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The Pizza Dude: Stand alone or stand apart

Stand alone or stand apart


March 25, 2008
By Roberto Vergalito

Topics

I love to receive feedback and questions about our
industry, and one of the latest e-mails I received was very
interesting. A fellow pizzaiolo was distraught over the fact that his
competitors were destroying the market with low-cost lunches; delivery
included.

Hello my fellow pizzaiolos!
I love to receive feedback and questions about our industry, and one of the latest e-mails I received was very interesting. A fellow pizzaiolo was distraught over the fact that his competitors were destroying the market with low-cost lunches; delivery included.
I wouldn’t be happy about that either. How do you compete with people that give away their food? More importantly, how can they get away with it? Unless they have something to compensate for the losses with, how do you stay in business if you’re going to give the food away for next to nothing?
It’s hard enough to stay in business at fair market prices, but to give away food that you pay for is ludicrous for anybody. Chances are, if they are a fly-by-night operation, they won’t be around long, so just hang in there. But what do you do about a big chain that can offer a half-decent product at a cheap price? How do you compete with that?
My advice is to come up with a product that people will want and can only get at your place. I call this staying ahead of the competition.
Right now everyone is on a health kick, so why not come up with a healthy pizza crust? It’s simple, won’t cost you much extra and you don’t have to get super creative.
Sometimes the simplest of things are the most tasteful things. For example, try making a crust with ground walnuts. Or make a crust with eggs in your recipe using eggs that are high in omega-3 fats.
Perhaps you might want to try a dessert pizza crust. Before you stretch it, add some blueberries or raisins, par-bake it, put a Nutella spread on it, slice up some apples, add a sprinkle of icing sugar and voila: a dessert pizza.
Making dough is very simple, try the same recipe you’re using now and make a whole-wheat crust. A great example of this is our fellow Canadian Pizza Team member and Canadian Pizza Chef of the Year, Diana Coutu. She added a little beer to her recipe and has since gained international recognition for it.
Something else that might really encourage customers to come through your door is offering a specialty food from your childhood, perhaps something “grandma used to make.”
One thing I remember from my childhood is an uncle of mine, god rest his soul, who used to make pizza fritta, or fried pizza. It was just fried pizza dough. The great thing about this is you can expand on it by stuffing the middle with cheese or anything you’d like. And the stories you can tell customers about it bring that personal touch to customer service.
Your options are endless; but just remember to create a dish or pizza that can be purchased only at your establishment. Hopefully this will keep customers strolling through the doors.
Don’t let your competitor get the best of you. Like rabid dogs, competitors can smell fear. Don’t give them the satisfaction of knowing you’re concerned. You can get the better of them by knowing your neighbourhood and finding out what people want. Then it’s easy – give it to them. 
Another great idea is to do something for charity so that people will see you’re giving back to the community.  Try holding a charity event to raise money for a cause you believe in.  Be it cancer research, AIDS, Sick Children’s Hospital, or whatever the need is in your community, even if you only raise a few hundred dollars, it shows you care about your fellow man and woman.
In this business you can stand alone, or stand apart. I like to like stand apart from my competition by showing my customers that not only am I a local businessman, but I’m also trying to be the best citizen I can be as well. A little heart and soul into my neighbourhood goes a long way to keep them coming back to Roberto’s. People will sooner buy a pizza at your place if they know you are giving something back as opposed to just keeping everything for yourself. Be a pillar in the community.
Today’s pizza and restaurant business is very competitive. The only way to survive is to stay ahead of the competition and never let them get the best of you. They might keep you on your toes, but it’s also your job to keep them on their toes.
I’m the Pizza Dude.


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