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The pizza Dude: Observations from the front lines

Here are the first changes I noticed when I returned to the industry after a five-year absence


December 4, 2013
By Roberto Vergalito

Topics

If you are reading this, don’t clean your glasses. Your eyesight is just
fine, and you’ve read it right – The Pizza Dude is back!

If you are reading this, don’t clean your glasses. Your eyesight is just fine, and you’ve read it right – The Pizza Dude is back! It has been almost five years, but here I am and boy have I missed this industry. In September, I reopened my pizzeria and named it Roberto’s Pizza Passion, since my passion for pizza is in my blood.

Even though I’ve been out of the pizza business for a while, I still kept up with the industry. Some things do not seem to change like our beloved mozzarella price increase every February. However, I have also seen many changes among products, pizzeria chains and independents alike.

Recently, for example, several trends have been strengthening in the pizza industry such as gluten-free and vegan options, and a generally healthier pizza.

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One tip I would like to give to all pizzeria operators, is that while customers may be asking for these options, don’t rush adding them to the menu. Take your time and find out how to create the best gluten-free crust and find the best alternatives to cheese and sugar, etc. I’ve gone to many different operations and while they’ve made the adjustments to their menu, the trendy options were bland and flavourless, among other things. Let’s be honest, if you’re complaining that no one wants the options because no one is buying it, maybe it’s just not that good at your pizzeria. Don’t take this to heart. Instead recognize the need to go back, and recreate your product. In the end, customers will love you for being honest with yourself and changing the product to become an even better one than before. Start over, and this time around take your time.

I have also noticed that more pizzerias are using a cheaper product that is a mix of real and a synthetic mozzarella. I still fail to see the logic behind independent pizzerias trying to compete with the larger commercial chains. 

You need to pride yourself on what you’re good at, and what your target audience is looking for in a pizzeria. If you are going to try to compete with a chain then don’t follow suit. Don’t try to beat them at their own game. Why not try and do it differently by starting a new trend, and setting yourself apart from the competition instead of trying to do what they do, but better? Be honest with your customers, and do pizza the way you think it should be made.

Since I started in this industry one thing has remained constant: pizza is the No. 1 favourite food. For instance, Americans eat about 350 slices of pizza per second. That is a lot of pizza! The point is almost everyone eats pizza and if you target your market correctly, you will be very successful. The vast majority of pizza eaters really do want a good pizza pie and will go out of their way for it.

All in all, when you do something from the heart, success is sure to follow… eventually.  Perseverance, passion and love for it will see you through. If you’re in it because you think it is easy money and you’re going to make millions selling dirt for gold, I have news for you, it won’t work.

Be honest with your customers, and they will trust you. No amount of advertising will ever make your customers as loyal to you than if you just tell the truth about your business and your product. Highlight your strengths. To all of my fellow pizzaiolos, make pizza and not war. Remember to keep spinning those pies with love! It’s great to be back.


Roberto Vergalito is “the Pizza Dude” owns and operates Roberto’s Pizza Passion in St. Catharines, Ont. Comments and questions for Roberto can be sent to him c/o Canadian Pizza magazine, P.O. Box 530, 105 Donly Dr. S., Simcoe, ON, N3Y 4N5 or fax 1-888-404-1129.


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