A Business Case for Serving Fresh Pizzas at Outdoor Festivals

A Few Thoughts About Pizza Showcasing at Festivals We had a great time at La Festa Italiana di Lackawanna County yesterday with tons o...

A Few Thoughts About Pizza Showcasing at Festivals

We had a great time at La Festa Italiana di Lackawanna County yesterday with tons of great food and met some new friends, but if I can be constructively critical about some observations I made as a food service veteran, long-time pizza maker, and someone who frequently talks business and strategies with pizzeria owners - it would be that among with the countless amazing looking pizzas I drooled over, there were quite a few older looking pies that weren't so appetizing.
Before I go further let me be clear, I did not witness any unsafe food or anything that wasn't edible. Much of the food looked amazing and if I had unlimited stomach capacity I would have indulged in more. I can appreciate that a festival that is so well attended requires preparing ahead and providing the people with a visual representation of what each stand is offering. People eat with their eyes and are on the move so a purchasing decision is made quickly. I would contend that showing and serving old pizzas does not accomplish the intended purposes of serving customers quickly, providing a quality product, or drawing in more customers.
Don't get me wrong, I saw way more fresh looking trays than old ones, but some of the pies I saw as I walked around at dinner time appeared as if they could have been left from the lunch shift. I am not stating a fact, rather my opinion after seeing how thousands of pizzas age in my pizza career. I can also acknowledge that I haven't taken the time to personally observe pizzas age in an outdoor setting with humidity and exposure to the sunlight, but I can recognize a pizza that does not look good due to age.
As I said, many/most of the vendors grasped the concept of matching a consistent stream of fresh pizza supply with the demand of the customers walking by. These stations were able to simply cut their hot and fresh pie and serve it directly on a plate and send the customer away quickly and happily while the cash drawer was presumably filling up! On the other hand, a stand who is serving pies which were sitting, had to reheat the cold slice in the oven and the customer had to wait. A cold slice takes about 2 or so minutes to reheat, so either the customer had to wait a couple minutes for the slice or it wasn't reheated properly. This does not generate return customers or new customers to a given restaurant's dining room.
There is a not-so-fine-line between showcasing pizzas and serving old pies. I know everyone is doing their very best to serve a hungry mob and working in a tent with mobile equipment is far more challenging than a fully equipped commercial kitchen, but to me the showcasing strategy is not the most profitable, nor is it the most efficient method to serve customers, and it doesn't provide the best quality product.
I submit these comments respectfully and constructively. I don't pretend to be a festival/fair/mobile food expert, but I do study the ins and outs of the business closely, and I tend to know what works and what doesn't. There is something separating the tents with the longest and fastest moving lines at La Festa, and one common variable affecting that is freshness of food. With so many vendors to compete against on the square, I contend that freshness, brand awareness, and product differentiation are the best ways to go because consumers at a festival or fair are not as price sensitive. They just want to unload their Washington's for a tasty treat quickly so they can tell their friends what was good and what wasn't. So the purpose of this post is not to be critical of those who choose the "showcasing" method, but rather to recognize those who have figured out that fresh pies are the more sustainable and profitable means to sell pizza at an outdoor high volume venue. There were a ton of hot and fresh pizzas that I observed yesterday, several of which I stopped and bought a slice. I also snapped some pics of the fresh trays on display. I did not photograph any less than appetizing pizzas, nor will I call out any specific restaurant, because that's not productive. What is productive is getting to la festa, enjoying fresh and hot food, and supporting the scores of small businesses who are working their tails off on little sleep and long workdays to serve you! Mangia NEPA! You can see in the pics in the article where just a few of the fresh pies I found yesterday were. Check my social media to find out where they were! You can also DM me on facebook, twitter, or instagram for personalized suggestions!


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