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

Idea Zone: This Symbiotic Relationship With Hotels Is Key

Idea Zone: Ditch the Norm and Never Miss an Order Again

Sweden Goes Gourmet But Remains Loyal to Its First Love: Kebab Pizza

PMQ International Correspondent Missy Green takes on the tasty treat of Swedish kebab pizzas

Old World Asiago Chicken Pizza

Escalon serves up a recipe for a signature pizza featuring rotisserie chicken, Asiago cheese, caramelized onions and fresh sage.

The secrets of effective dough docking

According to Tom “The Dough Doctor” Lehmann, docking helps control bubbling in your pizza dough, but only if you do it correctly.

California Dreamin’: How Golden State pizza chefs used fresh, local and seasonal ingredients to develop a pizza style that has spread across the country

Experts break down their approaches to crafting healthier, flavor-packed West Coast pies.

Wonder Women: Beyonce says girls ‘run the world,’ so it’s high time that pizzerias learned how to market to them

Seven female millennials talk about what they’re looking for in a restaurant experience—and what they hate.

Idea Zone: DoughSafe Doughbox Bags Will Cut Your Costs for Maintaining Clean Dough Boxes

This dough box hack saves time, money and employee grief.

Idea Zone: Peel-A-Deal Offers Win-Win Fundraising Opportunities for Pizzeria Owners

This unique peel-off coupon card lets pizzerias partner with local schools and nonprofits while increasing pizza sales and customer loyalty.

Idea Zone: Pinsa is Revolutionary in Flavor, Texture and Shape

Corrado di Marco developed the perfect blend of GMO-free flours to create a product that’s crisp on the outside, moist on the inside and low in gluten.
Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit Module
Edit Module
Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit Module
Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleShow Tags