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Monday, January 21, 2008

Small Businesses Shouldn't Try to Be Something They are Not

Recently, I entered a small street level eatery which appeared to be your standard pizza shop. It had neon signs in the window with the name of the establishment "Joe's Italian Kitchen" and the word "pizza". Seeing a neon sign means to me this is a casual eatery where I can get fast food. (How many upscale restaurant's have you seen with neon signage? Not many I would guess.)

I entered the shop and went to a counter where two people stood. One was an older woman on the phone taking an order. I asked for two slices. The young lady said to me that they didn't have slices. I thought perhaps she meant there were no pizzas at the time for slices. The older woman (who I believe was an owner) got off the phone and explained that they do not sell slices, but rather individual thin crust pizzas for $5.95 each. Let me just say that this place looked like a regular fast food pizza joint. Two inexpensive tables, soda and juice fridges, and nondescript decor. No pizza slices? Remember the neon sign did say "pizza", usually an indication of very casual dining.

The thought in offering the individual pizzas I believe is that every customer will get their own fresh pie. But this was a shop on a busy street. What about those who want to just get a QUICK slice to go?

My issue is that is not easy to convert a $2 slice purchase that takes two mintutes into a $6 pie purchase that would probably take 10 - 15 minutes. So why bother? I have a feeling that this "Italian Kitchen" is trying to be something it is not - a nice italian restaurant. But it has all the looks and feel of a pizza shop. The best part of this is that there is a REAL PIZZA SHOP about 30 yards away on the same side of the street that sells slices. So that is where I ended up.

The average person walks into a pizza shop looking for a slice. So sell it to them. Most pizzeria's mark up the slices about 40% per slice. For instance you can buy a large cheese pie for $9.50 but purchase a slice for $2. This is a great revenue stream.

If you want to brand your restaurant as a fine italian restaurant don't use standard pizza shop branding like a neon sign and nondescript decor. Quite frankly, if they didnt have the neon sign that said pizza, I would not have wasted my time going in there. Make sure your storefront branding matches what you really are. This will prevent disappointed customers leaving your establishment to spend money elsewhere.

I do understand that it is up to indiviual proprietors to sell the merchandise they wish, but you have to be smart about it. When I walked into the restaurant I mentioned above, they were taking a phone order, but they were NOT bursting at the seam with customers. They lost my sale, I just wonder how many customers they lose each day to their competitor just 30 yards away because they have made the decision not to sell slices. I wish that the restaurant looked at selling pizza slices as a way to market their food and not a way to diminish it. Perhaps they could have converted me into a new customer. I sometimes drive 20 minutes away to buy A whole pizza pies from a place that I fell in love with when I purchased just a slice at lunch one day. Joe's Italian Kitchen won't get that from me.

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