Utilize items that will excel
I have the best pizza in the city!” Or at least that’s what most people say when they open a new shop.
I never did. I just let the pizza speak for itself. Of course, over the last eight years and with the help of supremely talented people, our pizzas racked up a number of awards — and now we can show off in our marketing.
So, how can you turn a boast into the truth? It’s probably not going to happen the day you open your new store, but these tips will get your menu on its way.
When you hear a Billy Joel song on the radio, you know it’s Billy Joel. Similarly, when people bite into our pizza, I want them to know it’s our pizza. We’re unique.
While most towns have a handful of large-scale vendors that almost every pizzeria uses for ingredients, you shouldn’t. A lot of large distributors sell products from their own labels, which is why a lot of pizza tastes the same.
Find a smaller Italian-focused distributor, one that very few or, even better, none of your rivals are using. You’re on your way to that Billy Joel pizza.
Dough, sauce, cheese and pepperoni — get these correct first. You can have plans for other pies, but you have to nail the basics.
I recommend using a “tasting panel” of friends and family. Before we settled on the ingredients that would be the basis for many of our pies, it took me three dough recipes, hours with the “sauce lady,” a bunch of cheese samplings and even more pepperoni picking. You can grow from there, relying on your tasting panel for banana peppers, olives, spices, appetizers — anything.
Talking about the basics, if this is your first shop or you’re unsure about your culinary skills outside of pizza, stick with what you know. There’s no need to come up with 30 wing sauces or deep fry every vegetable you can find for an appetizer. First and foremost, customers want good pizza.
It’s fantastic if you can produce a bunch of specialty pies from the start, but maybe you can’t. The next best thing is to look at established pizzerias. Use their menus for inspiration. See a pie you like? You don’t need to steal the recipe, but you can put your own spin on the style. Over time, your creativity will catch up with you.
Don’t overdo it. Inspect your kitchen and prep area and understand what you’re capable of cooking.
Like steak on a pizza? What if you have nowhere to prepare it? Want to offer lasagna? What if it takes too much time to make?
If an item is a headache, cut it. You want your menu to be easy to execute so your kitchen runs as efficiently as possible.
At that point, your shop is open with a new menu and great pizza. Next month, we’ll begin Marketing 101.
NICK BOGACZ is the founder and president of Caliente Pizza & Draft House in Pittsburgh. Instagram: @caliente_pizza