Canadian Pizza Magazine

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Virtual pizza community

We couldn’t be together in person this year, so we got together virtually


In our Cross-Country Check-In, we heard from operators about how they are meeting the challenges of COVID.

On Oct. 19 Canadian Pizza hosted a live, half-day Virtual Canadian Pizza Summit to promote conversation and fresh ideas for your pizzeria.

Scott Wiener, founder of Scott’s Pizza Tours in New York City and Slice Out Hunger charity joined us live with inspiring opening remarks on how to get people to actively root for your pizzeria. It’s not just about the food, he told us – pizzerias are “a reset” to a simple pleasure many people associate with childhood.

“A restaurant doesn’t have to be a place that you physically go to.” For example, he’s been impressed by pizzerias delivering kits to customers and running free 30-minute online classes. “This is a great opportunity for you to show customers it’s not that easy to do what you do.”

“Tell your pizzeria’s story over and over,” he urged. “The best way to root for people is to know who they are.”

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Jeremy and Josh Paone, co-owners with father Tony Paone of The Lock Wood Fired Pizza in Port Colborne, Ont., explained how they combatted a traffic drop in March and April by offering a 50 per cent discount to first responders, a move that drove sales and created goodwill in their small town. They operated a very popular mobile pizza trailer in spring, summer and fall and hosted a socially distanced pizza-eating contest for customers who enjoy a hot, spicy pie.

Aaron Gehrman, owner of Emilio Finatti Food Services Inc., White Rock, B.C., talked about his business’s emphasis on cleaning and sanitization. He explained that removing the self-serve option has not only contributed to peace of mind for customers and staff, but also saved the operation money by reducing overhead costs. He encouraged other operators to keep your front windows clean. “It goes a long way,” said the entrepreneur, who was set to open a third location with industrial kitchen and pizza equipment supply in November.

Cory Medd, owner of Two Guys and a Pizza Place in Lethbridge, Alta., has upped signage on safety measures. The menu reminds customers of “Our promise to you and your promise to us.” Early on they reduced hours and started closing on Mondays to do deep cleaning and repainting. They streamlined their operation back to delivery and take-out, using the extra dining space to allow customers picking up their orders to spread out. To keep staff motivated and excited to come to work, Medd changed the bonus structure, included drivers in tipping policies and set up staff house accounts to feed staff.

Previous Chef of the Year Dean Litster, owner of Armando’s Pizza in Amherstburg, Ont., presented a killer dual demo offering tips on making the iconic Windsor-style and Detroit-style pizzas. For Litster, aka Professor Zaaa, the pans are paramount, with blue steel pans creating the added heat necessary to get a good bake.

Reigning two-time Great Pizza Box Fold-Off champ James Timothy of Zen’Za Pizzeria in London, Ont., gave us a demo, shared tips as Giorgio Taverniti of Frank’s Pizza House in Toronto and Virgil Risi of Maria’s Original Pizza of Brantford, Ont., folded via video. Risi emerged the winner with an impressive time of 36.33 seconds to fold 10 large boxes, outfolding Timothy’s record of 42.55 seconds. The 19-year-old won $100, a framed certificate and coverage in the magazine.

The Summit would not be possible without the support of Premier sponsors Faema Canada, Euro-Milan Inc. and Ardent Mills, Prime sponsor EM Bakery Equipment and Fold-Off sponsor Lallemand Baking. Thank you! Watch the recorded sessions at canadianpizzamag.com/virtual-events.