No pizzeria has ever earned a Michelin star. That’s right, the restaurant guide founded by a tire company just isn’t into pizza. A few years ago, I heard a rumor that a pizzeria in Naples was expected to receive the honor. They were so sure about it they even had a film crew follow the proprietor to document the lead-up to the announcement. Then the ratings hit — still no pizzeria. All that time and energy spent on expectation for nothing.
I recently heard a pizza maker announce on a podcast that his goal is to be the first slice shop to earn a Michelin star. I love the energy, but it’s a tricky mission to control because nobody knows the Michelin Guide’s criteria for awarding stars. There’s no checklist. It’s not like a health inspection where someone hands over a list of violations and your score jumps when you fix them. An accolade like this is just too mysterious to spend time chasing.
On the other end of the spectrum is Dave Portnoy. That’s the guy who posts a video of himself eating a different slice every day, assigning a score based on one bite (or often more). Every pizzeria in the country hopes he’ll walk through the door because his videos always boost sales.
Unlike the Michelin army of surveyors, this is just one guy’s opinion, but I’ll argue that it’s a more manageable goal. Watch a handful of his videos and you’ll quickly get an idea of how he rates. Neapolitan doesn’t do it for him, and specialty slices are a waste because he sticks to plain cheese. I’ve heard about pizzerias tweaking their pizza or even creating alternate versions just to suit his taste. I’m not saying you should do that, but it’s a good example of a steady target. (Hopefully I don’t need to tell you how silly it is to tailor your product to one customer, no matter how large their online reach.)
Online reviews may seem like an unwieldy mess, but I actually think they’re infinitely more manageable than any other “best of” list. These websites change their organizational structure and internal algorithms all the time, but consistently achieving good reviews will always yield positive results. Pick your review site of choice (Yelp, TripAdvisor, Google, etc.) and concentrate on it. Ask your loyal customers to give you a review. Place box toppers with QR codes offering a discount for any review, positive or negative, on your pizza boxes. The more action you can get on your review page, the better.
This won’t help if your food and service are terrible, but your excellent pizzeria will only amplify its visibility thanks to the voices of your happy customers. Review sites usually list your business in multiple categories, and with persistence you’ll work your way up to one of their top spots. It may not come with the notoriety and bragging rights of a viral video, but it’s an achievable goal.
Don’t let yourself get caught up in the chase for lists and rankings over which you have no control. Instead, focus on the things you can quantify and manage, and the rest is more likely to follow.
SCOTT WIENER is the founder of Scott’s Pizza Tours in New York City and SliceOutHunger.org Instagram: @scottspizzatours