- The past year’s problems aren’t going to magically disappear, so now is the time to reflect, take stock and look for better solutions.
- Ditching single-use plastics, reducing food waste and optimizing your menu for maximum profits are three steps to consider in 2023.
By Andrew Beckner
The new year offers the perfect opportunity to reflect on the past 12 months and prepare for the year ahead. While you set personal goals, renew gym memberships, and vow to eat more salad, don’t forget about setting goals for your pizzeria.
With sky-high inflation, staffing shortages and rising labor costs, 2022 has given us plenty to reflect on. We might not know exactly what 2023 has in store, but looking at current trends in the restaurant industry can help us better prepare for whatever the new year throws our way. With that in mind, here are seven New Year’s resolutions that can keep your pizzeria ahead of the curve in an unpredictable world.
1. Ditch Single-Use Plastics
The average consumer has grown increasingly eco-conscious in 2022, and many expect the brands they support to be similarly concerned about the environment. Unfortunately, restaurants are massive polluters, and our reliance on single-use plastics is a major problem. The average restaurant discards a staggering amount of plastics each day in the form of straws, cutlery, portion cups, bags, takeout containers and more. Now multiply that by the number of restaurants in your city, your state or the entire country. This mountain of plastic will sit in our landfills for hundreds of years before decomposing.
Fortunately, cutting back on your single-use plastics has never been easier. This year, try reducing your pizzeria’s ecological footprint by offering straw substitutes. Those soggy paper straws have come a long way in the past few years, but they aren’t your only options. Consider trying bamboo, pasta or rice-based alternatives. Some restaurants have even switched to stainless steel, washing them with their flatware after each use.
The same goes for your plastic cutlery and takeaway containers. While cardboard pizza boxes are relatively eco-friendly, think twice before putting your spaghetti or garlic knots into a plastic container. You can find many alternatives that work just as well. Bamboo cutlery, for example, is better for the environment and feels much more luxurious and high-end in your customers’ hands.
Even if you can’t cut your plastic waste completely, small changes, like providing plastic products only upon request, can go a long way toward reducing your ecological footprint and being a better citizen in the new year. Do it because your customers will expect it, but also because it’s good for the earth.
2. Curb Food Waste
Food waste is another major environmental problem restaurants should attempt to address in 2023. All of those unused ingredients rotting in landfills add to the greenhouse gases in the atmosphere that are warming our planet. But food waste isn’t only bad for the environment, it’s also bad for your profit margins. Every time you throw out ingredients, you are also throwing out the money you spent purchasing those ingredients.
A back-of-house inventory management system might be just the thing for the new year. If shelling out money for new software isn’t realistic, you can have your kitchen manager keep an eye on what frequently goes bad and gets tossed before you use it. By ordering less of those ingredients, you can reduce your ecological impact and increase your efficiency and profit.
You can also reduce food waste in your front-of-house by reducing portion sizes. If you or your staff notice that a particular dish is rarely finished, try reducing the serving size. Whether it’s your spaghetti and meatballs or your meat-lovers calzones, reducing the portion allows you to serve a smaller amount of food for the same amount of money, increasing your margin on each dish while also reducing waste.
Also, making it easy for your customers to modify their orders can reduce waste and increase margins. Given the option, many of your customers will tell you what they do or don’t want. There’s no reason to top your pizzas with expensive ingredients that your customers will just pick off.
3. Provide Plant-Based Alternatives
Not only are more consumers worried about the amount of plastic and food waste in our landfills, many are also second-guessing the amount of meat they consume. An increased awareness of animal cruelty, climate change and industrialized meat production has many customers looking for restaurants that provide plant-based meat options.
The good news is that these meat substitutes are tastier and more meat-like than ever. Companies like Impossible Foods and Beyond Meat offer plenty of plant-based alternatives for common pizzeria ingredients. This year, try adding vegetarian meatballs, sausage and chicken to your menu.
You might also consider offering at least one vegan pizza. Like meat alternatives, some of which taste nearly identical to their meaty cousins, vegan cheese has come a long way in the past few years, and you can find plenty of delicious vegan recipes that require no cheese at all.
4. Incorporate Seasonal Ingredients
Incorporating more seasonal ingredients into your menu can also be a smart business move and a great New Year’s resolution. First, seasonal ingredients are fresher and more flavorful. Whether it be tomatoes, squash or apples, ingredients that are in season in your area can be used quickly after harvest. They can be allowed to ripen normally, instead of ripening inside the rusty hull of a cargo ship.
For the same reason, seasonal ingredients can also be cheaper. By ordering what’s in season locally, you eliminate the lengthy supply chains and exorbitant shipping costs that come with buying ingredients out of season, making your dishes better tasting and more profitable.
Finally, seasonal items keep your pizzeria’s menu feeling fresh and new. A seasonal menu doesn’t mean you have to get rid of customer favorites. Instead, you can replace a few entrees and pies every few months to reflect the season.
Of course, seasonal menus require frequent updates and overhauls. If you aren’t a graphic design whiz, creating a new menu can be a lot of work and stress, but services like MustHaveMenus can make it a breeze. Their pizza menu templates are professionally designed and easy to customize, making selling your pizzas and other items a cinch.
5. Optimize Your Menu
Speaking of menus, sprawling multi-page menus are so last year. While they might work well when the economy is booming, with rising inflation and labor costs, 2023 will likely be a year to focus on what your restaurant does best.
Optimizing your menu means calculating your total spend on ingredients and labor for each menu item. After you know which dishes have the highest and lowest profit margins, you’ll want to compare your margins to the popularity of the dishes, cutting those that have both low margins and low popularity.
For example, maybe that seafood pasta is expensive and time-consuming to prepare, resulting in a fairly low profit margin. If the dish is not very popular, cutting it from your menu would be an easy decision. On the other hand, if the dish is wildly popular, you might try reducing your portion size or raising the price. In the end, optimizing your menu might require some tough decisions, but you need a menu that makes sense for your customers and your pizzeria.
You can also optimize your menu through menu engineering. Menu engineering allows you to subtly influence your customers to make decisions that are good for your margins. You can highlight specific dishes with colorful fonts, images and labels like “chef’s choice” or “house favorite.” Even changing the location of high-margin dishes on your menu can increase the likelihood that your guests will order them.
6. Grow Customer Loyalty
First-time customers are great. But, as you know, when economic times are tough, it’s your loyal regulars that keep your restaurant afloat. Not only are regulars less tied to the fickle trends in consumer spending, they also spend more per transaction, and they are far easier to keep than new customers are to recruit. Start the new year by making it a goal to grow customer loyalty.
The best way to grow customer loyalty is with a loyalty program. If you don’t already have one, they’re available in a variety of shapes and sizes that can fit any brand. Your loyalty program can reward your customers after a certain number of qualifying visits or after spending a certain amount of dollars. For example, you could reward a customer with a free order of garlic bread or a percentage off of their total bill after 10 visits, or you could reward them after they spend a certain amount of money at your pizzeria.
There are also a few different ways to keep track of rewards. Digital rewards programs require software to keep tabs on your customers and their purchases. There are many options out there, and your POS system might even have a customer loyalty program built in. If software and tech isn’t really your thing, the good ol’ loyalty punch card is a cheap and easy way to get a rewards program up and running in only a few minutes. All you need is a template and a hole punch.
There are pros and cons to both types of loyalty programs. Digital programs are handy and don’t require your customers to keep track of a loyalty card, but it can be difficult for your customers to know how many reward points they have at any given moment. On the other hand, punch cards are easy, require no setup time, and make it easy for your customer to keep track of their purchases, but some won’t want to lug around yet another card in their wallet or purse.
The type of loyalty program you choose isn’t as important as having one. Pick the one that fits your brand and promote it across all of your marketing channels. Then you can start rewarding your regulars for spending their hard-earned dollars at your pizzeria.
7. Commit to Digital Marketing
Finally, don’t forget to use social media marketing to increase your brand awareness and drive more business. As you know, social media is a great marketing channel for the restaurant business, offering a substantial return on investment.
A good rule of thumb is three to four posts per week. This will keep your pizzeria on the mind of your customers while not annoying them with constant contact. Of course, you’ll want to post about all of your events and specials, but any of your New Year’s resolutions would also make for good content.
You can post mouth-watering photos and videos of your favorite dishes in your eco-friendly takeout containers and inform your followers of your efforts to go green in 2023, or you could post images of all of those locally sourced ingredients and update your followers on your new seasonal menu. Almost anything you do in your restaurant can make for great digital marketing content.
To get ideas and inspiration, follow a few restaurants with a large audience and see how they post and interact with their followers. You can also find free social media post templates online. They’re customizable and easy to share, helping you fill out your social media content in no time.
These seven resolutions are sure to start your year off on the right foot. Use the traditionally slower season between New Year’s and Valentine’s Day to perfect your changes. That’s it. With a little forethought, you can ensure your pizzeria’s success in 2023 and beyond.
Andrew Beckner is a professor, freelance writer and foodie. He has published fiction, nonfiction and poetry. His work has appeared in or is forthcoming from Chicago Quarterly Review, Sky Island Journal and LandLocked Magazine, among others. You can find him reading at a restaurant patio somewhere in Southern California.