US vs. England

Competing with the Pizza Chains

Pizza Chains
Basic Brick oven pizza from revolving deck brick oven.

Competing with national pizza chains for a slice of the pie is tough. When you look at some of the factors on their side you wonder how any small mom and pop location can ever compete. Yet there are thousands of successful pizza places around the country that do not have the buying power, the advertising, and marketing budget, or the ability to rent the high dollar, high profile locations. Much less the ability to saturate an area with multiple stores. You may ask yourself how they can do it. Or better yet why would they do it? Because an entrepreneur is fearless (well maybe) and an entrepreneur is crazy (like a fox) but most of all an entrepreneur is relentless in his pursuit of his goal. This relentless quality is what makes America great and allows David to compete and sometimes slay Goliath in the in the pizza industry. The same holds true for any endeavor and one of mine is the revolutionary war. The audacity of these colonists to think they could defy mother England and win, yet they did. It required incredible strength, drive, and persistence but it was done. The same can be applied to any business but we are talking about pizza. First of all, there is a thing called personality and the corporate world, while making for consistent and predictable pizza will never be as fast, flexible or creative as the small time, local pizza makers. This is where the local guys and gals have a distinct advantage, they can identify and adapt with the neighborhood. Personality is another factor in creating an image and a destination. No matter great Poppa John may be in person, his photo in every store he owns will never take the place of local town pizza man’s greeting. Several examples come to mind where the pizza man was the local baseball, football or soccer coach. This established a huge rapport with not only the kids but the parents as well. How about the fact that every fundraiser for every  activity from local sports, pet adoption, churches, schools , veterans, disabled, fire and flood victims are continuously supported by the local pizza man without hesitation despite the volume and ever increasing demand for donations. The local pizza man is a go-to guy for meetings and politicians too. This builds a brand loyalty and downright devotion to some small operators. Now add the ability to use fresh ingredients because you can by daily rather than the huge orders corporate has to make to keep food costs down and you get another advantage as a little guy. Next, comes social media which can’t ever be underestimated. Loyal followers love to “check in” and chat about their great pizza and shoot photos of it for facebook. Despite having lots of followers and customers their are only so many photos you can post of the same old Domino pizza. Some places like The Original Goodfella’s Brick Oven Pizza on Hylan Blvd.  Staten Island and Totonno’s Pizzeria Napolitano on Neptune Ave in Coney Island have been elevated to a cult following status because  their fans are so loyal. Would you rather bring your relatives in from out of town to a chain restaurant that they probably already have in their town or to a special local favorite? Would you rather eat fresh wholesome ingredients or mass produced cookie cutter pizza? Would you rather go to a place where everyone knows your name or a place where you are literally given a number? This is the difference in the David vs. Goliath approach and a smart, talented small town operator will always be able to beat the big guy if he treats people well and makes a great product.

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