There are several areas that are key to success and while all these areas are important any one is not the end all and be all to a successful formula. I’m sure you can think of that local chain that has the worst pizza in town and yet you see their delivery vehicles everywhere you go.
My own personal mystery was a pizza place in Brooklyn that was run by a guy with no personality that I am sure inspired the soup Nazi years later with his disrespect and rudeness to his customers. Aside from the pizza makers smoking while they made pizza, he would tell you to eat the unburnt part of the pie if you dared to complain.
How about the places that are so far off the beaten path you need a guide to find them or better yet they have no name on the joint? You can’t make this stuff up but it gives one hope that there is room for all of us to succeed.
I want to qualify this as my own personal opinion from working with, knowing and visiting with hundreds of pizza men and women all over the country. By no means is this THE BIBLE OF PIZZA or to be taken as law but it will give you a pretty good idea of what to concern yourself with if your new to the game, stale or in deep trouble.
- Location, Location, Location-the best way is to be the only game in town or be in a tourist location where there are no other options available or the ones available are of no consequence due to being very expensive or a different and specialized category like a fish house. Some the most successful places specialized in malls, theme parks, schools, military bases or small town USA.
- Make the best pizza known to man or there about. If you are making a really top notch product people will find you and not only that, people will talk. Word of mouth is the best advertising it has been said. The reason for this is that people will trust the opinion of friends and family over silly unfounded claims of the best pizza in town and such advertised in the local paper.
- Be unique. Examples of this are everywhere but they may not seem apparent. Like making a Chicago pie where there never was one, having a wood burning brick oven, using insects as a topping or having a pizza drive through like OL Jose’s in Pineville West Virginia where they are using a revolving brick oven.
- Be a social maniac. Take pride in being part of your community. Before there was social media, there were social men and women. These wonderful people actually cared about the people they met and considered customers as friends to share joys and sorrows with. One very moving example of this is when people would come to Goodfella’s Pizza in Staten Island on their way home from work in the days after 911 just to get out of the house and be with people who cared in a friendly and safe environment. There are many examples I can think of; like the guy who coaches the local little league, the girl who hosts local heroes with pizza parties, the place that supports boy scouts, the place that sponsors Special Olympics or the guys that collect donations for slices to feed the homeless. There are so many ways to build good will in a community and give back while earning respect and loyalty that I could write a book about it but you get the idea.
- Service. Run a tight ship that gives service and shows genuine care for the customer’s experience. I don’t know about you but when I am ignored, the host is not pleasant, the server acts like he is doing me a favor, the table is dirty when I am seated or my unfamiliarity with ordering and the menu is treated with impatience, you have lost me, and more importantly, any future income my patronage may have brought. This may seem like a given but if you are not on top of this and setting a good example for your crew it will never happen. A little thing like a smile or help and directions can go a long way in building a relationship with your customers. One terrible example I won’t forget was having my little daughter with me in a new town when she had to use a bathroom so we walked into a place and we were treated so rudely I swore I would never visit that place. I understand the old “Bathrooms are for paying customers” routine but sometimes being human and having discretion can earn you a great deal of loyalty. In other words, if it isn’t costing you anything to be kind-always be kind. Believe it or not but this also includes salesmen wasting your time. Those salesmen are not only people but potential customers with family and friends that also eat.