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Why don't more mom 'n pop pizza places do better?

h
hobbess Oct 4, 2010 12:30 AM

While driving a distance of maybe half a mile here in the suburbs, I must have passed five or six pizza places- about half were national chains and the other half were small, independent mom 'n' pop pizza places.

I've noticed that these small mom 'n' pop places never seem to have any customers when I pass by. Maybe, its the time when I drive by or the crowded competition, but it seems to me that the underlying problem is that these mom 'n' pop places serve the same generic tasting pizzas as the national chains with the same doughy crust and the same pepperoni toppings. How come we don't see more mom 'n' pop pizza places do better, where they serve better pizzas than the national chains?

If I had a small business like that and was surrounded by all that competition, I'd want to differentiate myself from the competition. But, with the national chain's buying power, these small independent pizza joints can't compete on price. Nor, can these small independent pizza joints compete against the national chains marketing with their sponsorship of a little league team. If you're going to get the same commodity pizza, most people are going to go with the lower priced one or the one with the better marketing behind it.

So, making better tasting pizza would seem to be the best option for the independents to survive, yet too often, they make the same commodity pizzas as the national chains.

Why don't these independents use coal or wood fired ovens to make their pizzas? Is the paperwork to get it too difficult?

No matter what, a pizza place would have to have pepperoni pizza since that's the most popular topping. But, that doesn't mean they need to make the exact same pizzas as the national chains. Why not throw in a specialty pizza like an arugula pizza or something different on a rotating or seasonal basis? Something different that people can't get at national chains, a reason to go to them over the nationals?

  1. corneygirl Oct 8, 2010 09:50 AM

    In my town they do just fine. There is one a block from me that will have a line out the door on weekends. Excellent "zza and that is all. One type of crust, one type of sauce, fairly standard toppings (they do have shrimp and sauerkraut). They sell nothing but pizza and bev's - no breadsticks, no salad, no dessert. Carry out, dine-in, or they will deliver to 3 bars that are w/in walking distance.

    I can also think of 3 other local joints that due good biz and have been around for years. The one chain in my neighborhood closed, and this is in a college town in the mid-west. It must be a highly local phenomenon.

    1. jfood Oct 7, 2010 07:06 AM

      There are 4 pizzerias in jfood's town, three M&P and a small chain. The chain is definitely the worst piece of crap that can be served, to the point that jfood threw out the last slice he ordered. And the heros (grinders in CT) are even worse. But at least they make their dough

      One step up is a place that buys pre-made crusts and then assembles the pie and bakes. Also in the inedible category

      Next is a red sauce family restaurant that makes a decent pie, they deliver and the owner is a good guy so jfood gives them some business just to keep his finger on the pulse of what they serve.

      On a scale of 1-10, they rank a 0, a 2, and a 7, respectively.

      Then the old time M&P, second generation shop where jfood is a regular. Now we're talking good dough, well made, sauce made on premices, lasagne made by the owner's sister and an owner that is a big huggable bear that treats everyone like a member of the family. This place has a steady stream of customers. Rate this place a 10.

      Why do M&Ps suffer in some places. People get into a comfort zone on lots of stuff and they like the ability to have consistencey. When you assemble pizza with pre-made crap, the end result is the same each and every time. And most people are just lazy in their palates. Likewise for $10 you can get all the toppings you want at Dominos while M&P probably adds another $5 to the equation. So economics come into play.

      For jfood, he will stay with the M&Ps, support them because they add love to the equation.

      8 Replies
      1. re: jfood
        MGZ Oct 7, 2010 07:35 AM

        How come children in NJ and dogs in CT can get it, but so many others elsewhere can't????

        ETA - Oh yeah, the "pizza culture."

        1. re: MGZ
          bagelman01 Oct 7, 2010 07:39 AM

          we train our owners the right way.....................
          Unlike middle America, hounds in CT are true Chowhounds, we eat cooked to order, meals off the grill and doggoe bags ONLY from the finest places. No kibble or canned glop for the hounds in the Bagelman house.

          1. re: bagelman01
            Passadumkeg Oct 7, 2010 07:47 AM

            Bag & MG, don't get too smug, we can thank immigration for this gift. Middle America suffers because, well, it is just too American.
            I'm in New Mexico now, I don't even think of pizza, the New Mexican food joints are just soo good and cheap. Red? Green? Or Christmas (chile)?
            I am, however looking forward to a green chile & chorizon 'Za from The Surf Shack sometime.
            Carpe Pizza!

            1. re: Passadumkeg
              MGZ Oct 7, 2010 09:16 AM

              I'm afraid there's a thin line between silly and smug.

              I have already recognized the geographic factor and I do understand how immigration patterns affected it. Having lived in places as seemingly close to NY as Wilmington and Baltimore, I lived it. I would come home to see family and pizza was an essential part of the trip - sometimes ordering a pie a few hours after a large homecooked feast. It had to be done.

              Time seems to have permitted the emergence of good pizza elsewhere. The DC pizza scene, for example, appears to have bloomed.

              Pizza is too often made for profit, perhaps that is the problem. Pizza is art. It must be made with love.

              I will refrain from waxing too poetic on the topic. Similarly, I will resist the urge to delve into a discussion of conceptions of form and the consequences to perceptions. Finally, at this time, I will not take up anyone's time with a discussion of subjective/objective and the possibilties of understanding quality beyond either. Nevertheless, if any of these topics were ever to be fairly treated, pizza is a good a context as any.

              1. re: MGZ
                Passadumkeg Oct 7, 2010 09:39 AM

                Smug was said in jest. I know Jerseyites are the last folks to be smug about anything. Ever heard John Gorka's ( A Good New Jersey lad) song, "I'm from New Jersey, I Don't Expect Much."?

          2. re: MGZ
            jfood Oct 7, 2010 07:50 AM

            Just lucky to have the choice of good pizza. Not everywhere does.

          3. re: jfood
            s
            Steve Oct 7, 2010 08:42 AM

            Beautifully said.

            1. re: jfood
              Passadumkeg Oct 7, 2010 08:50 AM

              "They add love to the equation" . Wonderful! All good M&P's add this. How can a chain?

            2. MGZ Oct 6, 2010 12:35 PM

              Perhaps there is some veracity in the comments submitted concerning pizza in other places, but they simply misunderstand the "pizza culture" in the NY tri-state area. I know children who scoff at Dominos. There is a muffler shop in the space occupied by a Pizza Hut when I was an adolescent. Locally owned, independent shops are ubiquitous, though few serve anything I would label "gourmet." They dominate the market and are commonly the source of debate. For everyone, not just 'hounds, but if you want examples, try searching "pizza" on the New Jersey board. (Anecdotally, I've on more than one occassion been contentedly drinking in one bar that serves pizza only to leave when the collectively hankerin' for a pie mandated withdrawal to another.)

              2 Replies
              1. re: MGZ
                GraydonCarter Oct 7, 2010 06:00 AM

                I was thinking the same thing, that regardless of how you like your pizza, NYC-style pizza dominates the tri-state area. I can't think of any mom 'n' pop place that offers Chicago-style deep dish, for example.

                1. re: GraydonCarter
                  tommy Oct 7, 2010 06:20 AM

                  In north jersey, the places making cracker crust style are the standouts.

              2. sbp Oct 6, 2010 09:47 AM

                On Long Island, NY, the mom and pop's vastly outnumber the chains, and the quality is almost always superior.

                In traveling, there IS great variability and many of the M&P's I've been to are not that good. I've learned one thing about an M&P: if you see the pizza cooked on a conveyor belt oven, run for the hills.

                1. t
                  tastesgoodwhatisit Oct 5, 2010 09:56 PM

                  It seems to depend wildly on area, in terms of whether there is a big enough base of people who like gourmet pizza and are wiling to pay for it to support good independent stores.

                  But I find that approximately 90% or more of pizza ordered, in terms of volume, is not ordered with the intention of having extremely high quality pizza, unusual ingredients, or a gourmet nice meal out vibe.

                  Mediocre pizza is generally pretty cheap for the quality, easily ordered in bulk, very customizable, easily tailored to the amount of food you need, and is usually offered with a variety of sides and drinks available. As a result, it ends up being the go-to meal when you have a big group, or a variety of tastes and dislikes, or need to order in food for a party, or go out with a big group.

                  With those parameters, a chain is more reliable and generally cheaper and more convenient than a small independent place. They deliver, often for free, they've always got some sort of two-for one deal going on, they're not fantastic, but they are consistent and edible and often have a menu printed in the phone book, or flyers regularly mailed. And they tend to deal with large volumes, so they can get you your 20 pizzas when you want them.

                  For the more gourmet approach, things like a wood fired oven and perishable gourmet ingredients are going to cost more, and eat into a relatively small profit margin, so it's more risky.

                  I've had some very good pizza at independent places, but the worst pizza I've ever had has also generally come from small independent places. In general, I'd want a review or a trusted recommendation before trying one out.

                  I suspect it's also a feature of population density and demographics - a big city is much more likely to support a thriving gourmet pizza scene than a small town, and a population that's used to really good, non chain pizza is more likely to do so than one where most people really do want Dominoes over other options.

                  8 Replies
                  1. re: tastesgoodwhatisit
                    Passadumkeg Oct 6, 2010 04:48 AM

                    Socioeconomics and and the age demographics of an area, play a large role as well.

                    1. re: Passadumkeg
                      o
                      ospreycove Oct 6, 2010 05:10 AM

                      "Nobody Ever Went Broke UNDERESTIMATING the taste level of the American Public,' Applies to Pizza as well; it is a price sensitive market segment and as one poster has said the majority of consumers will gravitate to the "Best DeaL look at the buffet culture,all you can eat, 99cent "Meal Deal" and so on", so sad, YOU ARE EATING IT!!!!!!!

                    2. re: tastesgoodwhatisit
                      s
                      Steve Oct 6, 2010 07:58 AM

                      I think your post is slightly off the mark. If you have a population like in Joisey, even in small townships there is plenty of good pizza, it's not 'gourmet' food, and it's plenty cheap. It's mostly using gas decks. Even on the PA side of the Delaware Water Gap (bordering NJ), I had a very good pizza at an Italian deli that also served pepperoni knots, calzones, trays of lasagna, and a few other items. It is a question of know-how. I'm not sure if I've ever had a pizza less than delicious from a place that also sells pepperoni knots!

                      In the DC area, we only recently have a kind of pizza explosion featuring Neapolitan style pizza. Before that, the one or two good places were like oases in the desert.

                      The delivery places are not delivering pizza. They are delivering a service.

                      1. re: Steve
                        Passadumkeg Oct 6, 2010 09:26 AM

                        steve, how is the pizza at the place that is also a dog and cat adoption center?

                        1. re: Passadumkeg
                          s
                          Steve Oct 7, 2010 06:16 AM

                          Wow, looks like I missed a place on my eating tour of NE Pa...... eat lunch while your pet gets spayed!

                          1. re: Steve
                            Passadumkeg Oct 7, 2010 06:33 AM

                            No, now I remember, the Lost dog Cafe in Arlington, Va.?
                            I think it will be a while until we visit. go eat a saltena for me!

                            1. re: Passadumkeg
                              s
                              Steve Oct 7, 2010 06:40 AM

                              Lost Dog Cafe in Arlington, VA is very popular. A place that has many more customers than seating. They have a huge menu of 'composed' pizza with a variety of unusual toppings. The toppings are the draw as the pizza is put into one of those coneyor belt machines.

                              There's a chain mostly in the South called Magic Mushroom that makes much better pizza.

                              1. re: Steve
                                Passadumkeg Oct 7, 2010 06:54 AM

                                My honors soc. major kid is a delivery boy there!

                    3. m
                      mojoeater Oct 4, 2010 07:54 PM

                      There's an independent place in the area that has been voted best pizza something like 10 years in a row. They serve traditional topped pies as well as things like avocado/feta and chicken/broccoli. The owner has told me that the most popular toppings are still pepperoni, sausage, and mushroom (not necessarily together).

                      However, when my company is ordering lunch for 30 people and we have a budget of $200 or less (including drinks), we can't afford to order from this place. We've done it, and the guys end up going out for more food on their own dime. While I always prefer the local guy, Papa John's is significantly cheaper and not all that bad when on a budget. Not to mention the owner of the local Papa John's is always willing to throw us some pizzas for blood drives and other non-profit events. The local guys can't always swing it.

                      1. monku Oct 4, 2010 07:18 PM

                        There are lots of pizza places because the entry cost and food costs associated with it are relatively cheap compared to other food establishments.

                        To most people a pizza is just pizza whether you jazz it up or try and differentiate yourself. The business is who has the best value (cheapest). You going to feed a little league team with 5 Costco pizza's for $9.99 each or spend $100 at Giuseppe's Wood Fired Pizza ?
                        So why go through the added expense of differentiating yourself.

                        Coal ovens are hard to get permits for and wood fired ovens are expensive. Even California Pizza Kitchens no longer use wood fired ovens, they converted to gas.

                        3 Replies
                        1. re: monku
                          gaffk Oct 5, 2010 05:37 AM

                          Again, I think we're talking regional differences here. I can think of 5 places with wood or coal brick ovens within a 2 mile radius of where I live. I know they are more expensive than the usual pizza oven, but I have never heard of any difficulty getting a permit for one.

                          1. re: gaffk
                            monku Oct 5, 2010 06:01 AM

                            New Jersey restaurants cooking up pollution along with pizza, hamburgers
                            http://www.northjersey.com/news/healt...

                          2. re: monku
                            s
                            Steve Oct 5, 2010 07:44 AM

                            I think great pizza can come from a gas deck. But the percentages are not good, because there are so many operators who don't care much about elevating the quality.

                          3. bagelman01 Oct 4, 2010 04:56 PM

                            I've lived in the suburbs since 1988, and NO chains can survive here, only mom and pop good Italian pizza joints, and even better Apizza places.
                            You can tell I'm originally from New Haven where we eat APIZZA pronounced AH BEATZ.

                            In the 70s 8 Pizza Huts opened in the area---all gone.
                            Domino's in my area, out of business.
                            The closest thing we have to chains are a couple of local joints with 2-3 locations. When an owner's child grows up and gets married, mom and pop build the couple their own pizza shop with the family name and reputation behind them.

                            People who know good pizza, don't frequent the national chains.
                            People in the middle American wasteland don't know better, or have no choice.
                            The further you move from the coast, the worse the product.

                            13 Replies
                            1. re: bagelman01
                              tommy Oct 4, 2010 05:21 PM

                              It looks like CT has at least 50 Domino's and Pizza Hut's.

                              1. re: tommy
                                gaffk Oct 4, 2010 05:45 PM

                                I admit it . . .it's a slow, rainy day where I am. So I did a search on New Haven Pizza on Yahoo (there are 477 pizza places). I only looked at the first 100 listings, but of that 100, only 2 were chains (1 Domino's, 1 Pappa John's--and my suspicion is they are near the U and cater to the non-East coast students).

                                I am sure if you did a search of PA pizza places, there would be a fair number of chains. However, I am sure the number would decrease dramatically if you searched Philadelphia.

                                Why? Because PA between Philly and its burbs and Pittsburgh and its burbs is rural and doesn't have the number of good, authentic choices. I suspect the same is true of New Haven vs CT, Boston vs MA, NYC vs NY, etc. As Bagelman notes, the farther from the coast, the worse the product.

                                Interesting research--I now also know what New Haven pizza is. Really? No mozzarella? Just some Romano? Sounds and looks alot like what Philly folks would call a tomato pie. Going to have to find one of these now and try it.

                                1. re: gaffk
                                  Passadumkeg Oct 4, 2010 06:30 PM

                                  Tomato pie in Jersey too from the epicenter in Trenton, to the shore and up to Hudson & Bergen Cos. And don't forget panzeratti in South Jersey.,

                                  1. re: gaffk
                                    s
                                    Steve Oct 4, 2010 06:53 PM

                                    It would be tiring to count all the individual pizza places in the Scranton / Wilkes Barre area. Not that you'd recognize it compared to other pizzas; they have their own unique style.

                                    1. re: Steve
                                      Passadumkeg Oct 4, 2010 06:57 PM

                                      Steve, do you know the Hazelton cold bakery version, "Pitz"? My cousin carries it back to San Francisco!
                                      A McAdoo Boy

                                      1. re: Passadumkeg
                                        s
                                        Steve Oct 4, 2010 09:24 PM

                                        Ah yes, I got some on my last trip. We really enjoyed it. Addictive 'in your face' food.

                                        Here's my report:
                                        http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/7266...

                                        1. re: Steve
                                          Passadumkeg Oct 4, 2010 09:35 PM

                                          Senapes! I was nursed on it! My 96 year old aunt still live 5 miles away. I gotta go visit her.

                                        2. re: Passadumkeg
                                          Bob W Oct 5, 2010 04:54 AM

                                          That sounds like it could be similar to the pizza strips you get at many bakeries in RI, always eaten at room temp.

                                          No way you'll ever get RI pizza strips from a stinkin' chain!

                                      2. re: gaffk
                                        myst Oct 5, 2010 12:43 PM

                                        For me the service is usually bad with only mom and pop running the show. They don't answer the phone etc..... or cleanliness is an issue. Independent pizza places can be good but it is hit or miss and you still need to get the pizza in a timely manner.

                                      3. re: tommy
                                        bagelman01 Oct 5, 2010 12:56 AM

                                        Looks can be deceiving.
                                        Pizza Hut did not make it in East Haven, North Haven, Hamden, Wallingford, Naugatuck, Waterburt, Fairfield etc......................all folded in the 70s and 80s

                                        Fast Forward to 2010 and you'll find most of the Pizza Huts listed are acrually Taco Bell/Pizza Hut combination stores which only serve personal Pan Pizza and bread sticks OR mall food court locations that serve the same limited menu, these are not really Pizza Huts. Only traditonal Pizza Hut that survived is in West Haven right off I-95 that depends on travelers not locals.
                                        The few Domino's that survive tend to be near and cater to college delivery, same with a lone Papa John;s near the Yale campus.

                                        Even Papa Gino's a local New England chain with passable thin crust pizza only managed to survive in one location in CT, but is all over Mass.

                                        and 50 Dominos and Pizza Huts is far less than One Per Cent of pizza places in CT-a Very small state.

                                        1. re: bagelman01
                                          Karl S Oct 5, 2010 05:55 AM

                                          And Papa Gino's (so long as you stick to very simple ingredient choices) is often better than local M&P pizzerias.

                                        2. re: tommy
                                          jfood Oct 7, 2010 07:12 AM

                                          Like B above, jfood is in CT and very few chains in his area. He has seen a Dominos in Norwalk on a drive by and does not know of any PHs. There are two local chains, Planet Pizza and Pinocchio Pizza that are in the area, but jfood would not their pies with a 10-foot pole. Too many M&Ps to even consider

                                          1. re: jfood
                                            GraydonCarter Oct 8, 2010 09:41 AM

                                            When I did a gig in West Haven I remember the pizza from a Mom & Pop place right near the hotel, where the price was $9 for a large plain pizza, and wondering when the last time he had changed the price, despite increases in the cost of flour and cheese.

                                      4. s
                                        Steve Oct 4, 2010 04:24 PM

                                        In many (but not all) areas, small pizza outlets are started up by people who are more entrepreneurially inclined than culinarily. They start off with a business model in which they purchase already made dough, canned 'pizza' sauce and packages of pre-shredded pizza cheese. They follow instructions to produce pizzas quickly and efficiently. Its a step up from delivery. Asking them to make a better crust - which takes a lot of care - or figure out how to make a better sauce or cooking technique is well beyond their intention or thought process. If it's not selling well, then they'll figure out ways to cut costs to lower prices or offer deals, or they will advertise to try to get in more people. Making a better pizza in the hopes somebody will notice and/or be willing to pay more is not part of the equation. Most pizza places do well enough selling a product that is only ok. As already stated, some areas have a strong tradition of making good pizza, so the above doesn't apply.

                                        A long time ago, I lived for a year in Springfield, Massachusettts when I had almost no money and was desperate for good pizza. I must have tried every place within 10 miles, probably about thirty places in total, and I ate a lot of pizza that tasted pretty much the same no matter where I went.

                                        4 Replies
                                        1. re: Steve
                                          lavaca Oct 5, 2010 01:53 PM

                                          Agree, definitely. Living out west, I'm really grateful for the Neapolitan trend of the past 5-10 years, which has finally brought good pizza to places not previously known for it. Before that, becoming a beloved local pizza place was usually a matter of making the same pizza as the chains but using slightly better (or weirder) toppings. People are willing to praise some really awful stuff simply so that they can appear to favor independents over chains.

                                          1. re: Steve
                                            e
                                            ESNY Oct 7, 2010 02:59 PM

                                            Exactly. Sadly, I'd imagine that most independent mom and pop shops are using the same Sysco dough, sauce and cheese because its a business, not a love. Even in NYC, there are tons of mediocre slice joints that have slices that taste the same. Even if they know they could do better, its possible that it just isn't cost effective to do so. I can't say i'm terribly familiar with the economics of a pizzeria, but everything is done for a reason, so I'm sure based on cost alone, having generic Sysco products is a better business model than taking the time and effort to make your own dough, find high quality cheese, etc.

                                            Thats why when you do find the truly great places, you need to spread the word and keep patronizing them so it is a viable business option

                                            1. re: ESNY
                                              bagelman01 Oct 7, 2010 06:22 PM

                                              ESNY,
                                              I am familiar with the economics of an independent pizza shop. I did the books for 10 of them, and worked in one while going through college.
                                              Independents generally make their own dough and do not use cheese and sauce from Sysco. Why no SYSCO, because the regional Italian cheese and importing companies who also supply the tomatyo product and oil, etc. provide financing to the independents to get them going in business and the indies are obligated to buy from these financing distributors. Similarly, there are some indie soda bottlers whose products are often the only brand sold in the mom and pop pizza joints, another source of financing.
                                              In the old days, the company with the jukebox and cigarette machine also helped fionance the restaurant, also the paper supplier, boxes, bags, etc.

                                              Maybe the indie who is truly in the middle of nowhere has to use Sysco, but with the proliferation of Costco, Sam's and BJs even the indies in middle America can get decent ingredients.

                                              As to the many slice joints in NYC with the same ordinary pie, in NYC it is not unusual for places like these to buy the product from central commissaries and just heat, and serve. Same as the pre-baked pretzels at street vendors that are all the same and priced alike.

                                              In smaller cities you don't find such central commisary operations, but think of it in terms of all the food counters in a major stadium, you get the same ordinary reheated food at each level.

                                              1. re: bagelman01
                                                monku Oct 8, 2010 09:51 AM

                                                My thoughts exactly.
                                                I don't see Sysco trucks making deliveries to mom and pop places.

                                          2. ipsedixit Oct 4, 2010 11:58 AM

                                            Just because a store is empty, doesn't mean they are not doing alot of business.

                                            Many mom & pop pizza joints do a fair amount of take-out and to-go orders.

                                            Hard to judge whether a mom & pop pizza place is doing well or not just by looking at how many sit-down customers they have.

                                            Plus, the fact that there are several in the 'burbs where you live, co-existing with the national chains (and what might those be?) seems to indicate that they are doing just fine.

                                            1. c
                                              collardman Oct 4, 2010 11:18 AM

                                              As others have noted, it may be a location thing. In the greater New Orleans area there are many mom & pops and they are very busy. Many deliver and some have coupons. But the area is pretty competitive for dining, fine or take-out. Possibly one difference is that in many places the deli does pizza and the local sandwich (hoagie/sub/grinder) while in New Orleans the pizza place does Italian and sandwich shops do po-boys.

                                              One other advantage is that many of the N.O. mom & pops have full sit down facilities and liquor licenses.

                                              Two weeks ago I ate in a little deli in a Philly suburb and the food was good but I was glad I wasn't in any hurry as "mom" was cooking all by herself.

                                              1. rockandroller1 Oct 4, 2010 07:18 AM

                                                There are a variety of reasons. For starters, the majority of indies close to where I live DO NOT DELIVER. This is just bad, esp in a place where the weather is bad enough the majority of the year that I would rather eat something crappy that's delivered than put on my boots, down coat, hat and gloves, start up the cold car and go get it.

                                                Yesterday is a perfect example of another problem. It's game day, game starts at 1pm, mr. RNR is willing to go out and fetch pizza from one of our faves. It's 11:50. Calls indie place, no answer. Runs a couple of errands, waits til after noon, still no answer. Not even a machine w/hours or whatever, he wonders if maybe they have gone out of business. Calls me, I call Donato's, pizza at our place in 30 minutes, and with coupons. Fresh, hot, accurate, etc. No, it's not the best pizza ever but I'm hungry, let's eat. I checked indie's website today, they don't open til 1pm! On football day! This is just poor business. And to not even have an answering machine giving their hours, that's just unprofessional.

                                                A couple of the other ones by me, they have passable pizza, and they deliver, but everything else is HORRIBLE - chicken, subs, jo-jos, pasta dinners, etc. So they are a one-stop shop if you ONLY want pizza and nothing else. At Donato's, I can order decent chicken fingers, salad, wings, etc with my pizza and it's all equally passable-to-good. And again, I get coupons. There are no coupons for the local places.

                                                No delivery, no coupons, poor hours, cash only, no website to look at menu, there are a variety of reasons they are empty.

                                                1 Reply
                                                1. re: rockandroller1
                                                  g
                                                  gfr1111 Oct 4, 2010 12:18 PM

                                                  Rockandroller 1's argument makes sense to me. A lot of independents don't try very hard to get your business. Shorter hours is my biggest objection. Hey, if the business is out there for the big chains, it's out there for the Mom and Pop places, too. But if you close at 9:00 on a Saturday night, as one M and P around here (Tampa) does, you're going to lose a lot of business.

                                                  You're going to lose even more business because people get into the habit of ordering from a certain place. If you're not open late, they lose the habit and don't even order from you when you are open.

                                                  Hobbess (the OP) is right, as well. Independents often don't try to make their pizza better than the chains, which reduces the incentive for going to them. There are a half a dozen places around here that offer a Margerita Pizza, the classic tomato, mozzarella, and basil pizza, where they do various things that make the basil unnoticeable. One place purees the basil in oil and then squirts it onto your pizza. (This is NOT a Margerita pizza!) Another puts the basil on in miniscule portions ten minutes before the pizza is to be served, by which time the quarter inch square pieces are dried out and virtually unnoticeable, after having been subjected to six hundred degree heat.

                                                  Then, there's the "same old, same old" problem. Yes, I understand that the majority of people are going to order the standard ingredients on their pizzas (including me, most of the time), but Wolfgang Puck did a land office business for years at Postrio's bar in San Francisco, selling people pizzas with ingredients like creme fraiche, smoked salmon, and chives. (There were others, but that was the most exotic.) He created the market by making that kind of exotic pizza, and others, available. I'll bet they didn't sell that well at first, but he kept at it.

                                                  Anyway, most independents don't want to take chances, so they compete with the behemoths on the behemoths' own turf. Not smart.

                                                  Even if the independents didn't want to do such exotic stuff, just offering a higher quality of pizza sausage, pepperoni, onions, peppers, tomatoes, tomato sauce, and, especially, mozzarella, etc. would go a long way toward beating the chains. The chains don't want to compete on quality. They want to complete on price. The Mom and Pop places can't compete on price and, therefore, as Hobbess pointed out, they ought to compete on quality. Let the big guys be the General Motors of pizza. You little guys should be the Lexus(es) of pizza.

                                                2. tommy Oct 4, 2010 06:28 AM

                                                  The independent places in my place taste nothing like the chains. However, they serve horrible pizza that people seem to flock to. They are giving people exactly what they want.

                                                  8 Replies
                                                  1. re: tommy
                                                    Passadumkeg Oct 4, 2010 10:03 AM

                                                    Who is "they'? the chains or mom & pops. I assume it is the chains, as I have read you NJ blog and can't imigine not finding a great place for a slice in NJ. How many is the "Best Pizza In NJ" thread up to 500?

                                                    1. re: Passadumkeg
                                                      tommy Oct 4, 2010 10:57 AM

                                                      'they' is the mom and pops. there's one on every corner, and the vast majority are not notable, but different than the chains.

                                                      1. re: tommy
                                                        mucho gordo Oct 4, 2010 11:34 AM

                                                        Sorry, I've got to disagree. M&P's beat the chains by a mile, IMHO. Chains mass produce based on preset formulas that appeal to the masses whereas the Indies take more care with what they serve and cater to a more discerning clientele (I know I'm gonna get static on this).

                                                        1. re: mucho gordo
                                                          tommy Oct 4, 2010 12:11 PM

                                                          I'm not sure what you're disagreeing with. I wasn't comparing chains to independents, other than saying they produce differing styles (with which I think you agree).

                                                          Perhaps you thank that the local places are good, but I don't.

                                                          1. re: tommy
                                                            mucho gordo Oct 4, 2010 12:25 PM

                                                            I was disagreeing with your statement that the vast majority of the M&P's are not notable. You're basing that solely upon your preference for the chains. I do think the local places are better because they take their time to make a better product as opposed to the mass produced, assembly line used by the chains. It's like comparing McDonalds to the local burger joint.

                                                            1. re: mucho gordo
                                                              tommy Oct 4, 2010 12:39 PM

                                                              I don't have a preference for chains.

                                                          2. re: mucho gordo
                                                            gaffk Oct 4, 2010 12:30 PM

                                                            Perhaps it is time to agree to disagree? It's probably all a matter of location. I've lived most of my life in Philadelphia, which has a host of mom & pop places making excellent pizzas of various styles. People have different preferences (doughy crust, thin crust, sicilian, wood fired, etc) so it's good that such a variety exists. It would never occur to me to order from a chain.

                                                            However, I spent a few years in Southeastern Ohio. The local places there were awful, so the only reasonable, dependable option was Domino's. If you're craving pizza, and that's all that's available it's serviceable enough.

                                                        2. re: Passadumkeg
                                                          h
                                                          Heatherb Oct 5, 2010 06:08 AM

                                                          Yeah, I don't think this is a problem in Jersey, or anywhere near Philly or NYC.

                                                      2. Karl S Oct 4, 2010 05:02 AM

                                                        Because the customers that pay the bills tend to like the same thing. Most customers don't care for adventure in pizza, but instead crave reliability.

                                                        Sorry to say, but adventuresome menus that rely on highly perishable items (cured meats are a huge boon to managing variable demand) appeal to the margin and involve risk, risk that would have to be priced into all the items that actually sell reliably, which would turn customers towards cheaper and less adventuresome competitors.

                                                        And getting a coal- or wood-fired oven involves a lot more cost (not just in building, but in insurance and regulatory compliance) that is likewise going to have to be paid for in volume. Some places can manage it, but a lot can't.

                                                        1. Passadumkeg Oct 4, 2010 05:00 AM

                                                          I think this might be a west coast/midland America issue. Look at the LA board and one will see a lot of hounds looking for New York style or New Have style pizza. A lot of the old northeastern cities continue to have large Italian populations and it is there that one finds the true mecca of the mom & pop pizza shop. I have recently returned to the southwest and see hounds transplanted from the east clamoring for the same thing. I feel that the mom & pop pizza shop is a cultural thing and if one has not grown up in the Italian "pizza culture", they may be at a loss to know how to repeat it. Our little town in Maine has a great shop, Finelli's, run by a guy from Yonkers, that is a huge success and beats the hell out Pizza Crid.
                                                          Green chile and chorizo pizza anyone? Try the Surf Shop Pizza in Grants, New Mexico and let me know how it is.
                                                          Carpe chow!
                                                          http://beeradvocate.com/beer/profile/...

                                                          8 Replies
                                                          1. re: Passadumkeg
                                                            gaffk Oct 4, 2010 06:17 AM

                                                            Agreed. I live in Philly and there are quite a few good mom & pops. In fact, I eat pizza quite often, but can't even remember the last time I ordered one from a chain (probably when I was in school in Ohio). Lots of different styles available, lots of wood and coal fired ovens, plenty of non-traditional and even gourmet pies.

                                                            1. re: Passadumkeg
                                                              Bob W Oct 4, 2010 06:46 AM

                                                              Agreed as well. I grew up in RI, and there are still tons of thriving indy pizza parlors. Where I live now, in the outer suburbs of DC in Virginia, there was nothing here 20 years ago, and no long-standing Italian or Greek communities. So the pizza places that open around here are almost always chain operations. Conversely, there are tons of mom and pop Vietnamese, Afghan, Indian, Latin American eateries.

                                                              1. re: Passadumkeg
                                                                mucho gordo Oct 4, 2010 10:23 AM

                                                                Well said. I'm from the New Haven area and you're absolutely right about the pizza culture back there.

                                                                1. re: Passadumkeg
                                                                  m
                                                                  MattInNJ Oct 4, 2010 11:34 AM

                                                                  The answer could be because pizza bought in these areas at a mom and pop place is no better than the slop served in the chains.

                                                                  1. re: MattInNJ
                                                                    GraydonCarter Oct 4, 2010 01:43 PM

                                                                    In my neighborhood here in New Jersey we have four pizza places within a mile of each other, and when Dominos put in a location down the street, it failed.

                                                                    Edited to add I just counted, and there are seven (7) places within a mile of my house, and the failing restaurant was a Pizza Hut.

                                                                    1. re: GraydonCarter
                                                                      Passadumkeg Oct 4, 2010 04:25 PM

                                                                      Hooray for the little guy!

                                                                  2. re: Passadumkeg
                                                                    n
                                                                    nvcook Oct 5, 2010 08:55 PM

                                                                    I live in a tiny town in north central Nv and we have an independent pizza place that is awesome. We also have 3 of the chains. I think the only reason anybody orders from the chains is that they have delivery.

                                                                    1. re: nvcook
                                                                      enbell Oct 7, 2010 07:47 PM

                                                                      Pizza Barn?

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