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Hungry patrons made December a merry month for America’s restaurant operators. The booming economy has helped boost traffic as eateries packed in the customers, recording their best month in eight years. NRN.com credits the record month to low gas prices, rising employment and weak comparisons resulting in strong traffic and sales. According to an NRN-MillerPulse survey, same-store sales rose 4.6 percent last month while traffic rose 1.9 percent, the best since March 2012. All sectors showed improvement; both casual-dining chains and quick-service restaurants logged strong same-store sales growth of 4.4 percent and 4.6 percent respectively. Since pizzeria sales account for about 5 percent of total restaurant sales, based on statistics from the National Restaurant Association and PMQ Pizza Magazine’s Pizza Power Report, the pizza industry is happily sharing in the dramatic upswing. Pizza restaurant sales increased about 3 percent from 2013 to 2014.

Read more in-depth analysis of the booming restaurant market at PMQ.com.

How to Make Spaghetti Squash Pizza

The Pizza Insider is always looking for tasty alternatives to traditional pasta for food lovers who want gluten-free options, suffer from celiac or are simply looking for lighter choices. Spaghetti squash is one promising option. So when Jesse Parenti, the hospitality director at Stratton Agency, offered this recipe for pizza crust featuring his favorite deep-yellow vegetable, we were eager to give it a try.

Learn how you can be part of the Spaghetti Squash pizza crust revolution at The Pizza Insider.


Pizza 360: Tom "The Dough Doctor" Lehmann

Tom "The Dough Doctor" Lehmann joins PMQ’s Daniel Perea for an in-depth discussion on pizza dough, Lehmann’s favorite pizza and how the doctor got started in the practice of being a scientific pizza expert.

Watch the video now at PMQ.com


Say Goodbye to Social Media the Right Way

PMQ Social Media Director Melanie Addington says few things are as annoying as finding a great pizzeria on Facebook—then discovering that the restaurant has closed. When you’re shuttering your business, there’s a right way to convey needed information and give your patrons a chance to say goodbye, post fond memories and, perhaps, maintain a connection that will be useful to your future business efforts. Addington offers four timely steps for handling your business closing with a social media strategy that will continue to work for you and your past and potential future customers.

Read all four steps—and an alternate—at Slice of Life.


Philly Pizzeria Finances

8,000 Slices for Down-And-Out

Sometimes your best promotion is carried out one piece at a time. At Rosa's Fresh Pizza in Philadelphia, a slice is always a dollar, but not everyone pays, thanks to the generosity of customers who "pay it forward," buying a slice or two for someone in need. According to 6abc.com, the concept is so popular, and people are paying it forward in such a big way, that Rosa's is feeding thousands, with at least 8,000 slices handed out to the hungry so far. Owner Mason Wartman (pictured) left his finance job last year in New York City and moved back home to open the pizzeria he named after his mother. The charity initiative started with the good will of one customer. One day, after a patron donated an extra dollar to buy a slice for someone hungry, Wartman ran out, got a Post-it and wrote a smiley face on it. The excited pizzeria owner stuck it back up on the wall to remind him to make good on the kind gesture. Post-it notes became the vehicle for running the system of pizza-slice donations. Nine months and more than 8,000 slices later, Wartman now keeps track of the charity on the cash register. But generous people still leave notes with kind sentiments like “You are beautiful” and “You can do it.” Other notes come from those helped, including one on a paper plate that said, "God bless you. Because of you I ate off this plate, the only thing I ate all day."

Read more about Philly’s pay-it-forward pizza plan at PMQ.com.

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This Week in Pizza, Tom Lehmann