From Concept to Launch: A Guide on How To Open a Pizza Shop
January 4th, 2024
Obviously, opening up a pizzeria isn’t as easy as putting a pie in the oven. To launch a successful pizza restaurant, you need to plan well, build a great team, and make strategic choices that work toward your business goals.
PMQ Pizza Magazine reported that the United States saw an estimated $46.98 billion in pizza sales in 2022. So, if you’ve been considering opening up a pizza shop of your own, now may be the right time.
We’ve compiled this quick guide of the most important steps you should take when launching your own pizzeria. Let’s get started.
1. Identifying Your Pizza Brand and Style
In today’s world, pizza lovers have a plethora of options to choose from in their local neighborhoods. A pizzeria can be found on almost every block or shopping center, whether it’s a chain restaurant or an independent business.
As a pizzaprenuer, you have to decide where you fit into the mold — or where you don’t. If you’re opening a pizza shop, you first need to identify the type of pizza you’ll serve and let that lead to defining your brand. Will your menu have more traditional eats where tomatoes are the main ingredient in every dish, or are you redefining pizza with more innovative foods?
Your pizza shop’s brand is reliant on the service style you choose. Developing a brand gives your pizzeria a personality. For example, your brand could be a traditional pizza parlor with dollar slices or an Italian family-style eatery. Besides the menu, your brand will motivate customers to dine with you.
Crafting your menu can be the catalyst for identifying what type of pizza restaurant you should open. It can also indicate what equipment you’ll need, your target customer base, the staff you’ll need to hire, and the start-up money you’ll need to open.
Determining what kind of service you’ll offer at your pizzeria is essential for developing a business concept, drafting a business plan, and obtaining start-up funding.
Let’s dive into the most popular types of pizza shop service.
One of the most common forms for pizza shops is delivery. They offer patrons convenience and usually have lower startup costs than sit-down establishments. However, this type of restaurant presents the need for delivery drivers and often requires customers to pay an additional service or delivery fee. If you prefer this style of service, consider implementing an online ordering system or integrating with a third-party delivery service.
Delivery and carryout go hand in hand. Pizza shops that offer minimal seating (no more than half a dozen tables) require less space than sit-down restaurants but still offer customers the convenience of a quick meal. Like delivery, you may also want to integrate online ordering if you choose to offer takeout.
Often a more expensive investment, sit-down pizzerias allow you to create a great customer experience for those with more time to dine. As a table-service restaurant, the quality of service your waitstaff provide can either add to or detract from diner satisfaction. Keep this in mind when choosing your POS hardware later down the line: you may want to provide servers with mobile payment devices to streamline the guest experience.
2. Writing a Business Plan
Once you’ve defined your pizzeria menu, style, and brand, you can begin drafting a business plan. A business plan is a document that allows you to manage your pizza shop’s objectives and strategies.
A good business plan will allow you to implement strategies, stay organized, and obtain investors.
A thorough business plan will include the following sections:
- Executive summary
- Company description
- Legal formation
- Start-up money and funding
- Description of products and services
- Market strategy and positioning
- Market analysis
- Product and service sourcing
3. Choosing the Right Location
As you’re developing your business plan, you want to include how you’ll find the best location for your pizzeria. Within your business plan, briefly explain the area where the restaurant will be and how that will influence business operations, such as rental budget, target customer base, and market analysis.
Finding a storefront can be a tedious task for a new owner. Many elements must be considered to ensure your business reaches its highest potential. Working with a realtor specializing in commercial property can make finding a location much more manageable. A realtor can find places that fit your price range in neighborhoods with your target clientele.
Deciding on a location for your pizza restaurant goes back to your brand and style of the pizzeria. For example, suppose you decide on a takeout or delivery-style restaurant with limited seating. In that case, you should find a location in an urban environment with a lot of foot traffic.
Next, try to find a location where competition is minimal. It’s never a good idea to pick an area close to other pizzerias — unless you’re convinced customers will choose you.
4. Obtaining Pizza Equipment
The equipment needed for your restaurant will also depend on the style of the pizzeria you choose. A pizza shop typically requires specialized tools, equipment, and technologies.
Choosing an oven depends on menu options as well as the volume and frequency of pizzas being made. Most pizza shops use either brick ovens, convection ovens, deck ovens, conveyor ovens, or impinger ovens.
A Point of Sale (POS) System
Ideally, a specialized POS system designed for pizzerias will be your best bet and cause the least frustration. Ordering pizzas is a unique process and requires a POS that offers a variety of features that simplify the ordering experience and enhance restaurant operations.
Although it may not seem like it, ordering a pizza is much more complicated than ordering a cheeseburger or a medium-rare steak. There are hundreds of possible pizza topping combinations and customizations customers can order. From full-pie toppings to half-pie preferences, orders can be complicated without the right restaurant POS system features.
Furniture and Decor
In the front-of-house (FOH), you will need booths, tables, chairs, and booster seats or high chairs for the youngest diners. You’ll also need menu boards and any pictures or decorations you plan to hang on the walls.
Dough Prepping Equipment
For the back-of-house (BOH), some heavy equipment you will need may include dough sheeters, dough presses, and proofing cabinets. A cost-effective alternative to purchasing brand new is finding used items in good condition or leasing equipment through a restaurant supplier.
Pizza Prepping Supplies
On the lighter side, you will also need pizza cutters, cutting boards, utensils, cookware, and glassware. Look for wholesale restaurant supply stores to buy these items in bulk.
5. Hiring Employees
Now that you’ve found the right location and know what equipment you’ll need, it’s time to start hiring employees. Finding the right staff is vital for any business because they interact with customers and represent your brand. You want to ensure they (and you) put your best foot forward.
Good employees will maintain consistency of service and high-level customer satisfaction. Your ideal candidates should be problem solvers who are personable, driven, and reliable individuals you can entrust with your business.
To keep track of your employees, you should utilize labor management tools. These can help you build a weekly work schedule, track and simplify payroll, and keep up with shifts in real time. Your POS system of choice should already have these features built-in.
Not only are employees an extension of your brand, but so is your advertising. What does your brand stand for? What’s the message you’re trying to convey to potential customers? The marketing strategy and positioning section of your business plan will act as a guide to begin your advertising campaign.
Let’s explore a few platforms that will help you get the word out about your business.
Take advantage of free or low-cost social media advertising. Platforms like Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter are great places to share information about your pizzeria. You can entice customers with high-quality photos and videos of your menu items. You can also highlight your employees in action and your presence in the local community.
Besides social media, a company website is another must-have in today’s digital landscape. Thanks to easy-to-use website builders, creating a user-friendly website for your business is relatively simple — even if you’re not technically savvy. Include the necessary information about your company, such as the address, business hours, phone number, and menu.
In addition to a website and social media presence, there’s one other digital marketing strategy worth mentioning: email marketing. For every dollar spent on email marketing, the average ROI is $36 — a return on investment any business owner can applaud. Gathering email addresses before you open for business can be challenging, but not impossible. You can add web forms to your website and social media that prompt visitors to sign up for newsletters or email blasts.
Even though a digital footprint is the new standard, print advertising isn’t dead. Some people in your community still get their news and information the old-fashioned way through newspapers and other local publications. Before you open for business, advertise in your local newspaper. If your business is new to an area, this will give you a leg up on getting your name out.
Print or digital, every customer likes promotions and discounts. Offer special promotions to new customers and keep your regulars coming back for more. You can also introduce a loyalty program to encourage repeat business. Allow your customers to earn points with every purchase that they can use towards a discount or free item.
Before your big grand opening event, you’ll want to host a soft opening. Invite other local small business owners and community leaders to help create buzz and spread the word about your restaurant. Hosting a soft opening before your actual business launch date is an excellent way to work out operational kinks and get feedback on the menu. For instance, you can practice your service strategy and see if the procedures need to be changed or abandoned.
Once your pizzeria is established, consider hosting special events at your restaurant. Bring customers in with live music, open mic nights, or the popular paint-and-sip classes where people dine while following an instructor-led painting class.
The Last Slice
Despite it all, pizza is still in high demand — and likely always will be. If it’s been your dream to open up your very own pizzeria, then there’s nothing stopping you. Following the steps outlined in the guide will get you on the right track to owning a pizza shop of your own. With the right tools and team on your side, you’ll be set up for success.