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How Not To Sell Pizza April 15, 2008

Posted by David Dirks in Keeping Your Customers, Solving Business Problems.
Tags: , , ,

Last Friday I went to a local pizza joint near my home to pick up my daughter from a b-day party being held there. Somewhat hungry, I went in to get two slices of pizza. The line was only 3-4 people deep so I found my place in line and waited. And waited. And waited. And waited some more. Finally, my turn on the counter. I ask for two slices to go. Sorry, says the lady behind the counter, we don’t have any counter pizza. It’ll be about 10 minutes she says before one is ready. Ok. I’ll wait this out. And wait. And wait. During the waiting period, I wanted to know just what the route causes were of this waiting snafu for two simple pieces of pizza.

I observed pretty much chaos behind the counter. It was certainly near the dinner hour, so I could understand why they were busy. But they just couldn’t seem to keep up. As people came to pick up their phone orders, I hear people behind the counter say things like, “What time did you call?” or “What’s your name again?”. Or they would frantically search for the persons order, unsure of where or what happened to it. Chaos.

So, I waited and waited…10…15 minutes…then I go to the counter. Looking directly at the lady who spoke to me before, I noted that I was simply waiting for two pieces of pizza to go. She looks down at the counter pizza stand, which is still void of pizza, and says, “We don’t have any right now”. She looked at me like she had never laid eyes on me before. Good grief. Game over. I’m out of here. Sell the slices, whenever they get here, to someone else. I’m going outside to chew on some tree bark instead.

All I could keep thinking was, “this place stinks”. Now, they have pretty good pizza, but what I just went through was enough to drive a sane person over the edge. Is this the way to run a business? One woman who saw me standing there told me that she went through the same chaos the week before. Apparently, peak order times are a problem for this business. Fortunately, it isn’t the only game in town. We have other good choices with far less chaos.

Here are a couple of takeaways:

  • Always be ready for prime time. This pizzeria was not running even close to optimal during peak order times. If you’re in the pizza business, you live for these times when orders are streaming in by phone and people are at the counter, etc. This is your business and people expect you to handle the peak times with efficiency, not chaos.
  • Tell customers the truth. Don’t tell a customer that the pizza will be ready in 10 minutes when 20 minutes later there is still no counter pizza still! Perhaps “10 minutes” is the mechanical response. “Can I get a soda?” Response: “Ten minutes.” “Can I use your bathroom?” Response: “Ten minutes.” “I think I’m having a heart attack.” Response: “Ten minutes.”
  • Recognize an opportunity to make things right when you see it. I don’t think it mattered much to the folks at the pizzaria that I walked out and left a customer who will not go back there again. Had they done the right thing and said, “We’re sorry sir to keep you waiting. Have a soda on us.” That would have certainly taken the edge off me. Don’t just ignore the situation (in this case, me) and hope I’ll just go away (like I did).

There’s a very busy pizza place near my office in NJ. They are crunched at lunch time. However, no matter when you show up or how busy it is, you get great service. They almost always have a pizza available on the counter for slices or one is really within a minute of coming out of the oven. In other words, they have long ago figured out how to run their business efficiently. And, their pizza is great too!



1. Nick Moreno - September 28, 2008

Funny at first and then you made some great points.
I hate to be on line just to give someone my money!
Nice article… thanks!

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