Imagine one of your regular customers calling and placing a pickup order; he orders his usual cheese and pepperoni with breadsticks. A team member takes the order and hangs up the phone; 20 minutes later, the customer picks up his items. But not one word is ever spoken about the delicious desserts on your menu—in fact, the customer, who has probably ordered from you a dozen times, may not even be aware that you offer dessert. What’s wrong with this picture?
“The No. 1 reason some pizzerias don’t do well when it comes to selling desserts: The staff doesn’t sell the desserts, and the owners are not committed to the idea,” says Linda Mueser, owner/cake consultant at Signature Desserts in Pittsburgh. “If the owner educates the staff and tries to upsell the desserts (much like McDonald’s: "Would you like fries with that?”), then sales will skyrocket. If desserts are treated as an afterthought, then customers won’t buy. Train your staff to say something like, ‘Would you like to add on one of our yummy desserts? If you’re too full after dinner, you can always save it for before bedtime!’”
So where should you start? Maybe you don’t currently offer any desserts or are looking to expand your offerings to stand out from neighboring pizzerias. As always, the best place to seek out advice is your fellow pizzeria and restaurant operators. You’ll find that many offer a mixture of homemade and premade desserts to minimize labor while still offering a good variety.
With summertime upon us, frozen yogurts and sorbets are popular with those who seek something light and refreshing. “All-natural sorbet is sophisticated, and customers can be more receptive to it than your basic flavored Italian ice,” says Jordan M. Weisz, founder/vice president of national sales for Vincent Van Gogh, Brooklyn, New York-based purveyors of caffeinated coffee and tea sorbets.
Gelato has also made a big comeback in recent years and is a perfect fit for pizzerias and Italian restaurants—especially during the summer months (don’t forget, National Ice Cream Month is in July!). A number of machines are available for lease or purchase to make your own gelato in-house—and, for those who are really serious, there’s even a Gelato University through Carpigiani, makers of the world’s first automatic ice cream machine.
“We offer desserts that fit into our pizzeria theme: tiramisu, cheesecake, cinnamon pizzas, baklava from a Greek bakery in the Atlanta area, and a variety of fried small bites for lower price point options that can be shared,” says Nick Sasso, executive chef and owner of Nick's Pizzeria (www.nicksgrantville.com), Grantville, Georgia. “We make our cinnamon pizzas in-house, and I use a blend of imported cinnamon from a spice co-op to give them an intense and unique flavor profile.”
“We serve a variety of fresh oven-baked cookies, gourmet mini-cheesecakes and some of the richest brownies around,” says Niko Frangos, director of concept development for Rascal House Pizza Café (www.rascalhousepizza.com) in Cleveland.
Bobby Athanasakis, president of Manny & Olga's Pizza (www.mannyandolgas.com), Washington, offers his guests Harvest Apple Pizza, carrot cake, chocolate cake, cheesecake and cannoli. “Keep it limited so you don't have too many varieties; let them go bad if you don't sell enough,” says Athanasakis. “You can always make specials or feature them on your menu.”
Don Young, owner, Amicci's Pizza (www.amiccispizza.com), Detroit, makes cinnamon bread and offers Sara Lee cakes, brownies, apple pies and apple nuggets.