If you aren’t making these in-house, you really need to be
Independent pizza places that sell “turn and burn” pizza are a dying breed. It’s actually easier to attempt to sell the best quality local pizza rather than fight in the trenches with the chains — competing with their insane deals that leave no room for profit margin. The big boys can skate by on seemingly smaller margins, but they are making their money via massive buying power and loose standards for ingredients. A decade ago, you could still fight for the fast pizza, no-frills portion of the demo. Today if you have less than 10 units and are still establishing yourself in the community, it’s easier to stand out for quality rather than low cost.
When I talk about making items from scratch I don’t simply mean making dough from an actual bag of flour rather than buying it frozen — that’s not enough anymore. I’m not even going to include dough in this list because that’s the price of admission into the quality pizza game; you should be doing that already. The same goes for making and mixing your own sauce.
The reality today is that your freezer is not your friend; it is your ankle weight and it’s holding you back from owning and operating the pizza restaurant you deserve. So here are five things you can start making from scratch in your restaurant today:
• Fresh whole milk mozzarella. This is my mama jama, numero uno, best made-from-scratch item. Customers go nutty for it like I just turned the “Hot Doughnuts Now” light on at Krispy Kreme. By using fresh curd to melt into mozzarella, I create something better than anything that can be purchased at even the best specialty store because mozzarella freshly made tastes vastly different from mozzarella made yesterday. All it takes is curd, salt, hot water and ice water. It’s super simple but makes a big impact for a made-fresh item that no Big Boy chain is willing to take on. YouTube and the curd companies themselves have a bunch of videos on how to do this easily and effectively.
• Meatballs. There are thousands of good meatball recipes online and on PizzaToday.com. The additives in many frozen meatballs are obvious. When you make some never frozen, fresh meatballs, they taste completely different and will stand out from everything else. You will earn your restaurant the name recognition you want and need. It’s an item like this that makes your place known as being upper echelon in a sea of sameness.
• Ranch dressing. I could have said salad dressings in general, but let’s walk before we run. Ranch dressing is the most standard, most requested dressing by a long shot. Also, you will have a lot of people that want this as a side for their crust. You might think that is verboten, and I don’t mind that, but a large customer base, especially in the Midwest and the South, take their ranch seriously. Delivering a unique, real flavor that they can’t buy at the store or from your competitor is enough to make a lot of people keep coming back to you, and only you. They may even buy it in bulk from you like they do at my stores.
• Alfredo sauce. This shouldn’t be made in bulk or come from a bag or powder. This should be made to order with heavy cream, Parmesan and garlic. It’s so perfect when it’s just kept basic. If you’re concerned about consistency, use measuring spoons, etc., with specific instructions for repeatable performance. After that, it’s just a matter of inspecting your crew, reinforcing good behavior, and you get a superior product with great consistency.
• Baguettes for sandwich bread. This one might seem like some big league, full-blown, five-star restaurant stuff, but it really isn’t that hard and you already have everything you need. A simple sourdough is made with a starter of flour and water and then it’s just yeast, salt, and more water and flour from there. How you cultivate and ferment your bread is at your discretion. Fresh bread creates a differentiator from not just your pizza competition, but from all your restaurant competition (including sandwich shops) — and even the high-end steakhouse in the nice part of town. Odds are they aren’t making their bread but are instead buying it from a bakery. This is one you can hang your hat on when it comes time to talk about quality and passion with the local newspaper.
If you think you already have a name for yourself and doing any of these would be excessive, then I would say, “What do you have to lose?” Complacency can creep in without any of us noticing. Taking the status quo and shaking it up creates and extends brand longevity.
MORE on ways to implement these ideas in your kitchen.
Mike Bausch owns and operates Andolini’s Pizzeria in the Tulsa, Oklahoma, area. He is a frequent speaker and presenter at International Pizza Expo.