Monday, December 20

December Update

It's been over a month since I have updated and I wish that I had a lot to talk about. I've been working a couple of shifts a week, more since Hipster Girl got a second job, less this week because I had to to take time off for holiday engagements (my daughter's Kindergarten Christmas recital that I wouldn't miss for anything, for example).

I've been think more about owning my own pizzeria and the extraordinary hurdles I have to overcome before that will ever become a reality. It's not a sudden thing for me to think about, it's always on the backburner, but I've made the decision at my primary job not to pursue career advancement in the traditional sense; there won't be any ladder climbing for me. I have decided to stay in the position I am, getting better there, collecting any advantages that may come my way but not accepting additional responsibility. I have decided to take a different approach to my life which has been, up till now, about always trying to get into a bigger and better situation.

I suppose I need to start with the pizza and that's the only part I've really started on and yet I feel like it's so far away. I'm just not a chef and I never will be. I don't have a refined palate. I just want to make really awesome pizza alongside people that want to make awesome pizza with me. Both things are equally important to me.

On the pizza side:
Tonight I think I'll try Pizza Paradise again. There's something about the pizza there that makes me want to go back even though it's a little neighborhood takeout place that isn't even in my neighborhood. Maybe if I can ferret out the good places in town, I can figure out what it is about their pizza that I like and work it all together into my own style.

On the people side:
I'm still counting on luck for this one; that some day the right mix of people will come into my life that will make this dream a reality.

On the whole I've decided to be patient and that means that things are less exciting (and less blog-worthy).

I wish that whatever holiday you do or do not celebrate, that you are having fun and making fond memories.


Nick said...

What kind of place are you talking about?

Would it deliver? What kind of ovens? Inside seating, or just delivery/take-out? (Maybe an East Side Pies kind of set-up?) How large a menu? Ideally, how large a staff? In Austin, or in the burbs?

My ideal place would be in Hyde Park, I think. Somewhere near Duval. Double-stack Middlebys.

Half, take out & delivery. Half, in-store. Seating for 100, I think. A menu filled with salads and soups, pizzas and calzones, maybe some good sandwiches. Good pasta. A price-point regular folks can afford. A staff of 20-25.

All probably cost prohibitive, of course. Who knows?

Unknown said...

Delivery, yes. But I want to come up with some more workable way to pay my drivers. I'm thinking a $4 delivery fee that all goes to the driver and a disclaimer on the menu (and over the phone when we explain the delivery fee) that our drivers appreciate but do not expect additional gratuity. I don't expect to (at least initially) have any sort of volume in delivery, but I think that in the right neighborhood people will respond to having happy, friendly delivery people.

I'd like to do a seating area. That's actually rather important as I have to have a good selection of beer. Heck, if life threw someone at me that had the drive to microbrew, I'd be down for a pizzeria with a microbrewery inside.

I'm torn on salads, mostly because the totalitarian in me wants to demand that my restaurant be ranch-dressing free, but I know that isn't practical. The people demand their ranch! And then I shall do nothing but sob when they take my beautiful pizza slices, that I put so much love and attention into, and dunk them in their bowls of overpowering goop (because if I offer ranch for salads you can bet that someone will ask for it to dip their pizza in.)

Ovens: haven't thought this one out yet. I love the idea of a wood oven but it's so limiting. Here's my idea (impractical as it may be):

A big back patio, flagstones, a garden, a wood-fired oven outside for a dine-in only menu. I like the idea of people being right there in the action, watching someone work that outside oven. A big gas double oven inside for our regular pizza (what I'm calling high-quality delivery style) and nights when the weather doesn't permit use of the outside oven.

Hyde Park is ideal but right now it's a bit saturated with restaurants and nearby pizza joints. I can think of four off the top of my head that at least deliver to the area or are biking/walking distance, and they're all good places, it would be very difficult to stand out (though if it could be done, I think the area could support another pizza place).

Nick said...

Your idea sounds has a lot more charm—and panache—than mine. My thinking is always dominated by gimmicky concept stuff. I started out with Godfather's Pizza (a pizza you can't refuse), and the experience was extremely favorable. Guess it's in my blood, for better or worse.

Salads obviously have a lot of appeal these days, and there's a lot of profit in em. (And I have a pretty good ranch recipe—though I'd never eat the awful stuff).

The kind of location you'd need sounds a lot like The Parlor (the original one on North Loop). That's a great delivery location, though they don't do a lot with it. Possible, last I knew, to find a spot like that one for 3k a month, triple net and all.(Wonder what Salvation pays? More, I bet).

Your idea stands terrific. It will work.

Nick said...

Not sure about the $4, though—seems to me that the mention of delivery fee initiates a conversation that is unnecessary, and invariably negative. I've found that the best way to take care of your drivers is simply not to have a delivery fee at all. Why do you need to? If not coerced, most people will tip pretty well, especially in neighborhoods like University/Hyde Park. Pay your drivers minimum wage, give em 1.50 a delivery, and include it in your pricing. If you cost a little more, and your quality is noticeably superior—and as an independent, it must be—customers will reason that it's justified. Plus, you can offer pick-up and dine-in specials.

Unknown said...

You're probably right about the delivery fee. I suppose that, in general, your idea will have a better reception. At the same time, I'm happy to have a conversation about the fee. I think if more people thought about it, they'd agree that our tipping system is messed up. I'd rather put on every single piece of advertisement that says "$4 delivery fee" an asterick and disclaimer that says "Our delivery fee goes 100% to the driver. Our drivers appreciate but do not expect gratuity." and then offer $4 off orders of $25 or more (or something along those lines). Someone needs to start the change in consumer thinking regarding tipping.

akuban said...

I think your idea sounds winning. I like the idea of the double oven strategy. As I'm sure you're finding out, the wood-oven pizzas just don't deliver well.

I don't think you need to be a "chef" to do pizza. Many chef-run pizzerias arent' that great, anyway. My favorite pizzerias in the country are run by folks who are just obsessed with pizza. I think you have that obsession, obviously. And also curiosity and the desire to learn. One thing that helps is a good sense of what toppings work well together — but even that ... well, with blogs and the web, you can sort of "travel" around the country and see what other folks are doing and draw inspiration from that, tweaking here and there for your personal tastes and your audience's.

When you mentioned "high-quality delivery style," what immediately came to mind were the pizzas at Apizza Scholls in Portland OR, and Emilia's Pizzeria in Berkeley CA. Both those guys do a similar pizza, one in an electric oven and the other in a gas oven, respectively. They're sort of Connecticut-style/NYC-coal-oven style. They require the higher heat but the crusts aren't the delicate babies of Neapolitan, so they travel well.

Microbrewery would be tops.