It’s easy to find information on how to succeed in the pizzeria business, but most people never talk about why so many pizzerias fail and close down, often within less than a year of opening. Some of the reasons are obvious—a bad location, for example, or the owners’ lack of experience. But many of the most common mistakes can be easily prevented. Here’s a partial list of reasons why so many pizza shops fail:

1. They lack the capital they need to get through the first year. The early months will be lean ones, and revenues may not meet expectations. This is one of the biggest reasons that pizzerias fail. If you get off to a slow start, you need money in the bank to tide you over until your marketing strategy begins to pay off.

2. They put the wrong people at the counter. Your employees need to smile and greet the people with a friendly attitude. Good service counts for a lot in the pizza business. Bad service gets you bad word-of-mouth and negative reviews on websites like Yelp.

3. They don’t run a clean, hygienic operation. Nothing turns a customer off like a dirty bathroom. If you don’t bother to keep your bathrooms clean, can you be trusted to keep your kitchen clean and germ-free? Your staff should wear gloves and keep their work areas spotless at all times. When a customer leaves, the tables should be immediately wiped down for the next guest. Don’t make your next customer come in and sit at a dirty table.

4. Bad equipment and poor maintenance of equipment leads to bad food. You should always take good care of your equipment and follow maintenance recommendations so that the food will be properly prepared. After a certain number of years, you should also be prepared to invest in some new equipment and decor so that everything looks fresh and clean, not old and dirty.

5. There are a lot of big fish in this pond, and if you’re a small fish, they’ll eat you alive and shut you down. To stay ahead of the competition, you need to market and promote your business aggressively. Run some specials and offer coupons in your local newspaper every week. Keep up with the latest technologies to develop and manage a customer loyalty program that brings your guests back for repeat visits. Create a strong social media presence on sites like Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest. If you sit back and wait for your customers to find you on their own, it may never happen. You should go to them first and give them a reason to come to you!

Chef Bruno is PMQ’s culinary advisor, with more than 40 years of international pizza experience. He is the corporate chef for Marsal & Sons and the culinary coach of the U.S. Pizza Team.

Chef Santo Bruno, Food & Ingredients