Never have I been more excited for summer in my entire life. After this disgusting mess of a winter season, I plan on maximizing every single moment of sunshine before the sun returns to hibernation. Not unlike any other season, summertime is most perfectly celebrated with pizza — but this time of year offers big opportunities for restaurants and their customers.
When the weather is nice, I will always choose a pizzeria that offers outdoor seating over one that does not. It’s even good for you to have some tables and chairs in front of your store because the people occupying them will serve as a billboard for your business. Just keep in mind that you’re taking on some extra responsibility once you have outdoor seating. You have to staff the area so tables aren’t left repellently filthy. Sloppy garbage cans will attract insects, and that’s a surefire way to scare off customers. As much as I like the sun in my face, some will demand shade, so have a couple umbrellas handy.
Regardless of where I eat it, the food I order usually changes as the days get longer. I tend to hold back on toppings, limiting myself to just a single meat or a couple of vegetables. Pizza margherita is a great option for those looking to keep it light since it uses fresh mozzarella instead of a fattier low-moisture variety. It’s also a great seasonal feature if you’re using locally grown basil and/or farm fresh tomatoes. Sweet and bright flavors like these are a great contrast to the rich, heavy, creamy flavors that play well when it’s cold outside. This is the time of year when it is ideal to experiment with seasonal produce that doesn’t often make it onto your pizza menu. I will absolutely try a limited edition pizza with strawberry or peach just because they’re fresh and in season.
It’s essential to have a cold beverage to wash down that warm slice. Craft beer was huge at this year’s International Pizza Expo — and for good reason. When I see unique beers on your menu, it tells me you’re not just sticking to the formula. Even though you’re not the only person serving New Belgium or Rogue, the fact that you’re offering alternatives to the mainstream brands tells me you care about taste. My personal pairing of choice is a crispy cola, especially something sweetened with cane sugar. They’re usually packaged in a thick glass bottle that’s great to hold and elicits nostalgia with every sip.
No summertime pizzeria wish list would be complete without some mention of cold treats. Of course people love ice cream, but alternatives like gelato, Italian ices and spumoni echo the Italian nature of pizza and give you a marketing edge. It’s also a bonus that I’m already in your pizzeria and therefore won’t need to make a special trip to the ice cream shop down the block.
However you choose to celebrate summer, remember that customers like me are itching to enjoy a sweet relief from Old Man Winter. Make use of the opportunity and you’ll have a good chance of holding my attention into the fall.
Scott Wiener owns and operates Scott’s Pizza Tours in New York City.