Edit ModuleShow Tags

Take a hike: How to cope with a higher minimum wage

A pizzeria owner in Washington state offers a four-pronged strategy for staying profitable in an era of rising labor costs.



 

We live in a constantly evolving world where the one consistency is change. But many fear change, and the recent change that has put more fear in pizzeria owners’ hearts than any other is the rise of the minimum wage.

Here in Washington state, payroll for a 20-employee business will soar by $80,000 per year after the state’s minimum wage hike is fully phased in over the next three years. Let that sink in: an extra $80,000 a year for 20 employees. Fortunately, we have time to plan.

Will Lawrence-Grant, shown here with employee Daniel Curtin Stubbs, says he got ahead of the minimum wage hike in Washington state and made changes that boosted his pizzeria’s sales by 20%, despite higher labor costs.

How can you prepare and strategize for such a huge increase in your costs? Here’s what I have done to not only get ahead of the hike but also boost our total sales by 20%. Think of this as your four-pronged strategy for success if and when the minimum wage rises in your city or state.

 

Adjust your pricing.

Don’t hesitate—raise your prices right away! People in your city or state have voted for this wage increase, so most will support you and stand behind the decision they have made. To determine how to price and position your menu items for maximum profitability, think seriously about hiring an expert (such as a menu engineer) to guide you through a menu overhaul and redesign. It’s time to work smarter, not harder, for your money. The earlier you raise your prices, the more chances you will have to do it again later without offending your customers.

 

Take a closer look at your branding.

Even if your pizzeria has been around for 30 years, you can always rebrand and remind people about who you are, what makes your place special, and the value you offer. Repaint your shop, choose some new staff uniforms or buy some new chairs. Do you find it hard to see your pizzeria from an objective viewpoint? Try a little trick I use: Every time I walk into my shop, I try to look at it like it’s the first time I’ve ever been there. Is it clean? Are people friendly and smiling? Does it smell good? When you spend 365 days a year in the same place, you tend to forget what kind of first impression it makes on a new customer. I’m not saying go crazy here, but freshen up the place!

 

Ditch the coupons.

Get them outta here! I struggled with this one more than any of the other changes I made. I got rid of our “2 for $22 deal,” which we had been running for about five years, and it was a disaster! I became the most hated man on our little island, and I immediately brought it back. It was so frustrating and scary all at once. How could I let my business be held hostage like that? When I finally discontinued the coupon for good, I changed it to a 25% noncoupon discount that applies strictly to online orders, and I’m happy to say I will never do coupons like that again!

 

Start taking online orders.

I can’t stress how important online ordering is to your shop. This isn’t just a trend; it’s the way of the future. People don’t have time to call for a pizza—ironically, because they are on their phones too much! As mentioned above, I moved all my discounts from print coupons to online ordering. It’s really a win-win. I spend less money now on staffing, so I can give better discounts with online ordering. One-third of my sales are now online, and the simple fact is, this technology is one of the biggest changes to our industry. Computers have completely changed how restaurants work in the past 20 years. This is just the next progression in our society’s evolution. The future is here. If you’re not offering online ordering, do it now!

These are just a few ideas to help you survive the storm to come. As the times change, your pizzeria will have to change, too, so please take these suggestions seriously. Meanwhile, if you have great ideas of your own or want to talk more about mine, you can reach me online at thatsasome@gmail.com!  

Will Lawrence-Grant is the owner of That’s A Some Pizza in Bainbridge Island, Washington, and the 2017 Caputo Cup Champion, Non-Traditional Division.

 

Edit Module

Tell us what you think at or email.

Edit Module
Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleShow Tags

Related Articles

Eight Ways to Jump-Start Spring Sales

From Easter through Mother’s Day, here are 8 ways to ring in the spring with seasonal flings and give your sales a jump start.

Tips from the Team: Serving Up the Suds

Sean Dempsey explains how to pour on the profits by adding craft beers to your operation.

Preventing the Pita Effect in Par-Baked Pizzas

Par-baked crusts offer some time-saving advantages, but keep these tips in mind to prevent the formation of pockets.

Old-School vs. Online Marketing: Getting the Best Out of Both

From flyers to Google Ads, Think Tankers share tips and tricks for marketing your pizzeria.

2019: Already a Year to Remember

The U.S. Pizza Team shines on ESPN3

Product Spotlight-March 2019

Maintain a Good Relationship With Your Oven to Avoid Later Heartache

Buying an oven is like getting married—weigh the pros and cons carefully before rushing into a long-term commitment.

Milwaukee-Style Pizza Offers Up Great Options for Pizza & Beer Pairing

You can’t go to Milwaukee and not drink beer. Fortunately, Milwaukee-style pizza was designed with beer drinkers in mind.

Paying Your Pizzeria's Employees Well Can Yield Big Dividends

Derrick Tung, owner of Paulie Gee’s Logan Square in Chicago, details his innovative approach to paying and incentivizing employees—and why his opening night was such a stinker.

Adding Deli Sandwiches Can Kick Up Your Pizzeria's Sales

Thinking of adding a deli component to your pizzeria? These two creative operators explain how sandwich success has kept their pizza businesses booming.
Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit Module
Edit Module
Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit Module
Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleShow Tags