even have a message play for the callers while they’re on hold; a very good marketing tool that you can set up once and have it work for you over and over again. 

Our POS system is programmed to calculate the appropriate delivery charge for orders and assign it to the specific driver. It keeps track of every delivery, coupon, form of payment taken for each order and, when you’re ready to cash out the driver, all you have to do is touch a couple of buttons and it will provide that information, with the amount you need to collect. It also uses mapping software to provide the shortest delivery route.


Our system also remembers customers’ names, addresses and their last 10 orders, something that even the best memory can forget. We can even log on to our system over the Internet and see how many orders are up, who’s on the road, what the average delivery time is, and so forth.

A few of our drivers even have GPS computers in their cars. Talk about convenience – you don’t even have to pull the car over to read the map. The computer talks to you as you’re driving, telling you in advance that you’ll need to take the next left.

Also, attached to every driver you’ll now find a cell phone. In most cases it’s a blessing: just a few short years ago I would have to lend the driver my phone for those “call when you arrive” orders.

But cell phones can be double-edged swords, if you let them. Your staff is constantly connected to their friends and may have trouble discerning the difference between company time and their personal time.

We have a “no cell phone” policy on the floor: in-store staff are not allowed to carry their phones on them, drivers are allowed to carry them, but they are not allowed to answer them in the store. We understand that we have no control over what happens in the car, so all we can do is advise our drivers to pay attention to the road.

I almost forgot about the surveillance system. This piece of technology has paid for itself over and over again. It helps keep honest employees honest.

A study shows that about 60 per cent of the population is inherently honest, 20 per cent will steal regardless and the other 20 per cent will steal if they think no one will find out. So if you’ve hired someone in that 20 per cent range, you’ll keep them honest with the surveillance system.

But if you’ve hired a thief, they’ll rip you off any way they can. At least you can catch them and press charges with the evidence from your surveillance system.  
It works to protect us against scam artists too.

It’s happened more than a couple of times where we have someone call and say they came in to pick up a pizza and the toppings were wrong, or the pizza was burnt, or it made them sick.

We take complaints very seriously – it’s an opportunity to make things right. But when we have no corresponding order and the person becomes defensive, our next step is to look at the surveillance system.

We’ve had people insist that my staff are stealing because there isn’t a corresponding order in the POS system. When we tell the scammer we’ll review the surveillance footage and to describe what they look like and what time they came in, they quickly hang up.

A good system can also protect you and your staff from harm. Once, we had a driver who was being pursued by someone – someone came into the pizzeria very belligerent during a busy Friday and insisted that my driver give him money. My husband told him to make other arrangements to talk to my driver, and asked him to leave, pointing out that this was a place of business and the driver was on our time. This person refused to leave, saying that my driver owed him money. My husband simply asked the man to look into the camera because now he was disrupting our business and we would be calling the police. He left promptly.

Now that we use all this technology, I couldn’t imagine going back to basics. A 21st-century pizzeria needs 21st-century technology to effectively deal with and meet the demands of today’s world.•

Diana Coutu, owner of Diana’s Gourmet Pizzeria in Winnipeg, is Canadian Pizza Magazine’s Chef of the Year for 2005 and 2006.�

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