You will need a range of suppliers to be able to operate your business. It’s important to have a good relation with them as sooner or later you will need a favour. My biggest advice: Treat them with respect and pay on time.
Food & Beverage
I would suggest you do a bit of research, ask your pizzaioli Facebook Group or Forum and your friends who they use. Look at delivery dates, how many times a week they deliver, quality and of course prices.
Despite the fact that, in general, if you order more you get bigger discounts, you don’t want to rely only on one supplier. This is because from time to time they will run out of things or will be unable to deliver on a designated day. It’s always best to have a back up, even 2. On the other side of the coin, you don’t want to have too many suppliers. That will result in having to deal with many representatives, placing multiple orders and receiving multiple deliveries. I found my sweet spot at 3. These way deliveries can be split and your fridges won’t be full to the rim. If you are a micro restaurant or as I jokingly say “Barbie’s pizzeria”, consider storing at least some dry goods, like flour and pelati somewhere else, the cheapest place is of course your own home.
Unfortunately in some cases you will have to compromise. If a supplier has your favourite brand of pelati, one your favourite flour and yet another one your favourite mozzarella, for the sake of keeping your operation lean you may have to look at a “second best” option for one of these ingredients. You also have to ensure you have a reliable, weekly, supply to maintain consistency.
Although with a bit of research you can source pretty much anything you want, it’s not always possible logistically and financially to get specific produce here in the UK. One typical example is Type 1 flour. 4 years ago it was almost impossible to get any. Even though the Flour Mill told me they would gladly send just a few bags every week, my supplier (importer) didn’t want to know about it. Now that type 1 flour is more main stream, thankfully, things have changed.
In as much as possible I like to support other local business, like the local farm or local ice cream or jam producers. On the one hand this may not make “immediate” financial sense as their produce will cost a little more, on the other hand supporting your local community has a positive impact both on your business and the community itself. These small producers will talk about you and hopefully will be proud to have their produce featured in your menu. The community will appreciate this too. It’s also nice to have a story to tell. To tell your customer how every Thursday you go to your local farm shop for example.
A lot of pizza places nowadays use local flours, local meat and veg and it won’t be long until we can get local mozzarella ( Simona, from La Latteria was our guest in episode 14.
If fridge space is at a premium, consider buying daily at your local supermarket. Prices for general groceries are often times better at Tesco than the local cash and carry. Even items that are vatable (like cokes and sometimes alcohol - when on offer) cost less at Tesco including VAT than Booker excluding VAT.
Think carefully about what you need and where it will go. Ask around for advice. I believe your 3 most important pieces of equipment will be dough mixer, pizza counter (where you stretch your pizza and add toppings) and your oven. All 3 of these require some careful consideration and most likely if you are opening a small place you’ll have to find a compromise between quality, price and size. You need to have a clear understanding of what you “can” do you “want” to do and make sure this two somewhat align. For instance there is no point in buying a 50 litre mixer if you can only do 120 pizzas in a busy day, as there is no point in buying a rotating, state-of-the-art pizza oven to do 30 pizzas a day.
Measure your kitchen first, think about the work flow, draw the kitchen to scale and place the furniture in it, or if necessary use mask tape on the floor to have a realistic idea of where everything will go. In this day and age there is of course software you can use, like Room Sketcher or Floor Planner Your work flow is very important (watch this video). For instance you don’t want to be encumbered when trying to launch pizzas into the oven. Write this on a post it and stick on your laptop: you must make sure all equipment can fit through your doors and can be safely put into place. Most companies will deliver “curb side”, from the curb it’s then your business to get it in, and I can tell you I had some “close calls” with my pizza prep counter. As usual you’ll have to compromise and find a “best possible” solution.
Should I buy new, second hand or lease?
This is my personal opinion of course. I believe that you can pretty much find a solution to most problems, or at least an alternative. If the lights go, you can work with torches; if a fridge breaks, you can move stuff around; but if your pizza oven breaks, well that’s game over. In other words invest in your oven.
I know we are talking about opening a pizza place on a shoestring, but if you can, don’t just buy the cheapest you can find, especially if you may then have to upgrade it after a couple of years. For equipment that it’s not absolutely essential, I would be happy to buy second hand. My dishwasher, some of the fridges and coffee machine were all second hand, and I still have them after 5 years. This literally saved me a few thousand pounds. Make sure you buy from a reputable company and have some kind of warranty.
I am not a big fan of leasing equipment, although if you are counting the pennies, this may be a good option to buy good equipment and pay for it in monthly instalments. It also is, in some instances, more tax efficient as the monthly instalments are tax deductible. The problem with leasing is that in the long run you end up paying a lot more for the equipment.
This is probably where you can save the most. As for the kitchen you will need a plan of your premises and then draw the furniture on it or use software.
Make sure you allow for chairs to be moved back, like when people need to leave their table and for waiting staff to move around freely and being able to negotiate tables without literally having to “squeeze”. This is a useful guide which will give you an idea of measures.
In my case, as space was really tight, I used benches. Benches are not as comfy as chairs but take considerably less space.
Nowadays industrial/rustic is well accepted and in vogue. Reclaimed scaffolding wood, galvanised steel, exposed pipes are all acceptable. There is no need for table cloths and linen. With a bit of research you can find some second hand furniture online or maybe a good carpenter that can do bespoke sizes on the cheap. If you order chairs and tables yourself, once again ensure that table and chair heights are correct. I have learnt at my own expense that ordering a square 60x60cm table doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll get 60cm, you may get 59cm or even 58cm and when you serve 31cm round pizzas this makes all the difference.
Remember that although you want people to feel comfortable, you have to strike a balance between offering comfort and making your business profitable. An extra table, or even a slightly larger table that can accommodate an extra 2 guests if needed, makes a hell of a difference at the end of the year. £50 extra per night, if you open 300 days a year, it’s an extra £15,000.
If you get stuck, there is no shame in asking a professional to take a look. Sometimes when we are in a place for an extended period of time we fail to realise the space could be configured in a different way. In this case having someone that’s never seen it before can help in putting on the table different options. In my case we got a little stuck as we could not really come up with a workable plan that would maximise the little space we had. Although during my hotel career I had opened a bar and launched a new restaurant concept, when thinking about it I realised I always had the support of designers and architects, and my input was more about making sure the designs were practical and the work flow smooth. So in the end I asked around and a friend recommended a restaurant designer that for about £600 drew a 3D model with tables, counters, shelves etc, and gave us great new ideas.
This should be a fairly simple one. You can either go on a comparison website or ask some fellow entrepreneur. Keep in mind that not all companies are on comparison websites. I would recommend that as a small business you try to deal with other small businesses. Dealing with companies that have millions of customers (like BT for your internet or British Gas for electricity and gas) can be a nightmare, especially when a problem arises (and it will). It takes ages to get through an operator and have your issue looked at. I’d rather pay a little extra for better service. I use Yu Energy for Electricity and Gas (you can actually still send an email and get a reply within a couple of hours) and Woav for internet and phone line.