Pizzeria Owners Offer Visions, Trends for the New Year
Let’s face it: 2020 was a rough year. With the challenges of COVID-19 and dining restrictions, it was extremely difficult to plan for what’s next with your pizzeria. As we’ve entered a new year, uncertainty still looms — but many see a light at the end of the tunnel. What will 2021 have in store for America’s pizzeria operators? We asked a handful of pizzeria owners to share their resolutions for the new year. We also wanted to know where they will spend their resources and what they see as trending in 2021.
J.B. Alberto’s Pizza, Chicago, Illinois
Tony operates one of America’s busiest independent pizzerias. He has been at the helm of the delivery and carryout pizza shop for three decades.
Six Hundred Downtown, Bellefontaine, Ohio
Since taking over Six Hundred Downtown, Brittany has grown the concept, expanding its footprint. Brittany is a four-time pizza champion.
Fine Folk Pizza, Fort Myers, Florida
Mike and Brie opened Fine Folk in 2015 and has become a community staple in Fort Myers, Florida. Fine Folk has become known for it championship winning pizzas and a focus on its “kinfolk” approach to its employees.
Pizaro’s Pizza Napoletana, 2 units, Houston, Texas
Since taking over the operations of her family business, Nicole has guided the pizzeria to add multiple pizza styles, relocate its original location, add an additional unit and grow the business.
King Dough, Indianapolis, Indiana
Originated in Bloomington, Indiana, as a food truck and then a brick and mortar, Adam quickly expanded the wood-fired pizza concept to the Indianapolis market. Today, King Dough thrives in its Indianapolis neighborhood.
What is your 2021 New Year’s Resolution for your
Tony Troiano: Since my business has always been Delivery/Carry out only, we were well positioned for the pandemic. However, I am always trying to improve on what we already have, because when we stop trying to improve we begin to fail. One of the things that I will focus on doing better is my curbside pickup. I feel that customers really like the convenience of sitting in their car while we bring the food to them. This is proven by the fast food drive thrus. Many times they would be much quicker to walk in and pick up; but, as I said, customers prefer the convenience of staying in their vehicle. Since we don’t have a drive thru I want to make pickup as easy as possible and perfect the curbside pickup experience. I believe that post pandemic this will be a trend that people prefer over walking in.
Brittany Saxton: Our goals and focus for the new year will be to focus our efforts on marketing and community involvement; continue to improve our carryout experience, along with team alignment and growth around staying current and innovative within our operation; and looking at what items we may be able to further streamline and improve.
Mike DeNunzio: 2020 forced us to pivot our business and take a hard look at what was going to work and what would not work for the foreseeable future. Corona made us put a band-aid on many systems that had to be changed or were just flat out not going to work. With the rise of minimum wage, the need for healthcare and higher supply chain costs, we feel the massive weight of staying competitive in the market, keeping our team happy, and still providing fantastic hospitality. 2021 is about finding permanent solutions, refining our systems to help with consistency & duplication to increase our store’s profitability, and give core team members more opportunity. We are hyper-focused on growth right now and know that sometimes you have to scale back to move forward. 2021 watch out. We’re coming for ya!
Nicole Bean: 2021 will be primarily focused on growth in specified areas we consider to be “new” demographics. I’ve been watching our market grow over the past four years and have mapped out these target areas with zip code maps to really dial in.
Adam Sweet: In the coming year I’m focusing on creative avenues to get food to people’s homes without them coming to us. Be that pizza delivery, prepared meals, or frozen pizzas.
What do you see as the biggest restaurant trends for pizzerias in 2021?
Tony Troiano: With the huge focus on carryout and delivery this year, I believe this trend will continue. I believe that as pizza operators we have an advantage — because many of us were already doing delivery. However, so much more competition has been added for those same dining dollars. Many of the restaurants whose focus was dine in but pivoted to delivery will continue to do so even when dine in returns to full capacity. With the added competition, we have to be better than ever at what we do. Because, as I said earlier, we are competing for the same dollars. We have to be better, easier and faster because that is what customers are demanding.
Brittany Saxton: I think from an operational standpoint we will see us almost revert to old school ways. Delivery and carryout being the focus of the operation as dine in continues to plummet (in a lot of places it’s not allowed). I think you will see a lot of amazing operators take the challenges and lead in the ways that are possible in an impossible situation. Menus will become streamlined as we try to maintain our costs and overheads. I see a lot of ghost kitchens come in to play.
Mike DeNunzio: I think we’ll see more vegan specialty pies, better gluten-free pies, improved delivery systems, and more modified restaurant systems to offset the rise in increased labor costs.
Nicole Bean: Fast casual and pop up concepts are HUGE trends right now, lots of people dipping their toes into the pizzeria segment and marketing to lower price points with less square footage, and ghost kitchens. I’ve been inundated with calls, e-mails and texts about ghost kitchens.
Adam Sweet: I think the biggest thing coming to the pizza industry is over saturation due to non-pizza restaurants pivoting towards our industry (as it’s a tried and true success in these times, being so comforting and easily transportable).
What capital or operational improvements are you/will you add in the coming year?
Tony Troiano: My kitchen has always been pretty maxed out. I think that with the increase in business this year I will be trying to get creative and increase the footprint of our kitchen. This is easier said than done, but it’s something that has to happen. How I will do that remains to be seen, but it’s high on the priority list. I always feel that it is important to give my staff the proper tools to succeed, and in this case it’s more space.
Brittany Saxton: We are on track to be transitioning our point of sale at the beginning of the year. We will also be starting our planning of another expansion we plan on doing within the next two years.
Mike DeNunzio: We’ve temporarily converted our dining room at Fine Folk to create more storage and kitchen space to cater to a higher demand for pick up, takeout, and delivery orders. We are also in the process of enhancing our outside dining experience by adding tiki torches and a new audio system.
Nicole Bean: Contemplating a commissary operation. If there is one thing I know for sure, it’s that people crave consistency. If we plan to grow any further, I believe it would be a necessity.
Adam Sweet: We will be expanding our delivery program mostly to maximize ground covered and speed of delivery, but also move into prepared food to sell at local markets and such.