There’s a new pizza hotspot in your town. They don’t advertise and they don’t deliver. This place has essentially no overhead, no labor costs and zero concern for food cost. It’s only open occasionally, and they sell a severely limited number of pies when they do open their doors. If they even go through the trouble of charging for their pizza, the money usually goes to charity.
In what sort of bizarro universe does this impossible pizzeria exist? It’s your neighbor’s home kitchen.
While you were busy figuring out how to pivot your business, manage staff, and deal with the assorted insanity brought on by the pandemic, your customers were occupying themselves with the projects they’ve long had on the back burner. Foodies were already getting nerdy about making pizza at home before COVID, but things really accelerated when we were forced inside for over a year. Curious cooks finally decided to take a stab at making their own pizza dough and sourdough starters. Sales of portable pizza ovens went through the roof to the extent that they’re currently on back order for months.
Freshly obsessed home pizzaiolos aren’t just making a pie or two at home for their families, they’re launching pop-ups and taking catering gigs. Chrill Hill received a small portable pizza oven as a gift from his girlfriend in early 2020 and now he runs a small pizza catering business called A Slice of NJ. Eliyahu Kheel followed his passion for making pizza at home all the way to Yardley, Pennsylvania, where he’s preparing to open the doors at his first pizzeria this summer. My friend Miriam Weiskind started making pizza for her unemployed neighbors in March 2020 but demand hit so hard that she partnered with a local restaurant to use their space on days they’d normally be closed. The home pizza making revolution has been covered by multiple publications, including The New York Times.
If you’re worried about losing business to your neighbor’s home pizza making setup, don’t be. In fact, I think there’s far more to gain from this trend than there is to lose from it. For instance, you can partner with a local pizza nerd to feature their talents on a slow night. Make an event out of it. They’ll tell all their friends and followers to come out and show support. You’ll benefit by attracting new customers and showing the community you’re being supportive. The pizza maker will have a chance to offer their product to an audience beyond their close friends while honing their craft in a legit pizza kitchen.
So many restaurants are dealing with staffing issues, so partnering with local home pizza makers might prove to be a creative way to navigate the problem. I don’t think most pizza hobbyists are looking for pizzeria jobs, but the few who do see potential in going pro would jump on opportunities to collaborate with you in a way that could help ease the staffing pain.
If you’re interested in tracking down home pizza makers in your area, take a look on Instagram and search by location. You’ll find that the key players are pretty active with their posts and constantly showing their followers what they’re doing in hopes of accruing accolades and suggestions from their peers. It’s a fantastic community and I think there’s lots of potential to bridge with professionals in a positive and collaborative way.
SCOTT WIENER is the founder of Scott’s Pizza Tours in New York City and SliceOutHunger.org Instagram: @scottspizzatours