• Located in a town in Colombia known for its cowboys, wild horses and indigenous tribes, El Palacio de la Pizza has outlasted major chains to become Yopal’s premier pizza destination.
  • The pizzeria offers everything from Mexican to tropical fruit flavors and “cowboy beef,” often on a single pie.

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By Rudy Waldner

El Palacio de la Pizza, which I’ll be referring to as The Pizza Palace, is located in the town of Yopal. Yopal has cowboys, cattle, corn, indigenous tribes, wild horses and open pit-grilled meat.

You might think I was talking about the American West. But no. As a further clue, coffee plantations abound in Yopal. An interesting instrument called an “arpa”—resembling a miniature harp—is played at most every gathering and is emblematic of the area. Locals call corn “maiz,” and the open pit-grilled meat is referred to as “ternera a la llanera” (loosely translated as cowboy beef).

Now at least we can correctly guess that Yopal is located in Latin America, more specifically in central Colombia.

So how does pizza get introduced into Colombia’s Wild West? Chalk it up to foresight, creativity and an unending effort to succeed and improve. Plus relentless toil.

The list of obstacles for The Pizza Palace family—and it definitely was and is a family affair—are reminiscent of George Taylor’s hurdles as described in his book, “A Pizza My Life: Surviving the Pizza Industry.” Landlord expulsion, competition by international chains, an oven fire, and COVID-19 certainly tested the restaurant’s foundation. In addition, let’s layer in a few things unique to the area: torrential downpours (the Pizza Palace began as a street-cart business featuring Hawaiian pizza) and local guerilla soldiers blowing up power plants, and we can begin to appreciate the dedication needed to succeed.

Photo by Rudy Waldner

But succeed they did. Fast-forward to their current location and you’re greeted by bright alluring lights and vibrant colors, outdoor seating, footprints on the floor directing you to where to order, pay, pick up your food and so on.

Behind the counter you’re greeted with a high-production kitchen and plenty of smiles. Mission statements and a photo history adorn the walls.

And then there’s the pizza. The Pizza Palace prides itself on the many flavors they offer—some not quite the norm. Take the apple and maraschino cherry pizza, for example. Not only did I think I wouldn’t enjoy it, but I didn’t even want to enjoy it. I was wrong. It was delightful.

The latest development for Pizza Palace brand is a location and concept named Pizza Kids, where children are guided through making their own personal pizzas! In the following Q&A, we learn more about the Palace of Pizza:

GM Monica Caldas with Rudy Waldner

Q: Tell us a little about the history of your pizzeria?
A: El Palacio de la Pizza arose from a family’s desire to excel, which, after experimenting with several businesses, saw pizza as a product with a promising future. One day in June 1996, the family decided to travel to the city of Yopal with no more resources than a small truck and a truck, without having a fixed place to settle, or a person known in this city. Fortunately, through the hospitality of a person, they managed to find a house.

After a few months, it was possible to locate the site and have all the implementation ready to start a business that today is the pride of the family and of the clients, who always had a voice of encouragement to continue, since there were setbacks and adversities, among them factors such as weather. The intense rains prevented us from working comfortably, since we started at a street stall on Carrera 20 with Calle 11, where today, on the opposite side, it continues to operate.

Firms such as Pizza Hut, Pizza Nostra and others were in the market for some time, but they eventually left the city, leaving El Palacio de la Pizza as the establishment that, despite all odds, has prevailed in its food line and remains, thanks to the loyalty of our customers.

Q: What makes your pizza unique?
A: The variety of flavors and sizes that we offer our customers. We offer a variety of flavors in pizza sizes—family, medium, small and personal—which means that the customer is not limited in satisfying their taste.

Photo by Rudy Waldner

Q: Who is your typical customer (families, students, children, etc.)?
A: Our typical clients are families.

Q: How do you promote your business to new and existing customers?
A: By providing excellent service and with the preparation of our products under strict health standards. That’s the best and most effective method of making yourself known as word of mouth continues to work today.

Q: What is your biggest challenge?
A: Maintaining our position and leadership in the market and expanding and diversifying our business.

Q: How do you compete against the surrounding pizzerias?
A: By focusing on quality, service and variety. We don’t see them as competition but as an opportunity to improve and to create an environment of healthy competition.

From my perspective, the competitive advantage that The Pizza Palace has created for itself is the ease of choosing and—equally importantly—sharing multi-flavored slices. You can get an entire pie with eight different flavors! Well done, amigos! And by the way, Pizza Hut, which once posed a threat, has long since left town.

El Palacio de la Pizza / Facebook

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