A little over 15 years ago with my then colleagues, we endeavoured to find the most popular item on Facebook. Our not-so-scientific method involved finding the most popular page on the platform. Social media wasn’t what it has become now. Our findings were that Pizza was not only the most popular food item but the most popular item. Not much has changed over the years. Pizza is still a very popular food item. As many players as there are in the market, there is always room for one more person who is willing to do the right things.
The first step in setting up your pizza shop is deciding on a menu. Sounds a little trivial but there are many different styles and approaches to pizza and from what I can tell with some experience in the fast-food business it’s best to have a well-thought-out menu so you may as well start there. The menu is not just the choices on the menu but the quality of the ingredients. My favourite pizza places have always been ones that place importance on having quality ingredients more than anything else.
After the menu, you want to consider the style. And there’s a lot involved when it comes to style. Firstly are you going to a sit-down restaurant? Or perhaps delivery only? Perhaps you want to go for a kiosk-style set-up where people can buy slices? Perhaps you want to go a little more gimmicky like Harvard Square’s Pinnochio’s Pizza and serve famously square pizzas. There’s a lot to consider here and a lot of it will influence your branding so you want to give this area a lot of thought.
Location, location, location
Whether you’re going to sit down, deliver or a combo you want to make sure you have the right location. While you will look out for direct competitors in other pizza places it’s worth noting that pizza is so popular it competes with all other food options. You don’t want to end up in a place where no other fast food restaurant is operating because there is probably a very good reason for that. Your competitive advantage should come from your menu, style and brand identity. And if you’re offering delivery then location is doubly important. You must strategically place yourself at the centre of the area you intend to service. This will give you a maximum delivery time in either direction.
Depending on how you approach things your biggest investment will likely be in your equipment. Specifically the pizza ovens. If you’re going for the traditional pizza then you want a wood-fired oven which is a massive installation. There are more modern installations which while not delivering the same flavour as wood-fired pizza still deliver great pizzas. You can even find small and most importantly portable pizza ovens which need little more than a kitchen counter to operate. These make the idea of a mobile pizza shop workable. I’ve seen this and you would be surprised just how well it works. You’ll also need proofing ovens. Pizza dough is essentially bread dough and needs proofing before baking.
Whichever route you choose you will have to make sure you’re compliant with laws about business and food service in your area. Many of the rules depend on the local authority you are under so it is best to consult with your local authority on what you will require. You will have to consider things such as food safety and storage of course.
One thing I’d like to say is you shouldn’t be afraid to express yourself in the pizza business. If you are not Italian there’s no point positioning your pizza as traditional Italian pizza. If it’s any comfort the Italians will disapprove of your pizza no matter how good you or your customers think it is. Expressing yourself is important. Thick base pizzas, deep-dish pizzas, Hawaiian, crammed pizza, stuffed crust, Pizza Hut and so many other popular pizza choices come from people expressing themselves through pizza. So be bold and make it your own.
While pizza is a very popular food the personality you bring to it will make or break your business. So make sure you think out the plan fully and in detail. Try things out to understand your market and keep what works.