PIZZA MAGAZINE T H E W O R L D ' S A U T H O R I T Y O N P I Z Z A | P M Q . C O M | P I Z Z AT V. C O M
flying high John Stetson uses dope Facebook marketing and old-school smarts to create a buzz for customers at Stoner’s Pizza Joint. PAGE 26
CURBSIDE 101 36
PEPPERS, PLEASE! 42
KEYS TO LOYALTY 48
THE BEST INGREDIENTS MAKE THE BEST PIZZA. PERIOD. YOU KNOW IT. I KNOW IT. AND YOU BETTER BELIEVE THE CUSTOMER KNOWS IT. What’s your declaration of independence? Grande is championing operators who have an independent spirit and shared passion for excellence. By providing the finest all natural, authentic Italian cheeses, along with an unwavering commitment to quality, we’ll continue to advocate for independents and their love of the craft.
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IN THIS ISSUE
ON COVTHE ER
He’s a latecomer to the pizza industry, but John Stetson, franchisee and CEO of Stoner’s Pizza Joint, knows how to create a buzz with dope Facebook marketing and old-school smarts.
Chef’s Corner: Vincenzo Carrieri-Russo
Recipe of the Month
Keys to Loyalty
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A Publication of PMQ, Inc. 662-234-5481 Volume 25, Issue 3 April 2021 ISSN 1937-5263
PMQ.COM DIGITAL EXCLUSIVES
JOS H BRA S T E D
Sudsy Sales: How to Start a Microbrewing Operation With advance prep and attention to detail, microbrewing can help you sell more pizza and boost your bottom line. PMQ.com/microbrewing
How a Minimum Wage Hike Could Impact the Restaurant Industry The National Restaurant Association says the proposed Raise the Wage Act is “the wrong bill at the wrong time.” PMQ.com/minimum-wage-hike
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Follow Your Nose to Fong’s for a Pizza Featuring Froot Loops Cereal A pizza shop in Des Moines, Iowa, is getting huge publicity for its Loopy Fruits pizza, created with kids in mind. PMQ.com/froot-loops-pizza
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This Vegan Meats Entrepreneur Wants to Remove Animals From the Food Chain Marc Coloma of Heura says concerns about animal welfare and the health risks of meat prove veganism is here to stay. PMQ.com/mark-coloma
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Meet Dr. Cheese, the Scientist Behind Pizza Hut’s Detroit-Style Pizza Dr. Nitin Joshi of Dairy Management, Inc. also helped Pizza Hut add 25% more cheese to its pan pizzas.
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How State and Local Officials Can Save Restaurants The National Restaurant Association’s Blueprint for State and Local Restaurant Recovery suggests ways to help the ailing industry. PMQ.com/saving-restaurants
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In addition to a dog-friendly pizza menu, Brooklyn Crispy dishes out about 20 specialty pies for two-legged customers.
GONE TO THE DOGS Pups don’t have to beg for table scraps at Brooklyn Crispy, a new pizza shop in Potts Point, a suburb of Sydney. They’ve got their own menu featuring three specialty pies and “puppy vino” (bottled bone broth) designed with dogs in mind. Co-owner Andrew Hamilton opened the shop in December 2020 after noting a dearth of thin-crust pizza options in Sydney. “Despite my best efforts, I couldn’t find thin and crispy pizza with gourmet toppings, and I came to realize there was a gap in the market,” Hamilton told Australia’s Special Broadcasting Service (SBS). “At the same time, I was watching my fiancé take our two dogs out for puppicinos in Surrey Hills, and, suddenly, the idea of a dog-friendly gourmet pizza restaurant, which caters to both people and pooches, slid into place.” The doggy menu includes savory pies like Skippy’s Nightmare (kangaroo bacon, beef mince and mozzarella) and the Get Clucked (poached chicken and carrots), plus the Quit Yo Meddlin’, which comes topped with a “vegetable medley”—you know, for that fast-growing canine vegetarian demographic. All dogfriendly pizzas feature a base sauce made with sweet potatoes and sweet paprika. Unusual options for two-legged customers include the Caffeinated Cow (coffee-and-cola brisket, corn and potato salad) and the Cheeky Fish (smoked salmon, cream cheese, capers and fennels). But some humans let their curiosity get the best of them. “We did have someone order a dog pizza through Uber Eats who went on to eat it himself,” Hamilton told SBS. “That said, he still gave it a three out of five-star rating, so that’s a real testament to the quality of the food we’re serving across the board.”
BACK TO SCHOOL MOD Pizza is sending many of its full-time and part-time employees back to school through an initiative that helps them earn a diploma while still holding down their jobs. In a partnership with Penn Foster, a self-paced online education company, the MOD Scholars program will cover 100% of each employee’s tuition and provide technology, such as computers and WiFi hotspots, as well as mentors for guidance and day-to-day support. The program serves 25 employees at a time; as they graduate, additional MOD Squad members will be offered a spot. “We believe in supporting our Squads and providing bridges to help them succeed at MOD and beyond,” said Marty Pisciotti, senior vice president of people for MOD Pizza. “We’ve learned that a lack of a high school diploma can pose a significant barrier to career progression and wage growth. Our goal…is to help our Squads unlock career opportunities, open the door for college and provide economic mobility and long-term stability, whether at MOD or in the next step of their journey.”
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MOD Pizza employees can earn their high-school diploma online at no cost through a new program called MOD Scholars.
With Caputo Cheese Fresh Mozzarella 10” square puff pastry 3 oz. Caputo Cheese Bocconcini 1/4 cup mascarpone 1 Tbsp grated Caputo Cheese Pecorino Romano 1 clove minced garlic 1/4 lb fresh asparagus 2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil, divided 2 slices prosciutto 1 Tbsp fresh dill sprigs 6 ea quail eggs Shaved Caputo Cheese Parmigiano-Reggiano to taste salt and pepper to taste Preheat oven to 450˚F In a small bowl, mix mascarpone, Pecorino Romano and garlic Toss trimmed asparagus with 1Tbsp of olive oil, salt, and pepper to taste Place puff pastry onto a parchment-lined sheet tray. Using lightly floured fingertips, press down on pastry, leaving a 1-inch border on all sides. Spread mascarpone mixture on pastry, leaving 1-inch border. Lay asparagus with tips alternating direction and press gently into pastry. Tear prosciutto and scatter over tart. Tear Bocconcini and scatter over tart. Scatter half of dill sprigs over tart. Brush edges of tart with olive oil. Bake on a middle rack of the oven for 8 minutes or until edges are golden brown. Pull from the oven and crack quail eggs evenly over the tart. Return to the oven for an additional 4 minutes until the eggs are just set, the mozzarella is melted, and the pastry is a deep brown. Remove from the oven and garnish with shaved Parmigiano-Reggiano.
Children facing lifethreatening illnesses enjoyed a special Valentine’s Day this year at Geraci’s Restaurant in University Heights, Ohio.
A PIZZA WISH COME TRUE Bucky Spoth, co-owner of Geraci’s Restaurant in University Heights, Ohio, showed a lot of heart on Valentine’s Day when he opened his store exclusively to the families of children fighting life-threatening illnesses and taught the kids how to make their own pizzas. Geraci’s partnered with A Special Wish Cleveland in the event, in which 30 families from the greater Cleveland area participated over a period of five hours. Spoth helped the kids craft their own pizzas and gifted them with chef hats and aprons. While the pizzas baked in the ovens, the children had the chance to decorate their pizza boxes with coloring utensils and stickers. The parents also took home their own free large pizza. “We couldn’t be more grateful to Geraci’s and the Spoth family for helping to create such a fantastic family event,” said Eileen Lane, executive director of A Special Wish Cleveland. The event also garnered free media coverage from local TV stations and newspapers.
THE ART OF THE PIZZA PUZZLE This promo’s a real puzzler: Papa Gino’s, with 80-plus locations in the New England region, announced it would immortalize one lucky patron with a custom-made, 500-piece jigsaw puzzle. Fans were invited to submit a photo taken at a Papa Gino’s location in the comments section of the contest post on Facebook. Customers turned in photos of their favorite memories at the chain, including decades-old pics of themselves enjoying a pizza, recent shots of their kids, family get-togethers, even a Papa Gino’s Christmas train from more than 20 years ago. Amanda Winston, now 33, won the contest with a photo of herself at a Gino’s store at around two years old. Meanwhile, Papa Gino’s and its sister restaurant, D’Angelo Grilled Sandwiches, announced that they had raised $107,096 for a leading anti-cancer nonprofit and its regional hospital, the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and the Jimmy Fund Clinic, located in Brookline, Massachusetts. Both restaurant chains offered the Jimmy Fund Meal Deal, with $2 of each purchase donated directly to the nonprofits. Guests were also invited to add a donation of $1, $3 or $5 to their online orders, with all proceeds going to the fundraiser. Ketlyn, age 4, is receiving treatment for cancer at the DanaFarber Cancer Institute’s Jimmy Fund Clinic and is one of many who will benefit from a recent fundraiser hosted by Papa Gino’s.
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EYE ON THE CHAINS
DONATOS PIZZA ROCKIN’ RED ROBIN PARTNERSHIP
Donatos Pizza delivered free pies to frontline workers throughout the pandemic while opening new locations in various Red Robin restaurants.
A collaboration between Donatos Pizza, headquartered in Gahanna, Ohio, and burger chain Red Robin, based in Greenwood Village, Colorado, has proved so successful that the companies expect to embed Donatos locations in 200 Red Robin company-owned restaurants by the end of this year. The two chains began quietly testing a combination of their concepts in 2018, offering a scaleddown Donatos menu alongside Red Robin’s signature gourmet hamburgers in a handful of Red Robin stores. In 2019, the Donatos pizza offering expanded to Red Robin locations in Ohio, Arizona and North Carolina. By 2020, the partnership included nearly 80 locations in five states, adding Washington and Colorado to the list. When 2021 wraps up, 120 more Red Robin locations will offer the Donatos menu. Paul Murphy, Red Robin’s president and CEO, told Nation’s Restaurant News that the partnership “represents a substantial catalyst for growth.” He added, “We believe Donatos will generate annual company pizza sales of more than $60 million and profitability of more than $25 million by 2023, when we have completed our rollout to approximately 400 company-owned locations.”
DIGITAL SALES SOARED FOR MOD PIZZA IN 2020 Digital sales grew for Seattle-based fast-casual chain MOD Pizza in 2020, even as the company’s system-wide sales declined by 5% and net revenue dropped by 1%. MOD’s digital revenue climbed nearly 275% last year, while digital transactions grew 216%, representing about 40% of the company’s sales. The company also announced that membership in its MOD Rewards program topped 2 million, nearly doubling in the past year. “While our very strong start to 2020 was disrupted by the pandemic, resulting in an initial dramatic decline in sales followed by a gradual recovery, I’m incredibly proud of the way our team responded to these unprecedented and uniquely challenging times,” says Scott Svenson, co-founder and MOD Pizza CEO. The company netted 22 new locations, including 19 company-owned and three franchise stores, and finished 2020 with 490 restaurants system-wide. Svenson said he looks forward to the opening of MOD’s 500th location this year, along with “a pipeline of operational improvements and innovations that will further enhance the Squad and customer experience.” MOD Pizza is an employee-focused company, offering numerous benefits to its workers that many chains don’t provide.
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We Never Get Tired of Winning... POS Champions for Over 34 Years
EYE ON THE CHAINS
Grimaldi’s has added the Panzanella Salad as part of its new Garden of Flavors menu.
GRIMALDI’S UNVEILS ITS GARDEN OF FLAVORS MENU
The Grimaldi’s spring menu includes the Bacon and Asparagus Pizza With Hot Honey.
Grimaldi’s Pizzeria has freshened up its menu with new items for warmer weather, including pizzas, cocktails and desserts, all under a spring menu called Garden of Flavors. Headquartered in Scottsdale, Arizona, Grimaldi’s debuted a number of dishes, including the hearty Bacon and Asparagus Pizza With Spicy Honey and the Panzanella Salad. The former is topped with bacon, asparagus, red onions, an artichoke pesto sauce, fresh mozzarella and a drizzle of red pepper-infused honey. The Panzanella Salad features fresh arugula, coal-fired croutons, tomatoes, cucumbers, red onions, Gorgonzola cheese, Kalamata olives and a tangy housemade dressing. While they wait for their food to arrive, customers can sip a Guava Margarita or a Kentucky Peach Mule and finish off their meal with the Banana Cream Cheesecake or the Caramel Coconut Cheesecake. The new menu will be available at 42 Grimaldi’s locations nationwide, including the chain’s two delivery/carryout-focused stores, called Grimaldi’s Pizzeriato-Go, in Scottsdale and Austin, Texas. Grimaldi’s also introduced a new cauliflower pizza crust option in March.
PIZZA FACTORY GROWS BY GETTING SMALLER Smaller is getting bigger for Pizza Factory, headquartered in Oakhurst, California. The company has partnered with San Francisco-based Rubber and Road to develop a new Pizza Factory Express design to capitalize on the growing demand for off-premise dining. The reimagined design also makes it more affordable for new franchisees to open their first Pizza Factory store. The Pizza Factory Express model starts at 1,000 square feet. The reduced footprint could allow Pizza Factory to expand into new markets while also eliminating some operating costs and expenses associated with larger restaurants, such as furniture, fixtures and equipment. Of course, the format also requires fewer employees to run the operation, saving on labor costs. “Off-premise dining is here to stay, but restaurant design still remains more important than ever,” says Pizza Factory CEO Mary Jane Riva. “As existing franchisees grow and new multiunit operators join our family, we’re thrilled to offer another innovative buildout option that best supports the advanced delivery and carryout systems we have in place.”
Mary Jane Riva (right), CEO of Pizza Factory, believes smaller will be bigger in 2021.
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THE CHEF’S CORNER
VINCENZO CARRIERI-RUSSO, V&M BISTRO A beloved pizzaiolo and pizzeria patriarch in Wilmington, Delaware, looks back on a 50-year career that began in the pizza shop immortalized in Saturday Night Fever. BY BRIAN HERNANDEZ From its purported creation by Roman soldiers cooking flatbread on their shields to the emergence of dough stretching robots in the 21st century, pizza has grown and evolved throughout the centuries. Vincenzo Carrieri-Russo, head chef at V&M Bistro in Wilmington, Delaware, has personally witnessed pizza’s evolution in his own time. For nearly half a century and counting, he has been pounding the dough to bring the world’s most popular comfort food to generations of hungry diners. Now, with his daughters, Vincenza and Margherita CarrieriRusso, following in the family tradition as co-owners of V&M Bistro, Carrieri-Russo visits the Chef ’s Corner to tell us about his 50-year pizza journey.
became a ritual and the highlight of every Saturday for me. One day I looked him straight in the eye and said, “When I grow up, I’m going to be a pizza maker.”
PMQ: What is your earliest pizza memory? Carrieri-Russo: Around 1955, my mother would always go shopping in Brooklyn, New York, on Saturdays. She would drop me off at this pizzeria in the middle of Union Street. She would buy me a slice and a soda for 15 cents. I would stay there and talk to the pizzaiolo. I would watch him do the prep and ask him questions. I would always get the first slice of the day. That
PMQ: What was the first major industry change that you remember? Carrieri-Russo: In the early ’70s, we started opening up pizzerias in malls when their popularity was in full bloom— sometimes two or three a year, in Philadelphia and the TriState Area. My father saw a future in that. Unfortunately, all good things come to an end, and the popularity of malls waned.
PMQ: So how did you eventually get started in the business? Carrieri-Russo: Years later, my dad walked into a pizzeria and asked for a job. It was Lenny’s Pizza, the iconic pizzeria featured in Saturday Night Fever. He eventually became the head pizzaiolo there. They would allow me to go behind the counter and pretend to be an employee. In 1961, my father opened his own place in Long Island. That soon became a family affair with my parents and brothers.
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But we held on for about three decades as best we could. That was the first significant change from the small-town, single-unit operations I remember. PMQ: What is the biggest difference in opening pizzerias today versus 40 years ago? Carrieri-Russo: Today is more complicated due to restrictions, regulations and codes. You typically need more square footage to put together a shop safely within regulations, which ultimately means you need more money. The biggest hurdle today is getting the permits. It was much easier even just 20 years ago. Make sure you have a plan and get a head start on that. The second issue is getting the equipment. Know what you want to do and what you need to make it happen, and make sure that it fits your floor plan. Don’t leave that for last. Less than a 2” clearance on the floor can ruin an architectural plan. And make sure to hire quality contractors. You don’t want to be left holding the bag with the government for shoddy craftsmanship.
“Create your pizza like an artist, and your customers will come back. But customer service [is still important]. That interaction will keep them coming to you for the personal touch. Technology or not, you are the face behind the veil.” — VINCENZO CARRIERI-RUSSO, V&M BISTRO
PMQ: Were pizzeria operators more or less competitive in the earlier years? Carrieri-Russo: There was a secretive side to the industry early on regarding recipes, but the recipes were uniform. You would walk down the street and smell the grandmothers cooking the sauce, but it was all the same sauce for the most part. Everyone can have the same recipe—it just depends on who is making it. There was actually a very communicative side amongst the pizzaiolos, like we see today. There was a respect for each other’s businesses. Someone would open a certain distance away from an existing place because they didn’t want to steal customers— they wanted to build their own clientele. PMQ: Now we’re living in the age of big chains and technology. What’s your best tip for those still trying to adapt? Carrieri-Russo: Competition has become fierce. For the small operator, the best way I see is to go back to the roots of the business and give the customer a quality product using the best ingredients you can get and offer an old-world product to the best of your ability. Create your pizza like an artist, and I’m sure your customers will come back. But customer service [is still important]. That interaction will keep them coming to you for the personal touch. Technology or not, you are the face behind the veil. PMQ: Is there a big demand in Delaware for V&M’s style of highend dining? Carrieri-Russo: We are located just over 100 miles from New York, so it isn’t completely foreign to the diners here. Pizza has been evolving in Delaware—to blow our own horn, due in no small part to us. We have a good product and try to bring the flavors people know and love while maintaining a standard that APRIL 2021 | PMQ.COM
“We had to eighty-six a lot of dishes due to the shutdown of inside dining, but our Sicilian pizza became the superstar—that traditional light, thick-crust, rectangular pizza. It has been received very well by our customers and keeps them coming back.” — VINCENZO CARRIERI-RUSSO, V&M BISTRO others have to try to achieve. We strive to create an atmosphere that will either put you in Italy or downtown New York City, right here in Delaware! PMQ: How do you come up with new recipes? Carrieri-Russo: Going back to the experience of having pizzerias in malls, we found we had to modify our recipes from state to state. The concept was uniform, but the tastes varied for each region. I always say you can’t be stubborn in the pizza business. You have to be able to bend and be flexible. If you don’t know how to bend, you will snap. Listening to the customers is key in recipe creation. And grandmothers! They always know about great flavor combinations that some people may have forgotten. Plus, they always have wonderful kitchen tricks to get the best flavor and use out of all the ingredients. PMQ: Do you have a seasonal menu? Carrieri-Russo: We are located right next to Kennett Square, Pennsylvania—“The Mushroom Capital of the World”—so we get some exceptional mushrooms. We love putting them in our current dishes, from our chicken marsala to pâtés or stuffed tortellini. We also incorporate very complex sauces, pastas and soups using pumpkin. Then, in the winter, we experiment with different fish, like bacalao from Iceland. But we definitely support local growers whenever we can.
PMQ: During the pandemic, what has become the signature dish of choice for your customers at V&M? Carrieri-Russo: We had to eighty-six a lot of dishes due to the shutdown of inside dining, but our Sicilian pizza became the superstar—that traditional light, thick-crust, rectangular pizza. It has been received very well by our customers and keeps them coming back. When the pandemic started, we had to pivot to a takeout operation, and I told my daughters, “I know this business.” I felt this type of pie would do well. We also do a timballo lasagna. It’s kind of like a pasta pot pie. But it is made individually and can be taken home and reheated in less than 10 minutes. PMQ: Any final bit of wisdom you’d like to share with the industry? Carrieri-Russo: Forgive quickly. Never hold a grudge. This business is very stressful, and you never know what you’ll encounter day to day. If you forgive quickly, you’ll live a healthier, longer life. Also, when I was nine years old, Lenny himself told me, “In this business, look out for the penny.” Great advice. Brian Hernandez is PMQ’s test chef.
PMQ: What is your favorite ingredient? Carrieri-Russo: Yeast. I know you probably don’t hear that often. I like to use the freshest yeast I can find to create a good proof in the dough and a great taste in the pizza. 20 PMQ PIZZA MAGAZINE | THE WORLD’S AUTHORITY ON PIZZA
For more tips and insights about the industry, pizzeria equipment, ingredients and customer service, watch the full interview with Vincenzo Carrieri-Russo and his daughter, Vincenza Carrieri-Russo, at PMQ.com/vincenzo.
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RECIPE OF THE MONTH
GRANDMA PIZZA It’s the East Coast specialty pizza that is growing in popularity, up 41% since 2017! Make your Grandma pizza with the clean dairy flavor of Avorio and add East Coast authencity your customers can’t resist!
INGREDIENTS: 8-oz. pizza dough ball, slacked 9 oz. (9 slices) Grande Avorio Fresh Mozzarella, sliced 5 oz. plum tomatoes, hand-crushed 3 oz. tomato sauce, prepared 2½ oz. olive oil, divided ¼ oz. basil, chopped Grande Romano cheese, grated, to taste Sea salt, black pepper and oregano, to taste Garlic oil, to drizzle
DIRECTIONS: Slice 9 oz. Grande Avorio into 9 slices. Pour 1½ oz. olive oil into a 12” x 12” pan to coat the inside of the pan with oil. Place dough in pan and coat dough with oil. Push dough out to the ends of the pan and let rest for one hour in a warm area. Gently re-push dough out to the corners of your pan. Lightly dimple the dough with your fingertips. Par-bake your pizza for 8 to 9 minutes at 500° to 550°F. Warm 5 oz. hand-crushed plum tomatoes and 3 oz. tomato sauce and set aside. Remove pizza from the oven and pour the remaining 1 oz. of olive oil around the sides of the pan. Top with Grande Avorio slices, leaving ½” border around the outer edge. Place pizza back into the oven and bake for 2 to 3 minutes or until cheese is melted and crust is golden. Remove pizza from oven and pan, slice into 9 pieces and spread blended sauce diagonally across the pie. Finish with salt, pepper, oregano, Grande Romano, basil and garlic oil.
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LET YOUR CUSTOMERS BRING HOME A TASTE OF AUTHENTIC EAST COAST FLAVOR.
Introducing Grande Avorio ™ Fresh Mozzarella Loaf, a new cheese that will help you create East Coast specialty pies with a clean dairy flavor unlike anything else. Offering something new creates excitement for your customers. In fact, 79% of consumers are craving something new.* Avorio’s creamy, tender texture is sure to create new fans of your pizzeria and keep them coming back for more.
For a free sample, visit grandecheese.com/sample or call 1-800-8-GRANDE © 2021 Grande Cheese Company
*Datassential Simply Smarter Webinar 8/20/20
flying high From industry newbie to franchisee to CEO of millennial-friendly Stoner’s Pizza Joint, John Stetson knows how to create a buzz with dope Facebook marketing and old-school smarts. BY RICK HYNUM | PHOTOS PROVIDED BY STONER’S PIZZA
Veteran pizzeria operators know their stuff, but some tend to get stuck in old habits or cling to outdated marketing strategies. That’s not a problem for John Stetson, CEO of Stoner’s Pizza Joint (SPJ) and owner of seven SPJ franchises in Florida, Georgia and South Carolina. The founder and managing member of Sunset Bay Capital, a private equity firm in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, Stetson is a latecomer to the pizza industry. But after years of guiding other companies through every stage of growth, from start-up to IPOs and mergers and acquisitions, he understands the core principles of business—and has proven to be a fast learner on the pizza side. So fast, in fact, that he took over the reins of SPJ as CEO in May 2020, not long after opening his first several stores.
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APRIL 2021 | PMQ.COM
Founded in 2013 and focused on the southeastern United States, Stoner’s Pizza Joint, headquartered in Fort Lauderdale, launched its franchising program in late 2018. Stetson knew a strong brand with growth potential when he saw it. The edgy name and brand theme resonate with the millennial and Gen Z crowd—and pretty much anyone who likes to smoke a little weed now and then, legally or otherwise. It’s a brand custom-designed for college towns and any market where marijuana has been legalized. But after Stetson got his first SPJ stores up and running, the pandemic hit, dine-in lockdowns went into effect nationwide, and Stetson was confronted with challenges he never expected. He talked with us about how SPJ weathered the COVID-19 storm and shared his ideas for marketing a lesser-known pizza brand through both old-school and digital strategies. PMQ: How did you end up becoming a Stoner’s Pizza Joint franchisee? Stetson: Some co-investors in other business deals I’ve had made investments in Stoner’s on the corporate side. They started to educate me on the economics. I’d always been looking to get into being a franchisee. I looked at some of the bigger brands, like Dunkin Donuts or Jimmy John’s. They have unbelievable brand names, but the cost to get in is quite a bit. This one, to me, was fun. It was something new—you can call it “millennial,” but it doesn’t have to be millennial. And I can use the cannabis movement a little bit in my marketing, although we don’t ever want people to think there’s actually CBD or THC in our recipes.
“I don’t want to be that guy who’s sending 100 messages a week and pinging you all the time. It’s about marketing with a purpose. We send out a text or a push notification every two weeks.” — JOHN STETSON, STONER’S PIZZA JOINT PMQ: So how did you make it through the pandemic while building up the Stoner’s brand? Stetson: While many other restaurants here lost their dine-in service, they were scrambling to get delivery drivers, and some didn’t have Uber Eats, DoorDash and Postmates because so much of their business was dine-in. We were staffed up and actually hired a couple of new delivery drivers. We trained our staff on all of the safety and sanitization requirements. We designated a shift leader who is responsible for wiping down everything after each order and staying on top of employees washing their hands, and we put in a no-contact delivery system and curbside takeout. But 30% to 40% of our business was dine-in, so it was definitely a shift. We also waived our delivery fees and got aggressive with our specials. We added a large 14” one-topping special for $7.99. We definitely kicked up some specials to grow our customer base.
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PMQ: What steps did you take to help your community get through this difficult period? Stetson: Shortly after the pandemic started, we made a pledge to donate 10,000 slices to the community in Fort Lauderdale. After speaking to a couple of our employees, as a father of two young ones myself, I saw this need. Schools were closing, and people were scrambling to figure out what they were going to do with their kids, not only for daycare but also for meals. The best way we could help the community was to provide these lunches to children in need and families that counted on school lunches as part of their everyday food for their children. We donated slices to community centers, churches and daycare facilities. And that, in turn, spurred a whole bunch of support from the community who wanted to help out. Seeing the smiles on the kids’ faces, eating a hot pizza and being with their family—you realize what that means to people. To help employees facing financial difficulties during COVID-19, John Stetson began providing them with full meals for every shift they worked.
“The ROI with chatbots has been tremendous. It has allowed me to communicate directly with the customer.” — JOHN STETSON, STONER’S PIZZA JOINT
Stetson endeared himself to animal lovers by placing flyers on his pizza boxes that feature adoptable pets from a local Humane Society shelter and offering a free year of pizza to SPJ customers who adopt an animal.
PMQ: The pandemic was bad timing for everyone, but you were getting ready to open your fourth store at the time, right? Stetson: We had two stores in Savannah, Georgia, and one in Fort Lauderdale, and I was opening a fourth in Warner Robins, Georgia. We were all set for our final health inspection and were targeting to open on April 1. This obviously put a halt to our plans. We had to hit pause and look at what kind of expenses we were taking on. It was also tourist season, so it was very, very tough timing. It was during the heart of Spring Break. We were gearing up for a big March Madness and St. Patrick’s Day. All of those are very, very big events that we were prepared for. We had to pivot and look for other ways to gain customers. PMQ: How did you do that? Stetson: It goes back to trying to reach new audiences, and that meant getting aggressive with social media and running specials and trying to get in front of new people who hadn’t tried us before. We expanded our delivery range out one mile further, waived our delivery fees and used specials to get them in the door. Maybe we don’t make money that first time, but I’m betting my product is something they’ll come back for down the road.
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Beyond The Dough Presented By My brand is obviously more of a millennial brand. So we already had a delivery app with loyalty points that allowed me to stay in front of our customers. We use push notifications with a text message or alert about our specials sent through the app. If you haven’t ordered from the app, you get 15 percent off. We have a loyalty rewards program— at 100 points, which is a handful of orders, you get a free small pizza or wings. But I don’t want to be that guy who’s sending 100 messages a week and pinging you all the time. It’s about marketing with a purpose. We send out a text or a push notification every two weeks. That’s something people will be interested in as opposed to being annoyed. We also sent out our menus for delivery-carryout with the number right on front. The over-65s are old-school, so they pick up their phone and call your store. Some of them are not on social media or aware of these specials, so I still do the old-school advertising by mailing out our menus. We also put out signage in front of the store for curbside customers and used our app to let them know about that. PMQ: Speaking of social media, you work with a company called BaggottsBOTS, which specializes in chatbots, artificial intelligence (AI) and “conversational commerce.” How has that worked out for you? Stetson: I’m currently using BaggottsBOTS in four of my locations— Midtown Savannah; Fort Lauderdale and Davie, Florida; and Columbia, South Carolina. Additional locations are testing it now. Working with BaggottsBOTS, we were able to launch contests to engage people on social media and connect them with our brand. We started with movie quizzes, then moved to a Wheel of Fortune game, where you spin the wheel to get a free item. Then it was a dodgeball game—you hit the guy, you get a free item. This got people engaged so they’d stay on our page for more than that split second it takes to look at your meme or a picture of your pizza. The goal is to make that person a customer who is ordering from you. You can go halfway by getting them to your Facebook page or website, but what do I want
You will never outperform your self-image. Really think about that: How HIGH, or LOW, are you setting the bar for you and your business? We generally hit what we aim for—in life and in business. What are you aiming at today? How high is your bar? Do you know how to improve your self-image? Decide. Decide to be a better spouse, parent and business owner. We got this! To learn more about Perfect Crust’s pizza liners and other products, visit perfectcrust.com or email Eric Bam at Eric@perfectcrust.com.
About Eric Bam:
“Working with BaggottsBOTS, we were able to launch contests to engage people on social media. We started with movie quizzes, then moved to a Wheel of Fortune game, where you spin the wheel to get a free item.”
A Boston native now living in Tulsa, OK, Eric Bam is VP of sales and marketing for Perfect Crust, with 20 years of experience in the foodservice industry. A powerful force in the workplace, Bam uses his positive attitude and tireless energy to encourage others to work hard and succeed. He has a wife and three children and loves helping the men and women of the pizza industry grow their businesses.
— JOHN STETSON, STONER’S PIZZA JOINT APRIL 2021 | PMQ.COM
Stoner’s Pizza Joint features a menu loaded with specialty pizzas in small, large and “really big” sizes.
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at the end of the day? I want them to order. I want to know who they are—their name, their phone number and what they like to eat—and I want to do that in the most efficient way possible. BaggottsBOTS lets customers place an order that goes directly from Facebook into my POS system. People are looking for the most efficient way to get what they want, and that’s why we’ve seen, in the last several years, the growth of apps. People are glued to their phones, and this is a really fast, efficient way to place an order. The ROI with chatbots has been tremendous. It has allowed me to communicate directly with the customer. Instead of just posting an ad or a meme, I’m engaging with the customer with our specific brand content. And instead of just having that one transaction, I’m now able to follow up with that customer and give them a targeted special. For instance, I know John always selects wings during our contests. I will be sending John all of our wing specials during our promotions. The future of marketing is through AI, and this funnel is exactly that: analytics that will help convert the click into an order. PMQ: But you still use old-school marketing strategies, too. Why? Stetson: There are still people who look at the menus that come in their mailboxes. I do 2,500 to 5,000 menu drops each week. And I go to all the hotels, high-rises and businesses around us with free pizzas. I introduce myself to the concierge and the front desk manager. If a driver is taking a delivery to the 10th floor of a highrise, I ask them to bring some extra menus. Maybe that customer’s neighbor wants pizza, too.
“There are still people who look at the menus that come in their mailboxes. I do 2,500 to 5,000 menu drops each week.” — JOHN STETSON, STONER’S PIZZA JOINT
@GalbaniProfessionaleUS ©2021 Lactalis American Group, Inc., Buffalo, NY 14420. Galbani is a ® of Egidio Galbani S.r.l.
32 PMQ PIZZA MAGAZINE | THE WORLD’S AUTHORITY ON PIZZA
Find yo y your ur Ispirazione Italiana
What's my Italian Inspiration? Inspiration It’s bringing my customers on
a flavor journey. In an industry that’s typically focused on uniformity, I want every bite you take of my pizza to be different. Every. Single. Bite. Galbani® Premio Mozzarella works whether I’m creating a Neapolitan hybrid or topping a Pizza Al Taglio. No matter where I want to take my menu on a particular day, it’s the cheese that’s coming along with me. —CHEF BILLY MANZO, OWNER, FEDERAL HILL PIZZA
Find more Italian Inspiration and Billy’s videos at GalbaniPro.com. ©20 1 Lactalis American Group, Inc., Buffalo, NY 14220. Galbani is a ® of Egidio Galbani S.r.l. All Rights Reserved. ©202
SPJ’s signage lights up at night to draw attention to the store, while eye-popping colors and wallpaper create a sense of energy and fun for indoor diners.
Check out PMQ’s recent video interviews with John Stetson of Stoner’s Pizza Joint! PMQ Live Update With Brian Hernandez pmq.com/pmq-live-update-john-stetson PMQ Live Marketing Masters With Steve Green pmq.com/pmq-live-marketing-masters-john-stetson
I also carry around these free pizza cards in my pocket. If I’m in line at the grocery store and see someone buying a frozen pizza, I hand them a card and ask if they’ve heard of Stoner’s Pizza Joint. I use car toppers, too. If you see one of our car toppers on the road, you’re gonna look at it. It’s a vibrant red color that stands out on a busy street. PMQ: So what’s the future look like for Stoner’s Pizza Joint? Stetson: Stoner’s was fortunate to grow significantly in the past year. Since I took over as CEO, the brand has grown from 10 units in April 2020 to 19 units as of March 2021. In addition, the company signed a 10-unit franchisee deal for central Florida and Kentucky. In terms of non-digital marketing, we are still trying to be creative. Since we do not have a national presence, our focus is working inside out. For each new location, we approach the community as a new resident and neighbor. Our first mission is getting to know all the local organizations and businesses. We believe the community needs to get to know you first before trusting you as their go-to pizza joint. Through this methodology, we’ve been fortunate enough to partner with several nonprofit organizations, schools and hospitals to provide food for those in need. If you can show your support to your new community before asking for their support, you have a much better chance at success. Our goal for 2021 is to grow with our existing franchisees, attract new franchisees and continue to build additional sales channels through our marketing efforts. Rick Hynum is PMQ’s editor in chief. PMQ publisher Steve Green and U.S. Pizza Team coordinator Brian Hernandez contributed to this story.
34 PMQ PIZZA MAGAZINE | THE WORLD’S AUTHORITY ON PIZZA
SPIN IT TO WIN IT! WE WANT TO SEE YOUR BEST 3-MINUTE SPINNING ROUTINE! The U.S. Pizza Team and PizzaTV will host the Virtual Acrobatic Pizza Spinning Championship LIVE!
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Submit your 3-minute routine with good lighting, sound, and spectacular spinning by April 21st, 2021, for your chance to win cash prizes and the title of Acrobatic Spinning Champion. Finalists will be selected from all submissions and perform their routine LIVE for a panel of qualified judges, April 28th. Third place will receive $500, with second place getting $1000. The grand prize of $1500 goes to the Virtual Acrobatic Pizza Spinning Champion! For more information about the VAPSC, rules and registration, visit uspizzateam.com/vapsc, or contact Brian Hernandez at firstname.lastname@example.org or 662-234-5481 x129.
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36 PMQ PIZZA MAGAZINE | THE WORLD’S AUTHORITY ON PIZZA
(CURBSIDE 101) Experts from various sectors of the restaurant industry share their top lessons for offering seamless curbside service in the COVID-19 era. BY TRACY MORIN
Though curbside service existed at some restaurants pre-pandemic, this category has been one of the new norms to explode over the past year—and for good reasons. Ashley Williams, director of training for Your Pie, based in Athens, Georgia, with more than 75 locations nationwide, notes that customers enjoy the convenience of ordering online or by phone and receiving quick, contactless service, without leaving the car. “Curbside has provided our guests with an option they never had before,” Williams says. “We’ve seen a great response, especially in our locations that have invested in designated spots or marked curbside areas.”
APRIL 2021 | PMQ.COM
When Brian’s Pizza was forced to close down its indoor dining service, staff members got creative to make sure curbside pickups ran as smoothly as possible.
Curbside indeed ramps up convenience for customers, but what should owners keep in mind on the operations side to ensure a smooth process? We sought experts from various corners of the industry to weigh in.
LESSON #1: THE INDEPENDENT
As the pandemic eliminated the option of indoor dining, curbside business at Brian’s Pizza in Hinckley, Illinois, has skyrocketed over the last year. Daniella Gama-Diaz, client development specialist at Brian’s Pizza, shares her top ways to capitalize on this opportunity: • Perfect the prep work. With more orders coming in— and quickly—having the sauce, cheese and condiments premade and ready to go makes assembly quicker. • Reward and incentivize. Find ways to give your customers the best experience, even without being inside the restaurant—i.e, loyalty programs, deals and offers that make them want to come back soon. • Learn to time the service. When a lot of customers are coming in to pick up orders, especially during lunch and dinner rushes, lines can get long. But customers don’t like to be kept waiting. By timing the process perfectly, employees can get pizzas cooked and customers serviced quickly, which keeps the line moving. • Focus on the small details. When dining in, customers expect condiments like Parmesan cheese, red pepper flakes and napkins to be readily available at the table. For curbside orders, make sure to include takeout packets of condiments and napkins, so they feel like they got the
closest thing to the real experience. Keep it low-contact. Remember that the reason for the rise in curbside is safety. Allow customers to stay in their vehicles while the staff runs out orders. Make sure everyone is masked up and try to handle as much of the payment as possible over the phone or online.
LESSON #2: THE CHAIN
Pre-pandemic, the fast-casual pizza chain Your Pie made 80% to 85% of its business from in-store sales; now, 55% of sales come from off-premise customers. To meet these demands, several Your Pie locations created their own drive-thrus in their parking lots, while others installed walk-up windows to order takeout. The change to curbside and drive-thru required some operational changes: implementing systems and checkpoints for employees to ensure accuracy and safety for each order; installing heating shelves to keep food warm; and finding ways to facilitate the flow of orders from the kitchen to pickup or drive-thru areas. “At first, guests were unaware of how to let team members know they had arrived, and it ended up leading to long wait times,” Williams says. “We also worked on improving the accuracy of orders.” Here are Williams’ top tips for operators:
38 PMQ PIZZA MAGAZINE | THE WORLD’S AUTHORITY ON PIZZA
PICKUP POINTER 1 Find ways to give your customers the best experience, even without being inside the restaurant—i.e, loyalty programs, deals and offers that make them want to come back soon.
Webinar April 22nd here on PMQ
Using technology to manage traffic during emergencies (and the “Every Friday is an emergency” issue). • Advanced messaging, “press one if you have arrived for curbside pickup”, or random start of call upsell messaging. • Allowing people to work from home to take phone orders. Centralized call handling—not just for the big guys! From 2 to hundreds of locations. Outsource or in-house call centers. Using cellular backup internet to keep POS system, web orders, credit card processing and phones working when primary Internet fails! •
866-511-5521 email@example.com WWW.PIZZACLOUD.NET To Register, go to www.PMQ.com/pizzacloud1
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Moving from in-store visits to curbside customers, Your Pie locations focused on details like accuracy of orders and contactless exchanges to encourage seamless sales.
Have a rollout plan. This includes knowing how to make guests aware of the changes, investing in parking spots or curbside signs, and training team members and potential lookouts. You’ll probably need a phone system that has multiple phone lines or an answering system. Invest in training and teaching. Team members need to be taught how to handle any additional steps, including checking for accuracy of every order, greeting guests at their car, and delivering an order to the vehicle in a safe way. Also focus on the little things and ways to make this experience better than your competitors’, such as premaking essentials bags that include things most guests request, like silverware, additional toppings, etc. Plan for ways to keep the product warm. Most guests expect the food to be ready when they arrive, and they also expect hot food to be hot and cold food to be cold. Have ways to distinguish curbside from takeout or delivery orders, so team members can quickly find them.
LESSON #3: THE PAYMENT PROCESSOR
Katie Swett, product lead of San Francisco-based Square Online, believes that curbside pickup is likely to remain popular even after COVID-19-related restrictions ease up. She offers these helpful suggestions for pizzerias: • Develop a separate curbside menu. A curbside pickup menu will help with cost savings and order flow. Include your most popular items, especially those that will also travel well. • Offer specialized items like family packs and meal kits. Include these deals on your curbside pickup menu. They will intrigue customers while helping feed them in a variety of ways, from readyto-go meals to pizzas that customers can make themselves for a fun at-home activity. • Communicate with customers that you offer curbside pickup. This can include updating your website so customers 40 PMQ PIZZA MAGAZINE | THE WORLD’S AUTHORITY ON PIZZA
can place curbside orders online; sending out email and SMS marketing messages to alert customers about curbside pickup; and adding coupons to incentivize customers to try curbside pickup for the first time. Ensure fast and convenient payments. Make it easy for customers to prepay online, especially on a mobile device, or have a flexible POS system that allows customers to use contactless payments. You also might consider using a portable payment system so you can take payments anywhere. Don’t forget your signage. Add clear signage to your physical location to streamline the pickup process. Some locations use QR codes posted outside the restaurant, giving customers more ways to order and pay digitally.
PICKUP POINTER 2 Offering a separate curbside pickup menu will help with cost savings and order flow. Include your most popular items, especially those that will also travel well.
LESSON #4: THE FOOD SAFETY EXPERT
Chris Boyles, VP of food safety for Steritech in Charlotte, North Carolina, notes the following musts for safety-first curbside services: • Continue to make food safety a priority. This includes proper temperature control, cooling of cooked foods, prevention of cross-contamination, and labeling of ready-to-eat foods. With the healthcare system stretched, we need to keep foodborne illnesses out of the mix. • Pay attention to packaging. Packaging for takeout orders should be sturdy enough for the rigors of carryout and delivery. Use tamperevident seals. Pre-portion items such as dipping sauces, silverware and napkins, and wrap or bag them to help lessen the amount of handling and streamline the process for packaging orders. • Get every order right. Create a formal process to verify accuracy when packing the order. One of the most common complaints with delivery, drive-thru and curbside is orders having incorrect or missing items. • Implement refresher training on gloves. If team members move between customer interaction and food prep, they must remove gloves, wash their hands and don new gloves. Gloves are notorious for giving food handlers a false sense of security. Stress that food handlers must change gloves anytime they would normally wash their hands. • Choose the ideal pickup location. This should be a place that limits customer contact and can be disinfected frequently. Configure the parking area and have a system for team members to deliver food to customers in their vehicles. Team members taking orders to cars should wear high-visibility safety vests and gloves. As much as possible, team members should touch containers only along the side. Customers can then grab the untouched top/handles or bottom, or team members can place the food directly in the back seat or trunk. • Disinfect frequently. Frequently disinfect any indoor surfaces touched by customers who pick up food. Prevent customer traffic into restaurants when possible. Disinfect surfaces frequently touched by team members. As much as possible, assign team members to specific zones in the kitchen—this will maximize social distancing and minimize common touch points. If the dining room is closed, consider closing restrooms to the public as well. Ensure delivery drivers regularly clean and disinfect their delivery containers and vehicle surfaces, and wash/sanitize their hands often. Tracy Morin is PMQ’s senior copy editor.
PICKUP POINTER 3 Create a formal process to verify accuracy when packing the order. One of the most common complaints with delivery, drive-thru and curbside is orders having incorrect or missing items. APRIL 2021 | PMQ.COM
42 PMQ PIZZA MAGAZINE | THE WORLD’S AUTHORITY ON PIZZA
Pepp Talk From chipotle to jalapeño, banana to bell, peppers offer up varieties and versatility galore to pep up pizzas, pastas, appetizers and more on your menu. BY TRACY MORIN
Despite their widespread popularity and mind-boggling range of varieties, peppers remain misunderstood by many. In the first place, they’re not even a vegetable—and they’re probably even more versatile than you think. “Technically, peppers are fruits (berries, in fact), but they’re eaten as vegetables, and there’s a plethora of peppers out there,” explains Julia Chebotar, New York City-based chef, culinary nutrition consultant, and former Food Network Chopped champion. “In the age of the chili-head, there’s a big market for habaneros, serranos, poblanos and New Mexico chilies as pizza toppings, while bell peppers can balance richer BLAZE PIZZA
toppings such as crumbled sausage, caramelized onions and roasted garlic.”
APRIL 2021 | PMQ.COM
(Left to right) Pizzaiolo Fabio Errante combines fleshy, sweet yellow bell peppers with marinated and deep-fried eggplant ribbons on a specialty pie; a pizza bianca from Errante features pastrami, spinach and pickled teardrop peppers.
Peppers can even go beyond the food menu, where they shine in pizzas, pastas, appetizers, soups, salads and more. “What I love about peppers is, because they’re fruits, they work really well for use in cocktails,” notes chef Brad Kent, chief culinary officer and co-founder of Blaze Pizza, based in Pasadena, California, with about 350 locations. “They can really accentuate other flavors if you choose the right combination, like habaneros with apricots and oranges.” In other words, the pepper possibilities are endless. SWEET ’N’ MILD
At the milder end of the pepper scale, bell and banana peppers remain fan favorites, adding characteristics like juiciness, tang or crunch, depending on the type used and how it’s prepared. For example, Chebotar notes that bell peppers possess a natural sweetness, one that is further pronounced by the cooking process. But they can also add beautiful color and texture to dishes. “When teamed up, these toppings make for a spectacular-looking pie,” Chebotar says. “If you want a full color spectrum on your next pizza, try banana, green, red and yellow peppers!” Fabio Errante, London-based pizzaiolo and author of Fabioulous Pizza, agrees that peppers in general boast impressive versatility, especially in Italian foods. Red bell peppers remain his favorite—such as in a simple “bruschetta” that replaces the typical tomatoes with peppers, topped with
melted provolone, or in his go-to pasta salad recipe, which combines red pepper cream, sweet corn, fresh arugula and cubed mozzarella. (Make red pepper cream by blending together raw red peppers and cream cheese, plus a pinch of salt to taste.) “During a heat wave, I would eat this pasta salad every day,” Errante says. “I like how peppers slightly change their taste depending on the color. Green bell peppers are a bit sour and pungent, so I’d use them with meats or strong cheeses.” Meanwhile, banana peppers “can do so much more than soup up your sandwich,” Chebotar explains. “They’re one of the most underrated pizza toppings out there.” Banana peppers star on Blaze Pizza’s BBQ Chkn specialty pie, which features grilled chicken, mozzarella, red onion, banana peppers, Gorgonzola and a barbecue sauce drizzle. Kent loves the “beautiful color” they add to this visually appealing pizza.
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PEPPER POINTER 1 “For pizzas, placing raw peppers on top of the cheese is the best way to get that perfect crisp-tender cook on them.” —Julia Chebotar
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Seeking incredible depth of flavor with a little kick? Enter the world of hot peppers. If it’s smokiness you’re after, choose chipotles (smoked and dried jalapeños)—they’re especially useful in sauces. “We see people using chipotle sauce as a base on pizza, instead of marinara or white sauce. Chipotle peppers are very trendy right now,” notes Amy Wilson, managing director of Spin365 Marketing (agency of record for La Morena U.S.) in Bentonville, Arkansas. “Chipotle pairs well with many pizza toppings: proteins like pulled pork, chicken, bacon, steak, sausage and ham; veggies such as sweet peppers, black beans, corn, onion and cilantro; and cheeses like a Mexican blend, mozzarella or cotija.” Or mix chipotle with ketchup for a smoky dipping sauce, ideal for serving with fries or onion rings. Meanwhile, Chebotar points to serranos and poblanos as perfect pizza toppers. “Serrano is the spiciest of the green pepper pack, with a thin skin and thick flesh—excellent for eating raw in salsas, but also great roasted or grilled and then chopped up (no need to peel!) on top of your pizza,” Chebotar explains. “Poblanos, which get their name from the state of Puebla, Mexico, are perfect for roasting and stuffing, thanks to their heart shape and thick flesh. They’re typically mild, though you may get the occasional spicy one—a great option for keto-friendly stuffed pizza peppers.” As many modern palates seek ever-spicier taste sensations, an increasing number of customers are big fans of peppers that add a kick. One of the best-selling pizzas at Blaze Pizza is the Hot Link, which includes Italian sausage, jalapeños, black olives, red onions, mozzarella, spicy red sauce and banana peppers. “In about 12 of our locations, in New Mexico and Utah, we also offer hatch chilies, JULIA CHEBOTAR which have a more vegetal flavor that goes very well with tomato and works exceedingly well with cream sauce,” Kent says. “They reduce the heaviness of dairy and balance it out by adding acidity and a ‘green’ flavor that enhances proteins like chicken. On pizzas especially, peppers just offer great flavor and texture to give the palate a break from the fattiness of cheeses.” Tracy Morin is PMQ’s senior copy editor.
PEPPER POINTER 2 “Contrary to popular belief, red peppers are more digestible when they are raw!” —Fabio Errante 46 PMQ PIZZA MAGAZINE | THE WORLD’S AUTHORITY ON PIZZA
PEPPER OBSESSED For chef Brad Kent, chief culinary officer and co-founder of Blaze Pizza, the quest for the perfect peppers became a bit of an obsession. In light of Blaze Pizza’s fast-casual model, with all ingredients laid out before customers in-store, he knew that toppings had to exude vibrancy and freshness even before they got placed on a pizza and baked. However, Kent soon realized that canned or jarred banana peppers and jalapeños weren’t always up to his standards. “They typically come from a faraway country and are heat-treated, which destroys texture and crispness unless a chemical is added,” he explains. “Also, because of heating and shelf life, colors fade, so banana peppers may have artificial yellow color and sulfites to prevent browning, plus a preservative for food safety. And it’s the same story with jalapeños, too.” To address his concerns, Kent worked with a familyowned pickle factory in Michigan to create high-quality banana peppers and jalapeños for Blaze. The peppers are fresh-packed, sans heat treating, and are bolstered by only natural color enhancers like turmeric. “These peppers keep their fresh taste,” Kent reports. “They maintain their color, texture and flavor, and the jalapeños retain their heat. We can then take advantage of those attributes for our pizzas!”
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LOYALTY Whether you’re starting from scratch or looking to boost your existing loyalty program, follow these tips to help establish a solid bond with your customers. BY TRACY MORIN
In today’s competitive landscape, offering a loyalty program has become less of an optional add-on and more of a necessity. After all, these programs don’t only benefit loyal customers with freebies and special offers—they benefit pizzerias with a rise in returning business and, often, the ability to track (and then target) your fan base accordingly. “Loyal customers are the lifeblood of successful restaurants, and those customers should be rewarded,” notes Darren Easton, VP and creative director at The Cyphers Agency in Crofton, Maryland. “Restaurants that treat their return customers to extra perks provide an added sense of community and value.”
APRIL 2021 | PMQ.COM
In its work for Seasons Pizza, The Cyphers Agency designed special offers, like double points on traditionally slower midweek days, to generate more business.
Indeed, not long after its launch, Fired Pie—now with 20 locations and based in Scottsdale, Arizona—soon heard customers requesting some type of loyalty or frequent diner program to receive credit for their purchases. Co-owner Fred Morgan explains that, after careful consideration, the growing company decided to go the tech-savvy route, shelling out for an app to host the Fired Pie program. “It was a big investment, about $20,000 plus a monthly fee, but it has definitely paid for itself,” Morgan says. “It creates loyalty—guests come back more frequently—and we can track them. It keeps us top-ofmind and gives us an advantage over competitors. We looked closely at the cost, and it was worth it.” But whether or not you choose a tech-based solution, there are certain basics to keep in mind when designing any loyalty program. Here, our experts share their top key considerations for loyalty success. BEGINNING BASICS
Design a clear, easy-to-use program. Easton notes that a quality loyalty program is important, but it doesn’t mean much if your customers aren’t aware of the plentiful benefits they’ll receive when signing up. Make sure you outline these in an easy-to-understand way. “Customers want to know exactly what they’re receiving when joining,” Easton explains. “Most programs are free to join, but clearly stating the benefits can persuade an ambivalent potential member.” Morgan adds that ease of use is key to any loyalty program— so think that through in terms of not just rewards, but everything from redemption and registration to ordering and earning points. “In our business (fast casual), it’s important to move the customers through the line,” Morgan says. “So, if you have a system where you have to enter a phone number at the
“Although you want to clearly state the perks of the loyalty program…it’s important to leave a bit of mystery that ignites some curiosity. This could include additional benefits that are revealed once a customer is signed up, or monthly surprise benefits that keep members around.” — DARREN EASTON, THE CYPHERS AGENCY register, that slows down the line. It has to be quick and easily accessible.” Instead, at Fired Pie, customers simply scan a QR code at the cashier station to get their points—a system they love for its speed and ease. Make customers feel special. Your customers want to feel like they’re part of something exclusive, and there are various ways to increase the mystique. “Although you want to clearly state the perks of the loyalty program (in social media content or elsewhere), it’s important to leave a bit of mystery that ignites some curiosity,” Easton says. “This could include additional benefits that are revealed once a customer is signed up or monthly surprise benefits that keep members around. This can be incorporated into monthly social media content that includes an intriguing perk along with an alluring teaser.” Alternatively, Fired Pie uses tiers to reward its most frequent guests with additional perks. The program has different “club levels” that are determined by how much the customer spends at Fired Pie, with each level awarding bigger prizes. Those who spend $100 over one year get a free pizza, but the next level ($300) will earn a free pizza and beverage at every $100 achievement, while $600-per-year spenders earn all that and a dessert, too. And all participants get birthday freebies to celebrate their special day.
50 PMQ PIZZA MAGAZINE | THE WORLD’S AUTHORITY ON PIZZA
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Encourage signups. Now that you have customers interested and informed, it’s time to finish the transaction. “When it comes to signing up for loyalty programs, the simpler, the better,” Easton says. “Online, create a clear call to action (such as ‘Click here to sign up’) that directly takes the customer to the signup page. From there, the process should be streamlined and include basic information, such as email address and phone number. Explain the straightforward nature of the signup process to reassure your audience that it’s a quick and easy click-through.” Fired Pie promotes its loyalty program through every channel possible. The bottom of each receipt encourages signups; social media and website pages push the option; and the QR codes at the cashier naturally spark interest to start conversations in-store. If the store isn’t busy, guests can download right there at the register and start accumulating points. “We also do a regular e-blast to customers that are on our Facebook and in our database, which is 40,000 strong, to encourage joining our app,” Morgan adds. “And, with the deals that we send to everyone, some are good only for app users, so we’ll encourage them to download it to get the two-for-one special or whatever we are running.” SOCIAL MEDIA TIE-INS
Once you have the basics down, kick your loyalty program efforts into high gear by tying in social media. First, Easton recommends promoting the rewards program on social media. “Social media platforms provide direct access to current and potential customers that will not only be enticed to sign up for a loyalty program, but engage with the content on the restaurant’s social account,” Easton says. “This provides a more supportive community, where both customers and the restaurant owners can feel excited to coexist.” Indeed, social media is an uber-important feature of Fired Pie’s loyalty program. App-using customers can post on or browse deals on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. However, Easton believes that owners should speak to the audience on each platform. “Tweak content per social media platform based on its audience—and the best way to know who your audience is on each platform is through analyzing the results of content,” Easton explains. “Test creative approaches, messages and calls to action with different types of posts. Then take a look at the results and see if there’s a difference in your demographics, which can be found per post on Facebook and Instagram.” For example, Easton notes that, typically, older audiences are more present on Facebook, compared to younger audiences on Instagram. Hence, certain loyalty perks that appeal to an older audience should be predominantly on Facebook, whereas other perks may be better off posted front and center on Instagram. Also on social media, incorporate what Easton calls “thumb-stopping assets”—in other words, messaging and imagery that stop scrollers in their tracks. “Choose a creative asset (video or static image) that still embodies the restaurant’s brand,” Easton advises. “The creative asset should catch the audience’s attention, while the copy includes more details about the benefits and registration process. Remember that all social media posts must be concise, creative and on-brand.” Tracy Morin is PMQ’s senior copy editor. 52 PMQ PIZZA MAGAZINE | THE WORLD’S AUTHORITY ON PIZZA
Fred Morgan, co-owner of Fired Pie, recommends these additional tips for making the most of a loyalty program: Engage with guests. Communicate reminders through email, text—any way you can. You can use location tracking to shoot a message when they’re near the pizzeria. Or, if the year is ending and they’re close to reaching a goal, send a message saying, “You’re just $10 away from your reward!” Make it trackable. Choose a rewards system that tracks how many times customers visit, where they’re coming from, and what they’re ordering. This way, you can target them with appropriate offers. For example, if they haven’t visited in 30 or 90 days, you can send them a nudge to order. Mind your timing. Review stats on the best times to send promos and reminders. At 9:30 to 10 a.m., people are at the office and thinking about lunch. At 3 to 4 p.m., they’re deciding on dinner. And, to more frequent guests, you might offer specials at offbeat times, like 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. on Mondays, to pep up slow days.
Sweeten Your Pie Offerings with Stella’s Gourmet Pizza Desserts Stella’s Gourmet, headquartered in Northern California, has been baking gourmet desserts since the 1970s and is family-run to this day. Stella’s is now well into its second generation—going on its third—of offering restaurants gourmet Pizza Desserts to grow their sweet offerings. Their manufacturing has also expanded to other states to help further satisfy America’s sweet tooth. By focusing primarily on quality and convenience, Stella’s launched its family-style Pizza Desserts in 2014. They come in four varieties: Original Chocolate Chip Cookie, S’mores, Chocolate Chip Brownie and Chewy Gooey Chocolate Chunk. The 8” dessert is the ideal after-pizza indulgence. “You worry about your pie, we take care of the dessert,” Stella Wagele of Stella’s Gourmet says, describing the company’s philosophy. Stella knew there was a void in simple desserts for pizzerias, and she wanted to fill it. Today, she runs the family business with her brothers, Nader Shamieh and Jay Shamieh. These desserts fulfill your customers’ after-pizza cravings while also complementing your pizzeria’s operations. Pizza Desserts come already fully baked, each in its own tin. They can be heated from a frozen state and fit comfortably in a pizza box. All products are conveyor-, deck- and conventional-oven
friendly, adapting smoothly to the specifics of your operations. No need to thaw—simply heat them up, and they’re ready in an average of two minutes! Serving is just as easy, whether in a to-go box, plated or dressed up with ice cream and drizzle. “These products are easy to prepare in our pizza ovens and are absolutely delicious,” said a manager at one leading pizza chain. “The smell of freshly baked cookies and brownies always entices our customers, so they are easy to upsell with any order. The desserts fit perfectly into our small pizza boxes, so they are also easy to transport for delivery.” As COVID-19’s short-term and long-terms effects continue, customers’ relationships with delivery and carryout operations have cemented even further. These low-waste, hassle-free desserts are not only easy additions to combo meals but also provide an upselling opportunity to grow your pizzeria’s sales-per-ticket. “Stella’s Gourmet desserts have been a big success,” the satisfied founder of another leading pizza chain said. “There has been no waste and a 90% increase in dessert sales with Stella’s Gourmet products since the beginning.” Learn more about Stella’s Gourmet Pizza Desserts by visiting stellasgourmet.com or by calling 866-383-2444.
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BAKING GOURMET DESSERTS SINCE 1977 Our family has been making quality desserts for generations. Our Pizza Desserts—made specially for the “Pizza World”—are the perfect, no hassle dessert for any Pizzeria. From Our Family to Yours OUR PIZZA DESSERTS ARE…
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APRIL 2021 | PMQ.COM
There are many exciting ways to utilize Nutella within the pizza segment. Dessert pizzas, for example, are a perfect fit. Dessert pizzas featuring Nutella have increased 28.6% on restaurant menus in the past two years. You can offer additional fruit toppings for unique dessert pizzas and wow customers with a delicious treat. For a recipe and to learn more about Nutella, visit FERREROFOODSERVICE.COM. 800-408-1505
HECKERS & CERESOTA
For more than three generations, the Uhlmann Company has produced Heckers and Ceresota Unbleached flours for top pizzerias in Chicago and New York. Using the finest winter wheat with the highest quality protein, these flours deliver the consistency and quality that professionals demand. Tony Gemignani’s team has won world championships for Chicago-style and Detroitstyle pizza using Ceresota Unbleached All Purpose flour. HECKERSCERESOTA.COM
THRIVE PIZZA POS
With packages starting at $149 a month, managing your delivery business with Thrive POS and its suite of business-building tools has never been more affordable. Beyond just a POS system, Thrive features an array of pizza technology solutions, including delivery, mobile and online ordering, loyalty marketing and enterprise reporting, all fully integrated with the POS. Thrive lets you build your business, increase top-line sales and decrease costs. BIT.LY/PMQ-THRIVE
DELIVERY BAGS USA
Delivery Bags USA offers pizza delivery bags in five colors—red, black, green, yellow and blue. Sizes include 12”-14” (up to three 12” or 14” pizzas); 16”-18” (holds up to two 16” or 18” pizzas); 16”-18” (holds up to five 16” or four 18” pizzas); 16”-18” jumbo (holds up to ten 16” or ten 18” pizzas); 20” (holds up to three 20” pizzas); and 24” (holds up to three 24” pizzas). Made in the U.S., they come with a one-year warranty. 888-501-2247, DELIVERYBAGSUSA
GLOBE FOOD EQUIPMENT
You can blend, puree and emulsify anywhere in the kitchen with Globe’s new Immersion Blenders. Great for soups, sauces, dressings and more, the powerful motor makes quick work of a wide array of menu items. With blending sticks available from 12” to 22”, customize your Immersion Blender to fit your needs. Attachments easily assemble and are dishwasher-safe. GLOBEFOODEQUIP.COM
PDQ DELIVERY TOOLKIT
The PDQ Delivery Toolkit is a feature-rich, easy-to-use mobile application that enhances delivery services, lowers costs and ensures the integrity of your drivers. From driver mapping and order reminders to real-time customer notifications, the toolkit’s essential elements seamlessly work together to lower your bottom-line costs for delivery services, enrich the customer experience and provide detailed metrics to assess driver performance. 877-9686430, PDQPOS.COM
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PIZZA INDUSTRY BULLETIN BOARD
APRIL 2021 | PMQ.COM
PIZZA INDUSTRY BULLETIN BOARD
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56 PMQ PIZZA MAGAZINE | THE WORLD’S AUTHORITY ON PIZZA
PIZZA INDUSTRY BULLETIN BOARD
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PIZZA INDUSTRY RESOURCE GUIDE
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HOME OF THE PIZZA DESSERTS FAMILY STYLE “PIZZA” COOKIES, BROWNIES & S’MORES
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www.pizzatv.com APRIL 2021 | PMQ.COM
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of below and sign-off on the advertisement as shown or indicate changes in the column. Please return this signed proof to Stacie Dennison at either: 150 years of premium pizza flour Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Heckers & Ceresota or Fax: 502-736-9518
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PIZZA INDUSTRY RESOURCE GUIDE
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62 PMQ PIZZA MAGAZINE | THE WORLD’S AUTHORITY ON PIZZA
PIZZA INDUSTRY RESOURCE GUIDE
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APRIL 2021 | PMQ.COM
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PIZZA INDUSTRY RESOURCE GUIDE
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Since 1915, The Neil Jones Food Company has been producing premium quality tomato and custom blend sauces. A family owned and operated corporation, we only pack from the freshest and finest vine-ripened California tomatoes. So whether you prefer classic #10 cans or new shelf-stable pouches, you will always get the very best in fresh packed tomato products from Neil Jones Food.
pmq.com/Recipe-Bank/ APRIL 2021 | PMQ.COM
PIZZA HALL OF FAME
Bill Larson (bottom middle) was the mastermind behind Round Table Pizza, a family-friendly gathering place that has grown to hundreds of locations since its 1959 founding in Menlo Park, California.
Has your pizzeria been in business for 50 years or longer? If so, contact us at email@example.com.
ROUND TABLE PIZZA Now encompassing 414 locations across eight states, Round Table Pizza spawned from humble, hand-drawn beginnings as the singular vision of one man with a big dream. BY TRACY MORIN Bill Larson, a Navy man in the 1950s, was first exposed to pizza overseas— in Japan, not Italy. Upon his U.S. return, he worked for companies like Coca-Cola and Safeway, then a couple of pizza restaurants. But he wanted to make his own mark in California’s Bay Area and created the blueprints for his own business, a pizza concept that opened in Menlo Park in 1959. “My dad had all square tables, which my grandfather constructed, plus one round redwood table,” recalls Bob Larson, Bill’s son. “Since pizza is a sharing food that you sit around as a group, he connected the round pizza with the round table and called it Round Table Pizza.” Bob hails his dad’s journey as “a true American success story,” first outlined in “The Bible”—Bill’s book with painstaking floor plan sketches and original recipes. Indeed, the origins and booming growth behind this now-sizable chain were remarkably single-handed. Bill simply wanted to create a gathering space with a family focus. His initial success was so impressive that he started franchising immediately, starting with his second location—opened in 1962, in Los Altos, and still owned by the same family today. “My dad ran the business until 1976, and it had 225 stores when he sold—in all those years, he didn’t close a single store,” Bob marvels. “The business has changed hands three times since, but back then
he had no partners—just his four kids and my mom, Toni, who supported him while he grew the business.” Round Table has since ballooned to 400-plus locations in eight states, now overseen by Atlanta-based Global Franchise Group. Bob, who bought his first store in 1987 after growing up in the business, now oversees the original and third locations, and the original retains its retro charm. Rebuilt by Bill in 1976, just before he sold the business, the pizzeria pays homage to its namesake King Arthur-era theme and reflects the distinct architectural vibes of Bill’s beloved Solvang, California. Today, Bob continues to champion his dad’s focus on freshness (Round Table store operators still roll their own pizza dough) while establishing a genuine connection with customers. Iconic commercials that ran in the ’80s and ’90s dubbed Round Table “the last honest pizza,” and Bob thinks that label still fits. “People sometimes disparage franchises, like we’re not part of the community, but we’re the epitome of small businesses. We started off as mom-and-pops,” Bob says. “I’m a pizza man, and I’m very proud of that. I love being behind the counter, serving customers. I feel like it’s been a 40-year marriage with them. You develop a bond, and they tend to believe they own part of you. So it’s not just my place—it’s their place, too.” Tracy Morin is PMQ’s senior copy editor.
66 PMQ PIZZA MAGAZINE | THE WORLD’S AUTHORITY ON PIZZA
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