What If You Ran Your Business Like A Pizzeria?


I came across a fascinating article this morning by Ed Levine detailing what he learned while writing his 2005 book Pizza: A Slice of Heaven. I’d like to break down some of these elements in more detail, but let’s start with the big picture:

“I started to notice that the best pizzerias across the country were what I would come to call “owner-occupied pizzerias.” These were slice joints and sit-down pizza parlors whose product was the vision and work of a single, obsessed pizzamaker.”

The heart of the article focuses on passing-on expertise – in this case, consistency of product in the world of pizza. The man at the center of the piece is Mathieu Palombino, the chef-owner of acclaimed New York City pizzeria Motorino.

What can your business learn from a pizza joint?

Know Who You Are. Palombino is obsessed with pizza, and that obsession informs every element of his business.

“All the office work and organization, even the cleaning schedule, it’s all for one reason only: to make our pizza. Everybody who works at Motorino who is not the pizzaiolo in effect backs them up and supports them. Everything is about the moment the pizza comes out to the table.”

Rather simple, and extremely profound. Does your operation have that level of clarity? If not, I’d drop everything and find that focus, because knowing who you are and what your mission is fundamental and critical to your success.

Make Your Product As Excellent As Possible. When someone gets hired as a pizza-maker at Motorino, he or she begins working with Palombino that same night.

“Every one of my people gets five hours of training with me immediately. I want them to understand how we do things.”

Obviously at a certain scale, that level of involvement is difficult. However, emphasizing a connection to the source of the passion – the owner, or idea – is a classic example of front-end investment. That initial investment of five hours of training almost certainly saves dozens of hours of remedial effort down the road. And in the case of the pizzeria, ensures that the pizza product has the same level of quality every time, in every store location. Think about in the context of your business? How do you ensure that your product is as good as it can be? What if your “product” is a service? Does your customer service and sales staff share your passion?

Provide Unmatched Customer Service
. Palombino emphasizes impeccable service from all staff members. This extends not only to the customer, but also employee-to-employee. His model for this was another chef, Laurent Tourondel.

“He would walk into the kitchen, and if he had to climb over the vegetables to do it, he would shake the hand of everybody,” Mathieu says. “Even if he was angry with you the day before because you didn’t chop the vegetables just right, the next day, it was a clean slate. He’d have a smile, shake your hand, and that was it.”

I love the “clean slate” idea here. In the connected, online world – a negative comment can stick under your skin like a splinter and take a long time to ease. I’ve spoken with countless business owners who feel really agrieved when a customer posts a negative review on Yelp or Trip Advisor. Now imagine if you could take the clean slate approach. Ok, maybe your business didn’t provide excellent service on a particular occasion. Acknowledge it, learn from it, and start anew with a dedicated approach to providing the best experience you can. Works with customers. Works with employees. It just works.

I’ve touched on what my own takeaways from this article were. However, I’d strongly encourage you to read the whole thing.

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