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Adding a kitchen and new menu items

Question:

We are preparing to add a kitchen to our bar. We have started equipment shopping and are trying to decide if we should add pizza (and a pizza oven) to our limited menu. Right now we are looking at burgers, sliders, mac and cheese, chicken fingers, wings and fries. There are two well-established pizza joints within one block. Is pizza a good fit with the rest of the menu? What is the profit margin in pizza?

– David Blatt, Owner, Mr. Head's Bar, Tucson, AZ

Answer:

Certainly pizza could be a fit with your good bar food concept and you are asking the right questions with regard to your competition, your margins, and the equipment expense.

In terms of margins, Art Ward, Chef at Smokin’ Betty’s in Philadelphia estimates $3.35 for his pies, which sell for $12.50, a healthy 27% food cost.  “Chef Bill” Brooks, corporate chef at US Foods says, “Cheese/toppings can be moderated and in most cases more [money] is charged as you add more items. It is definitely a great item for the bar segment as it is quick and very recognizable to guests. I would caution any operator from purchasing a new piece of equipment for one menu item. If it could be used for other items or if the pizza could be made [with] the current equipment, I would go that route first.”

My overall advice is that if you add pizza to your menu, only do so for the right reasons:

  1. Because yours is more delicious than your competitors’ and your guests will love it.
  2. Because the equipment you buy (pizza oven) can double for other uses such as baked pastas, nachos, hot dips, desserts, etc.
  3. Because it is a menu item that you can keep to respectable margins.

Ultimately, if the other pizza places deserve their success and the oven would be used for only pizza, it’s best to focus on something unique with the grill, fryer or range you are already buying.

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