I am amazed at the supportive community in the pizza world! The more pizza events I attend, the more I learn about great people in the pizza business. Because pizza is a universal food, everyone can tell their own story about it…
At my first pizza event, the Pizza Executive Summit in Chicago, I met Brianna & Jonathan Cowan. They are a young couple running a take-out & delivery pizzeria in Orland Park, IL. Not only was their enthusiasm contagious, but their passion for business & growth helped me a see another side of the pizza world.
I was lucky enough to stop by their shop, Old Town Pizza Company, when I was working in Lemont, IL. It was truly a treat. Here are some things I learned…
Pizza is good!
Customers of Old Town Pizza can order 4 different styles of pizza: Thin Crust, Deep Dish, Sicilian, and Double Dough. And what’s the harm in having options?! Each customer is unique, and the pizzeria has the space in their kitchen to accommodate all four. Also, they use the same ingredients, so it doesn’t inconvenience them when ordering in bulk.
It’s okay to change your recipe
Jon & Brianna went to the Pizza Expo and learned a lot about dough at the General Mills booth & seminars. There were so many interesting facts, and the focus was on the ideal combination of water, yeast, & flour. When he came back from the expo, Jon took a scientific approach to his mixing. He adjusted the temperature of water & ingredients multiple times throughout the prep process. Dough that is mixed well tastes better, and the feedback from customers has been positive!
The competition is REAL
Across the street is another pizzeria. Even though this place has a dining area, both restaurants are aiming for the same customers. Therefore, the competition is real. Jon & Brianna have to be aware of promotions that the other place is running, they have to listen to feedback from their customers, and they have to keep their promotions, rewards program, & food quality ahead of the curve. Being in direct competition with another pizzeria is not easy, and I applaud them for continuing to increase the profits in their pizzeria while raising food quality, employee morale, and promotional incentives. And a chain pizzeria recently went out of business… Sometimes going local is the way to go!
Promotions are important
Old Town Pizza Co. uses a POS (point of sale) system that tracks the promotions they have. The investment in these systems and promotions are pricey, but the results are invaluable. Jon & Brianna can analyze how many customers used the promotion, what profit they were able to make, and how much more food was ordered along with the promo. Many of the seminars at the expo discussed this topic because it is often an essential piece of the restaurant. If each promotion brings in new customers for the year (or even customers from the competitor) the “return on investment” is even greater. And with a system to do all the analysis for you, the owner can focus on the overall impact.
Employee morale is essential
Old Town Pizza Co had four owners in a short timespan before Jonathan bought the restaurant. With the passion that this couple has for success, they have turned the place around. They inspire loyalty within their employees, and they are getting their business to run like a well-oiled machine. Simple changes have been put in place, employees are treated & paid fairly, and the level of enthusiasm is always positive in the shop.
CHEEse isn’t CHEEp
At OTP, when employees used to make pizzas, they would casually toss cheese onto the pie. Some of it would land on the pie, some of it would end up on the floor/table/etc. and there was irregularity from one chef to the next. (This is completely common in pizzerias) Brianna & Jon instituted a method to prepare pre-measured cups of cheese each day, with each colored cup holding a different amount of cheese. The pizza maker uses the entire contents of the cup to top the pizza along with sauce and toppings. Not only was this a move in saving money, it now gives their customers a consistent experience. And believe me, their pizzas have plenty of cheese!
Overall, my experience was splendid. I was so happy to learn from a young couple and see the ins and outs of their business. I can’t wait to see more and more success with OTP and hope you have the chance to say hello when you’re in Orland Park! Shoutout to Brianna & Jon, you’re both great!