Each March, at the International Pizza Expo™ in Las Vegas, Nevada, there are two Beer and Bull™ sessions where attendees can ask questions and share their experiences. These sessions provide a great opportunity to learn from other operators’ experiences, see the variety of solutions to everyday issues, and gauge new trends in the industry.
Here is a brief recap of the hottest Q&A from this year:
Are any operators raising your menu prices? How much?
What is everyone charging for delivery?
- We raise prices based on the food cost increase percentage - if my costs went down I raised the price 1-3% to cover higher increases on other supplies.
- We increase prices on different parts of the menu at different times of the year – so little that customers don’t notice.
- This year everything went up by $1.
- We print our menus 4 times/year and adjust prices with costs.
- We raised them 7% and had no push back from customers.
- My customers don’t care if we raise prices as long as we serve quality products.
- My customers were upset but understand that things are expensive.
What is your policy for delivery driver insurance?
- We don’t charge anything.
- $4 for a 25 mile range.
- $.25 per mile.
- We don’t charge for delivery – we pay the drivers $8-10/hour and they average $5/house in tips – we only allow up to 2 houses per run so that the pizza stays hot.
- $2 per delivery and the drivers keep all tips.
- $4 per delivery with an average ticket of $35.
- We drive junker cars - I purchase them for $500 or less, claim the federal allowance of $.54/mile and we’ve paid for the car, our drivers gets minimum wage plus tips.
- One of my drivers got into an accident and his insurance wouldn’t cover it so I now carry delivery driver insurance to cover myself and them.
- I have heard that the drivers’ insurance companies will cover accidents but people just tend to go after who has more money.
- My drivers are required to have covered insurance for themselves but I carry some as well.
- I have only found one company that excludes delivery drivers from their policies.
With the price of fuel cost we offer free delivery for 5 miles and $1/mile after that. Does anyone else compensate for fuel cost?
- If you take the actual costs for each delivery it is really pennies; to simplify, we just add that minimal fee to each delivery.
- The drivers are always going to complain – we charge for delivery so that we cover delivery expenses without charging all of our customers.
Does anyone give away free food?
Are there any good employee incentive programs that don’t involve cash?
- We charge for everything – it’s our business.
- We give the employees free food – when they’ve worked for 6-10 hours; otherwise, they pay cost and make it themselves.
- Be careful about giving food away – you will need to fill out a 1099 form.
- We give 30% off for employees and their families who come when they’re not working.
- We have free food to all employees at all times – it encourages loyalty.
Can we charge more for credit card purchases?
- We take the employees to local events like races, rodeos, go-cart tracks, etc.
- We give away a European trip for two – they can buy tickets to win the trip for $1/each.
- We give the waiters and waitresses who sell the most of the day’s special a free meal.
- We have an ongoing contest where the bartender who sells the most of the specialty beer get a night off where their manager will work for them and give them all of the tips.
Is anyone using online ordering?
- Definitely – the gas stations do it and we should too.
Anyone selling gluten-free pizza?
- Was 10% of our sales last year.
- Our online average check price is usually higher than phone or in room.
- We pay $50 a month, but it is worth the price.
- I don’t even have a website for my restaurant let alone online ordering or an app.
- 30% of my orders come in online or through apps.
- My customers don’t want to be put on hold when they’re ordering, why not give them an option to go online or use an app?
- We did over a $250,000 in online ordering last year.
Does anyone discount lazy customers?
- We order gluten-free dough so we don’t have to deal with having flour around it. We have a small oven in the back because we don’t have room in the kitchen.
- We have a “gluten-free” pizza but we don’t keep it away from the other areas of kitchen; we have notices so people understand that it may possibly be contaminated.
- All of our flour is rice flour, we have been certified as gluten-free establishment.
- It takes a lot of steps to make sure our pizzas are gluten-free; when we started the GF pizzas were getting mixed up with other ingredients so now we are only using rice flour and don’t have to worry about cross contamination.
- We ask the customer if they are intolerant or if a lifestyle choice. For celiac intolerant, we take more precautions.
- We realized that we had to research all ingredients to make sure they don’t have gluten in them before serving.
- Be careful, if you make someone sick, you are done.
Anyone using LivingSocial or Groupon?
- I don’t reward my customers for bad behavior – coupon shopping, discount dealers, giving lazy customers discounts, etc.
- I don’t want to reward customers for not buying; this causes loss in repeat returns - I reward loyal customers.
- I give special deals to new and loyal customers and reminders to lazy customers.
- I have found that people who buy the coupons tend to be good returning customers.
- Some people only come with Groupons, for us as restaurant owners, we need returning customers so we can’t make enough off of them.
- We will continue to use coupons in slow times because customers tend to be happy with it.
- We wouldn’t use again - they wouldn’t purchase more than the deal and were bad tippers.
- It was a bad decision - we only got deal shoppers.
Here is a short summary of the questions and answers from the Beer and Bull Idea Exchange from Tuesday March 1, 2011.
Q: Bought a pizzeria a year and half ago, industrial area near a hospital, how do you get more customers to a hidden location?
- Bring your pizza to the customers and let them know where you are.
- Give 6 pies to the nurses’ desk, compliments of [insert name].
- Sponsor teams – get your food out to the community, give it to all the kids, take it in your wrapped vehicle.
- Get someone to run your menu around to all of the manufacturers.
- If you can’t get the customer to come to you – get delivery.
- Do a direct mail piece specific to the business – give it to all of the front line people.
- Get good signage and signage to direct them.
- Get on twitter and Facebook and engage your customers.
- Get drivers out to sell pizzas and slices at lunch breaks.
- Go to the HR department and give them a special discount coupon.
- Cater to the employees at lunch time.
Q: Gluten-free pizzas – how many people are selling gluten-free pizza today? Any suggestions?
- Gluten-free awareness is taking place – we will see more and more of it. The gluten-free brings in the entire family not just the gluten-free customer.
- The tickets are higher.
- Have to be very careful to segregate separate tools and equipment. If you don’t follow strict food safety rules you will get someone sick and lose all of your customers.
- Social media is pushing the trend – many people use it for people without Celiac, for example, kids with behavior disorders. This trend will increase.
- Probably the only thing you can retail that is based on a medical situation. If you can satisfy a consumer based on a medical condition rather than a want you are one up on your competition.
- People should not be charged for gluten-free pizza because it is not pizza.
- Big industry that can be capitalized on and should not be ignored – you will lose money and your competition will take it.
- If any of us is ignorant enough not to sell – then don’t, we’ll take the profit.
- “I don’t care what they eat, as long as they’re eating at my pizzeria.”
- Tested with the customers, they get involved and really respond.
- Add gluten-free beer.
- If you are afraid of your flour mixing in with your dough – go to Roma and get some premade dough – it’s frozen and delicious. My Celiac club loves it.
Q: If you are doing gluten-free do you do it in a separate kitchen?
- Strict guidelines for the prep area, top with back of the stock toppings, put it in a separate oven, use a clean tray and pizza cutter – have never once had an issue
Q: Gluten-free – how has it changed your sales?
- Up 40% – you will bring in more people not just those with Celiac.
- 5-6% but continually growing.
Q: Is gluten-free more expensive than regular pizza?
- Yes, the ingredients are more expensive and it takes more expertise and time.
- Same price as regular pizza, smaller size because you are making pizza for smaller groups or individuals to sell with the pizza the rest of their party will buy.
Q: If you have a small pizza area, how much space do you need for gluten-free?
- Any time you add a menu extension like this you will have to completely change your workflow or facility – remember, you can kill someone if you aren’t careful.
- Flour can stay in the air for 24 hours so you can’t use the same space.
Q: How many of you are doing online ordering? What about mobile ordering or an app?
- With Revention started online ordering a month ago and increased sales by 25%
- Got with Revention now our biggest problem is we get too many orders and our wait time increases for our phone customers.
- The big guys are doing online ordering and mobile ordering – don’t let them take this market.
Q: Fresh or frozen dough?
- It is getting to the point where fresh and frozen dough are almost indistinguishable.
- Watch the ingredients – some overuse sugar and don’t use the proper yeast
- You can make you dough and freeze it but you have to be incredibly precise about the ingredients and then it may be good frozen for up to 6 months.
Q: Pepperoni – we just had our restaurant change and now we’re slicing pepperoni? Does it make a difference?
- We save about 20% slicing it ourselves and I don’t have to pay the extra to have even pieces.
Q: Kitchen nightmares with Gordon Ramsey.
- He came in and kicked us, then he changed how we do our menu – more fresh vegetables, in house meatballs, he also simplified our menu, focus on pizzas, more upscale pizzas
- New specialty pizzas – Fortina pizza – Spinach with Egg, Mexican pizza, BBQ with pork
- He made our restaurant a modern, upscale pizzeria – less like our traditional competition.
- Look around at what businesses are thriving – Starbucks, Subway – they are all clean and bright. Then look at pizza parlors – they are dark and dingy, it doesn’t work any more.
Q: How many people have their personal and professional assets in a trust to save themselves from liability? How do you protect yourself?
- That’s what corporations and LLCs are for.
- As a small guy, I am heavily insured. Get amazing business insurance.
Q: How many people are having a good time?
Q: Any success stories with desserts?
- Subway sells more cookies than any other retailer in the country – put a cookie jar next to the register
- Sell dessert pizza, use regular crust, pie filling, add cream cheese icing – $2 to make, $7 to buy.
- Make dessert pizza with butter and sugar – $.12 to make, $2 to buy.
- Otis Spunkmeyer cookies – $.20 to make, $1 to buy.
- Make smores in the pizza oven – big money maker, great for birthday parties.
Q: How many people are free-handing ingredients?
- It is crazy – just throwing money out the door. For example, restaurant saved $15,000 in the first year on cheese.
- The pizza makers on the line make or lose the money – teach them properly and give them the tools to help you.
Q: POS Systems?
- Get one or you are losing money.
- Many great options – InTouch, Revention.
- Can track what we’re selling, cut down on the wasted ingredients, track labor.
- Revention has treated us nice, great response, good customer service, 24 hour helpdesk, online ordering
- InTouch has been great for us, friendly, user-friendly, a lot of upcoming things – online ordering, good service
Q: What do you do for Community involvement?
- Have the organization advertise and serve the food – they keep the tips, we keep the food profit.
- Give 10% back to school system for one day sales, class with highest participation gets free pizza party.
Q: Delivery. What do you do to protect yourself beyond incorporation?
- Insurance for drivers.
- 10-99 the driver and you make them a private contractor – but be careful, you can’t control what they do during their shift.
- Every state is probably different but you can have the drivers sign an independent contractor license – however, if they are wearing your shirt and hat they are not independent contractors.
- Get a commercial policy for everyone – requires copy of drivers license, insurance, etc.
- Keep the driver accountable – make them give you copies of driving records from the DMV.
Q: Delivery. How do you draw delivery zones?
- Depends on your town and driving time.
- Calculate how long it will take for them to drive to the edge of your zone, how many drivers you have, what it costs to take it, and make sure it is still profitable.
Q: Rising prices? Who has increased prices?
- [A few hands raise] There is no shame in raising prices – commodities are increasing, so you can too.
Q: Thoughts on the Pizza Industry from Pete LaChappelle
- Can you imagine if we got all 70,000 pizzerias to go for the same cause, in the same day – just for one day? We can create a movement – we have an opportunity to elevate this industry. In the first week of October get everyone to look in the same direction and create a movement, and waves.
- We would like to change the image of pizza – we would like to make people realize that pizza is not “fast food”
Thanks for coming – come back tomorrow night.