By Charlie Pogacar

On Tuesday, I hosted a live PMQ webinar about pizza pop-ups. Our subject matter experts were Miriam Weiskind, founder and head pizzaiola at The Za Report, and Dave Conti, founder and owner of Red Planet Pizza. If you weren’t in attendance, that webinar can now be viewed on demand here.

Something happened in that webinar discussion that I can’t stop thinking about. Well, several things happened, actually.

First, let me share this bit of inside baseball: the conversation I had with Miriam and Dave was organic. Sure, I sent them an outline of things we’d discuss, and they’d seen a preview of the slides beforehand. That being said, I had no idea how they were going to answer some of my questions. Many of their answers surprised and delighted me—I had a blast chatting with them, and I’m not just saying that because it’s my job.

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So when I asked Dave and Miriam if there were things they’d recommend aspiring pop-up pizza makers never do, I wasn’t sure what type of an answer that might generate. In the pause that followed my question, in fact, I wondered if it was a terrible question in the first place.

Dave answered first. He said that when he’s catering, he prefers for the party host to supply plates, cutlery and napkins. He also mentioned that he likes to keep the menu simple.

“I don’t want to over-complicate the menu,” Dave said. “I give them a few choices—otherwise they could get out of hand with their requests.”

A New Jersey boardwalk style pie by Dave Conti.

Miriam echoed that, saying she doesn’t do half-and-half pies or allow for any substitutions. Her menu typically has three pies on it, streamlining both the ordering and pizza-making process.

“It’s a 12” pizza,” Miriam said. “To do half Hawaiian, half Margherita—I just prefer not to do that… I’m not a pizzeria, I’m a pop-up.”

That brought us to the part I’ve been thinking about a lot this week. It seemed like something Miriam had no doubt pondered a lot over the years since she first started doing pizza pop-ups in 2020.

“The other big thing is, I used to give away a lot of free pizza and I stopped doing that,” Miriam said. “We will feed the whole staff [at the venue we’re at]. But aside from that, if I have friends come, or family, I don’t give my pizza away for free.”

That comes with one exception: Miriam likes to give away one free pizza to the first customer who gets in line. This is something she has become known for, she said. It’s been a great way to drive traffic to her events, where customers often line up several hours in advance.

“It’s a nice way to give something back to the community, that one free pizza going to somebody waiting in line,” Miriam said. “It’s another great tip and trick to getting people to come out. Or you could say, twentieth person in line gets free pizza, then they have no control, but you’re getting them to come out.”

I like this a lot. It seems like a great way to both create excitement about your pop-up while maintaining the value of your pizza. If you treat your pizza as valuable and scarce, so, too, will your customers, right?

We discuss all that and more in the webinar. I’d also like to point out that we have a whole slate of webinars scheduled throughout the year with some really amazing guests to be featured. We hope you’ll check them out.

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