Saturday, September 29, 2012

Red flags for pizza consumers

I've been thinking about some of the pizza marketing terms and strategies that really bother me, so I decided to write a post about it to help you keep from buying bad pizza and tricking yourself into thinking it's good. Here's a list of terms, expressions, and marketing strategies I consider big-time chump bait.

AUTHENTIC - People use words like 'authentic' when they can't come up with good reasons for you to buy their stuff. And if they can't come up with good reasons for you to buy their stuff, you shouldn't buy it. Nothing is authentic. Most of the places that use words like 'authentic' are not even close to authentic, nor would they know authentic if the real deal gave them some.

BEST PIZZA IN TOWN - Really? You make the best pizza in town?!? You mean all those other places that say they make the best pizza in town don't actually make the best pizza in town? And all this time I've been in the dark? Thanks for informing me. (I know no one actually responds to this horrible marketing strategy. I guess it just bugs me that so many pizzeria owners apparently believe people respond to it.)

BRICK OVEN PIZZA - A marketing term, not an actual type of oven or pizza. Although some ovens are made of brick, when I hear or read someone using the term 'brick oven,' I don't know what they're talking about because I assume they don't know what they are talking about. Either that or they're trying to pull one over on me, because ovens that are actually made of brick are not called 'brick ovens.' Rather, they are called wood-fired ovens, which is a better marketing term than 'brick oven' anyway.

Since no one calls a wood-fired oven a 'brick oven,' my only logical assumption when I see a pizzeria calling their product 'brick oven pizza' is that they're using a regular deck oven, possibly with a brick facade, that they want me to think is some kind of magical mystery oven. And there is nothing wrong with deck ovens... until someone starts trying to make you believe their deck oven is some kind of magical mystery oven. Conclusion: If a pizzeria tries to lure you by advertising their "brick oven," I'd say it's a safe bet that they make crap pizza and they try to rely on the gullibility of chump consumers to keep them in business.

CALIFORNIA STYLE PIZZA - No such thing. Same as "gourmet" pizza, as far as I'm concerned. (See "Gourmet" below.)

Actually there may be a type of pizza that could legitimately be called "California style," even though no one calls it 'California style.' That would be pizza from Shakey's and Round Table and maybe a few smaller chains. This style of pizza is generally considered a cracker crust. And since I believe this style is also common in Oregon and Washington, "West Coast style" would probably be a better description.

DOUGH MADE FRESH DAILY - If a pizzeria advertises "Dough made fresh daily," like so many of them do, it should tell you a whole bunch of things:
  1. Their dough almost certainly sucks (because it's almost impossible to make good pizza out of dough that's only 3-16 hours old).
  2. They're probably lying, which is stupid because they're telling everyone their dough is not as good as it might actually be.
  3. They think you're an idiot, and they're using that to lure you into their pizzeria, because only an idiot would eat there.
  4. They have no creativity.
  5. They can't give you any good reasons why you should eat there instead of the pizzeria across the street.
I'll probably think of some more.

GOURMET - A marketing word used to trick you into thinking something is good even though it's probably not. In pizza, 'gourmet' also usually indicates that a place sells pizza with unusual, uncommon toppings. Not necessarily good quality ingredients or good quality crust or good quality sauce or good quality cheese or good quality toppings or a good quality oven or knowledgeable pizzamakers; just unusual toppings, and at a ridiculous price. If you buy 'gourmet' pizza, you're a chump who deserves to be ripped off.

"NEW YORK STYLE" - Go to New York and tell me how many pizzerias you see that market their pizza as "New York style." Or even Boston or anywhere in New England. There are surely pizzerias outside New York and New England that market their pizza as "New York style" and actually make a good NY style pizza, but I generally avoid any place that feels the need to announce that they sell NY style pizza, because those places usually sell crap pizza.

I don't really consider my "NY style" pizza to be true NY style pizza (even though it probably is, or would be if I had the right oven). I just use the term 'NY style' here to give readers an idea of what I'm trying to make. If I owned a pizzeria that sold the pizza I consider basically NY style, I would call it "NY style" on the menu, but probably not in marketing materials. Instead of tooting my own horn by calling something "authentic NY style," I'll let my customers do it for me.

UNDER NEW MANAGEMENT - All you have to do is ask yourself why it's under new management, and why the new management would feel compelled to announce that the place is under new management. This sign should tell you that someone bought a pizzeria with a horrible reputation. Anyone who would do that is an idiot and doesn't know a thing about the pizza industry. It says they bought a pizzeria that couldn't have been given away to anyone who knows how the pizza business works. But somehow the original owner managed to find a chump who actually gave them money for something that's worth less than nothing; someone who is now losing a couple grand a week and doesn't understand what motivates people to buy pizza from one place instead of another, which explains the "Under New Management" sign. If you buy pizza from this place, you're a chump, too.

"WE USE A 70-YEAR-OLD SECRET RECIPE THAT GRANDMA TAUGHT US" or "WE HAVEN'T CHANGED OUR RECIPE SINCE WE OPENED ?? YEARS AGO" - So you're telling me you couldn't figure out how to make it better even though you've had all these decades to do it? Wow! Even with all the technological advances in equipment? Wow! Oh wait, I see that you're using a conveyor oven, just like Grandma did 30 years before conveyor ovens were invented.

I change my formulas and procedures almost every time I make pizza (which is sometimes every day for months at a time). You can see that very clearly at the bottom of my Pizza Hut thin post, even though I came close to nailing it the first time. Y'see, trying different things is how you learn. That's how you get better at doing what you do, and that's precisely how I got to the point where I can make the pizzas I share with you in this blog. And if I ever open a pizzeria, you can bet my pizza will change over the years because I will strive every day to make it better. It wouldn't change a lot, but it would change because that's how life works.

If any restaurant goes out of their way to let me know they have some kind of aversion to improving their product, then I don't want to eat there. In reality, though, I know they're lying when they say they've never changed, and that's an even better reason not to eat there.

Don't eat at this place. You're being bullshitted.

Surely more to come...


  1. LOVE this post, Ryan. Thanks for linking me here from

    I agree with most of these. And I get where you're coming from on the "Dough made fresh daily" thing. I get it, and I think we're in agreement on the heart of the issue, but what I think the pizzeria is trying to convey is that the dough is made in the pizzeria and not trucked in from somewhere frozen. I'm sure there's a better way to convey that. I mean, we make the dough fresh daily (except for the day we're closed) in the pizzeria I work in, we just age it a bit ... ;)

    Nice blog. I don't know how I missed it all these months. My head has not been in the online pizza world much lately. CHARS and HASTA LA PIZZA!

  2. I get that when you are very educated about a product the buzz words can be annoying because they are often inaccurate. But the people who write ad copy don't make pizzas. They also don't know much about pizza; they know a lot about people and buzz words that work i.e. get people in the door. So you can't assume much about anything by reading ad copy. The whole NY Pizza thing made me laugh since you do it yourself and it is okay on the menu but not on the sign outside. Advertising is all about "tooting your own horn" and forgive me but you are way less afraid to do it yourself (perhaps with justification), than you are tolerant of it in ad copy. Word of mouth is the best advertising and should override any and all issues with buzz words and dubious ad claims.