A pizzeria is an exciting and potentially profitable venture, but it comes with unique challenges: it’s hard to stand out in the crowded, competitive pizza industry. Offering great customer service is difficult, especially during peak hours or when language barriers exist. Fresh ingredients are expensive, and skilled labor for pizzerias can be difficult to find and retain, leading to staffing challenges.
However, finding ways to stand out, knowing your market, utilizing technology, and working closely with your staff, are all tactics pizzeria owners can use to attract new customers and develop loyal patrons.
This blog post covers how solutions like digital point of sale (POS) systems, eco-friendly practices, locally-sourced ingredients, and having fun can help you overcome the challenges facing pizzerias.
Local and national chains, individual pizzerias, make-your-own-pie fast-casual restaurants, supermarkets, and convenience stores are all vying for customers' attention in the pizza industry. Effective marketing is critical for attracting new customers and maintaining customer loyalty, but it can be difficult to distinguish your brand.
Franchisees and chains have benefits including:
Independent pizzerias have more flexibility to evolve their concepts, but they also have to work harder to get the attention of their target market. A poorly chosen branding concept or a menu that isn’t right for the local market could lead to failure.
Choose a specialty or gimmick that makes you different from your competitors. Perhaps you experiment with pizza menu items, for example. Pizza Patrón, a growing chain based in San Antonio, Texas, is working to put “San Antonio style” pizza on the map, featuring elements like maize crust, tomatillo sauce, and other Tex-Mex flavors to liven up their pies.
In addition to menu innovation, whimsical elements like board games or playgrounds offer a family feel, and can signal to your market that you’re ready to feed (and entertain) everyone in their home.
These extras in pizzeria marketing give customers a reason to choose you over the brand down the street. Here are some ideas for other differentiators:
Customer service is among the most common problems faced by pizzeria owners. Pizza is a traditionally low-budget food with lots of customization options. Furthermore, people expect to get their pizza quickly.
A fast-paced environment with tight deadlines and lots of complicated orders that need to be turned around quickly creates plenty of opportunities for mistakes. To make matters more difficult, pizzerias tend to have a high volume of orders at peak hours and surrounding local events. This can make it challenging to manage and fulfill orders while providing excellent customer service.
People from all kinds of different cultures and walks of life eat pizza. Language barriers between staff and customers add an extra challenge to a brand’s ability to provide top-notch customer service, even with the most experienced and effective pizzeria management.
Paper tickets have become outdated at most restaurants. Especially at pizzerias, using paper tickets is really going to put you behind the competition.
Look instead to technology, starting with a digital POS system, to keep pace with the standards in restaurant operations. Digital kitchen management solutions, like kitchen display systems (KDS) also go a long way to reduce ticket times, increase accuracy, and lower the effort of taking and fulfilling orders.
Advanced POS systems integrated with online and third-party ordering services create a streamlined ordering experience for both employees and customers. Self-service ordering options such as mobile applications, tablet-based ordering or kiosks allow customers to see all of their options and customize their pizza how they like. Orders then go straight to the kitchen, so there are fewer chances for mistakes.
While a pizza-specific POS might seem like a costly investment, it will pay for itself with the repeat business, reduced-order times, and additional cross-selling/upselling that it provides.
Use customer surveys and ask customers in the restaurant to learn whether they’re happy with the customer service you’re providing. Ask specifically about tools like online ordering and kiosks. You’ll likely find that your customers are glad you have them.
Quality cheese, tomatoes, dough, and toppings aren’t cheap. Furthermore, keeping them on hand eats into a pizzeria's profit margins, especially if there’s a slow day or two. Not having enough ingredients when you need them means items may have to come off the menu, which isn’t good for customer service.
Inflated food costs can force you to drive up your menu prices, which can make your restaurant less appealing to customers and more likely to lose out to the pizzeria with less quality pizza ingredients down the road.
Pizzerias can manage food costs by sourcing ingredients locally, negotiating prices with suppliers, and reducing waste through careful inventory management. Pizzerias are in a better position than many kinds of restaurants to negotiate for lower food costs because their recipes are so versatile and so many quality pizza ingredients are available.
Instead of making all of your toppings available all of the time, cycle them in and out depending on availability and seasonality. Incorporate fun and temporarily available toppings into your marketing strategy to get customers to come try out an unusual topping.
Implementing technology can solve common back-of-house pain points in the kitchen that result in spending more on food than necessary. Manage your inventory with a POS system that constantly tells you what you need to stock so you can reduce food waste without ingredient shortages.
Regularly using and analyzing inventory reports can help you keep an eye on your food costs to ensure that they don't become too high. Aim for a food cost of no more than 28-35% of your total sales.
Finding and retaining skilled labor for pizzerias in a strapped labor market can be challenging. You won’t be able to get good workers without offering competitive wages and benefits. However, even if you’re offering better pay and perks than the other pizzerias around, you may still struggle to get staff that can run your pizzeria like you would.
Overstaffing your restaurant can lead to high payroll expenses, too high to withstand. If there are ever people standing around doing nothing, it's a clear sign that the location is overstaffed. However, understaffing can lead to poor customer experiences.
Cross-training employees to perform multiple tasks is a good solution. Efficient scheduling and workflow systems help too. However, to get and keep the labor you need, effective pizzeria management, as well as efficient pizzeria staffing solutions, are required.
Owning and managing a pizza brand requires a lot of involvement, especially in the beginning. As the owner, you need to know every detail of your menu items, how they’re being made, and how your employees are interacting with customers. You or your partner may need to be present at the store every day to make that happens.
Be prepared to put in a lot of time, up to 70-80 hours per week, when you’re starting. If you are not prepared to put in this amount of time, you may want to consider hiring a very involved restaurant manager. Effective pizzeria management is crucial to avoiding the common problems faced by owners.
Use labor reports to predict the number of employees needed for each shift and help control labor costs. Watch and train staff carefully to ensure they’re using their time as effectively as possible.
A happy team is an effective team, so regularly check in with your staff to prevent unsatisfactory job conditions from going unnoticed and resulting in increased turnover. Enact an open-door policy and regularly email anonymous surveys for employees to fill out so you’ll get the information you need.
Many pizzerias experience seasonal fluctuations. Demand typically increases during summer, holidays, and around local events. Bottlenecks in your operations as a result of unexpected influxes of demand mean your pizzeria may not have enough staff or ingredients to keep up. The resulting issues lead to frustrated customers, negative reviews, lost sales, and a damaged reputation.
Mitigate seasonal fluctuations by diversifying your menu so you can satisfy customers looking for something other than pizza during slow times. Promote specials and discounts during slow periods and try catering to specific events and occasions.
Use data to anticipate when demand will increase or decrease and plan accordingly. POS software can help you track customer behavior and sales data and allow you to make accurate predictions for efficient pizzeria staffing solutions.
It’s also a good idea to study local events and how they affect surges and lulls in business. Adjust inventory, staffing, and marketing strategies depending on expected fluctuations.
During slow periods focus on advertising and discounting delivery and takeout orders to increase sales and reach customers who may not be able to visit the restaurant in person.
Traffic, weather, and the rising cost of fuel and vehicle maintenance make keeping a fleet of delivery vehicles and drivers challenging, but going through rideshare apps has its own challenges.
Customers expect their food to arrive quickly, hot, and fresh. Late deliveries can result in lost sales, negative reviews, and unhappy customers.
However, having enough drivers on hand to keep up with deliveries can be expensive. Using rideshare apps means you trust the service to maintain your reputation or prompt delivery.
Delivering to different neighborhoods and even outside of the city can be time-consuming and expensive to do yourself, and rideshare apps may not have drivers willing to go further distances.
Today, integrated delivery solutions enable you to get the advantages of a rideshare program while keeping many of the benefits of having your own driver, or manage your delivery options better.
Revel’s Delivery XT, for example, is a fully-integrated delivery solution that lets you assign drivers and track them. It also offers advanced reporting capabilities and provides a single dashboard for essential delivery metrics, real-time tracking, and constant communication with customers. The solution gathers data for smarter routes and live updates.
Revel’s Driver XT powered by DoorDash Drive is a third-party driver dispatch solution that offers full-service delivery without maintaining an in-house driver fleet. This solution lets you retain all your order profits and keep full control of the consumer experience for delivery orders.
To be successful in this competitive industry, pizzeria owners need to stand out with their branding, menu, and marketing. Find innovative ways to offer exceptional customer service even in a fast-paced environment with lots of customization options.
Source quality fresh ingredients frugally and manage inventory carefully to manage costs. In everything you do with your pizzeria, stay closely involved or hire an effective pizzeria management team who can. Involvement enables your team to be proactive in reacting to problems before they develop.