Wildly successful Pink Flamingo uses ONE low-cost marketing tactic

Pink Flamingo Pizza in Paris shines in the summer as they make picnickers their target audience by giving out hot pink balloons that make customers easier to find during delivery.

In Parisian summer, staying in your shoebox-sized studio during waves of warm weather is unbearable.  In most places air conditioning is not really an option, unless you’re a pricey brasserie or a place catering to tourists.  Although tourism increases in the summer months, Paris’ local population takes a definitive dive with some neighborhoods becoming complete ghost towns.  In mid-August even finding a doctor can be a trying task.

For so many locals, the solution to battling the heat is to sit in the open air, having picnics along the water.  The tradition of river lazing is so popular in summer, the city of Paris sets up a faux beach along the Seine in the heart of downtown for the hottest weeks of the year.  But anytime the weather is good you’ll find packs of crowds along small bodies of water, drinking wine, eating rich, soft cheese, smoking hand-rolled cigarettes and doing general French things.

Where most restaurants see their customers fleeing, the Pink Flamingo found their niche.  Located two blocks from the St. Martin Canal, a popular picnic spot, this pizzeria specializes in canal-side pizza delivery.  Customers: go to the store, order a pizza, pay, get a pink balloon which will help the delivery person locate them on the canal, find a spot on the water and kick back and wait!

The pizza in the video is the Poulidor and it’s just one of many signature pizzas on the menu.  Other pizzas come topped with such innovative toppings like green curried coconut milk, paella, pineapple chutney.

 

Perhaps AS exciting as the pizza is getting a hot pink balloon right after placing your order.  It’s an immediate reward that Pavlov would be proud of.  I pay money and I get a balloon!  My inner child comes alive and I’m happy to carry around the balloon the rest of the evening which is appropriately branded with their flamingo logo.

The hot pink balloons aren’t the only thing flashy about the Pink Flamingo.  Their interior decor screams vintage, punk and rebellion.  Plastic flamingos, colored lights and vintage objects decorate the stores.  They truly live up to their slogan, “pas come les autres” or “not like any other.”

I sat down with co-owner Jamie Young, a native of Boston who came to France 15 years ago with his French wife and business partner Marie Ravel.  Young invited me to meet him at his recently opened American gastropub called Floyd’s.  A stuffed bear head hung on the wall as we talked about his first business venture Pink Flamingo, now 6 stores strong in 3 different countries: France, Spain and the Netherlands.

Young began his career in pizza making with he was just 18 years old and like riding a bike, he kept his skills with him when he moved to France and began working in a kitchen which served pizza in a full scale restaurant.  “About 10 years ago, the quality of pizza in Paris was really low.  There was maybe 1 or 2 places for a decent pizza and that was it.”

While his focus wasn’t initially geared toward pizza, Young discovered that pizza was entirely versatile and became the subject of his culinary experiments. At the end of the day in the restaurant, he began gathering the leftovers from the plat du jour or daily special and putting it on the next day’s pizza.  Pizzas with nontraditional ingredients like cuban pork and boeuf bourguignon became a reality.

In Paris, where food has its strict rituals and boundaries, this kind of pizza had never been seen before.  Parisians were horrified and intrigued at having their favorite meals sold on a pizza.  Soon Young was having customers asking about the daily special so that they could come back the next day and have it on a pizza.  Before long Young realized that within Paris’ food dictatorship, there was a market for something fresh and innovative, something rock n’ roll, which they named Pink Flamingo.

Top 5 challenges from the start

Young and his wife were plagued with challenges the first two years they were open.  Keeping faith in their brand, they witnessed a growing following and have since been approached by a few dozen people wanting to open a franchise.  Below are some of their biggest obstacles they faced.


Challenge 1: No money for advertising
It’s a familiar problem for pizzerias.  There is very little money for advertising so what do you put it into?  10 years ago social media wasn’t developed yet and mainstream advertising in radio or TV would be impossible in the competitive Parisian market with so many restaurants.  Their biggest campaign was printing stickers and using guerrilla marketing to spread them around Paris.  They also delivered menus in mailboxes.  Perhaps most importantly, their logo was visible on all of the hot pink balloons that picnickers would take to the canal.  I personally kept my balloon long after we left the canal.

Challenge 2: What do non-Italians know about pizza? 
Even today the French will often equate a very good pizza with a very Italian pizza. The idea in their minds is frequently that pizza has always been and always must be a traditional food from Italy. Young was forced to face harsh skepticism from the French which stereotype American food as being greasy, fried and completely unhealthy.  With this store he was able to show that fresh and organic ingredients were important to his brand. Any criticism toward his food quality were always resolved after the customer actually tried the pizza, states Young.

Challenge 3: Pizza was not held in high esteem 
Pink Flamingo offers a gourmet pizza experience which was completely new for the people of Paris.  Young explained that when he told people he had opened a pizzeria the response was not enthusiastic.  He was frequently met with a sighing, “what else is new type attitude.”  This problem was also resolved by insisting that people TRY the pizza.

Challenge 4: Picnicking wasn’t really popular yet
The area of Canal Saint Martin is packed full of eager picnickers today during the summer months but when Pink Flamingo opened its humble doors in 2005 people did not have the habit of idling by the water with food and drinks.  Young and Ravel chose their location near the canal with the idea of delivering canal-side from the start but it took some pressuring customers at the beginning to get things moving.  Young states that they would force the balloon into their hand and tell them “TRUST ME, go sit on the canal. Just GO!”  Customers seemed unsure, but would hesitantly head over to wait for their pizza.  In time you could see several balloons waving along the canal, a testament to their popularity.

Challenge 5: Never compromise
Pink Flamingo prides itself on selling unique pizzas and ONLY selling unique pizzas.  When customers would request classic toppings like merguez sausage or mushrooms, employees had to be trained to never apologize.  Especially as stores were opened in more locations and other countries, franchisees had suggestions for how to tweak the recipes to appeal to their neighborhood or country.  Young and Ravel stuck to their guns and continue to remind franchisees that their recipes are not up for changes.

 Young maintains the philosophy that if he could get Parisians to like his pizza, anyone can be converted.

Future for the Flamingo

Young notes that although the figurative Parisian nut has been cracked into enjoying far out pizza, by far his most enthusiastic customers are British and Americans who are much more open to trying pizza which is “unlike any other.”  Many Brits and Americans discover Pink Flamingo through the Lonely Planet guidebook which lists Pink Flamingo as one of their restaurant picks in Paris.

Young says him and his wife are considering opening their next store on the American West coast since it’s so popular with the American crowd.  Also, after 15 years in rainy Paris, a little California sunshine wouldn’t hurt.

Fainá: a simple, gluten-free pizza accompaniment from South America to your pizzeria

Fainá, a crunchy, thin bread made from chickpea flour is a hugely popular accompaniment to pizza in Uruguay and Argentina.  Fainá is served in slices alongside pizza and is made to be set on top of the pizza as a crunchy top layer.  That’s right – it’s a chickpea wafer served on top of pizza.  It’s a gluten-free, multicultural treat which is a simple up-sell item made from inexpensive ingredients – chickpea flour, water, oil and salt.  Would you like some fainá with that?
I spoke with Irene, a pizza enthusiast and former colleague from Uruguay who lives in Oxford, MS, home of PMQ Pizza Magazine about the fainá she grew up with in Uruguay’s capital Montevideo.
“When I was growing up, I thought all Italian restaurants sold fainá,” says Irene. “It wasn’t until much later that I went abroad and realized this wan’t true.”  In fact the bread isn’t classically Italian nor Uruguayan, but from the city of Genova located in the Ligurian region in the North West of Italy.
The dish came to Uruguay during the waves of Italian immigration that came to Argentina and Uruguay at the turn of the 20th century, populating much of the two Spanish-speaking countries with Italian people, cuisine and traditions.
Irene points out that the Ligurian immigrants were proud of their local specialities such as fainá and reproduced them in the New World.  Fainá still exists in Liguria to this day as farinata.  Its name in Genovese dialect, fainâ, suggests that it was implanted directly from Genova into the Southern Cone.
In Uruguay, pizza is a food shared among a large family or group of friends.  It’s most commonly served as pizza a la pala, which is a very long pizza, about a yard or so, which is cut into many small slices for the group.  Below you see two Uruguayans making some fainá. Flipping not required, but it certainly looks cool.  Photo courtesy of Los Yoruguas de aqui y de alla
Pizza in Uruguay is kept simple usually to either just dough with tomato sauce (called a pizza) or dough, sauce and cheese (a muzzerella).  Getting your pizza a caballo, or “horse-backed,” means you want your pizza served up with that crispy chickpea bread, fainá.
“It doesn’t really taste like anything,” says Irene.   It’s more about the added texture.  “Uruguayans just add a dash of pepper on top.  In Argentina it’s not uncommon to add a variety of toppings treating it more like a focaccia bread.”  Irene says that fainá reminds her of home and getting together with the people she loves.  When friends come from Uruguay she frequently requests a package of fainá mix that she can make in her conventional oven.
The times that Irene has had American guests over to try fainá they seemed to like it.  “All I know,” says Irene, “is that whenever I make it, it’s gone.”

 

A friend of Irene passed along this recipe for fainá.  Though fainá is best baked in a pizza oven, the recipe looks like it was made for a conventional oven.  I would just use whatever temperature your oven is normally set to for  your pizza and cut down the bake time.  It requires a large pan to be able to spread out the batter thinly.  Chickpea flour can be found in international or health food stores, the rest is easy!
********
  • 7 ounces of chickpea flour
  • 2.5 cups of water
  • 3 tablespoons of oil
  • Salt to taste
Preparation:
Place the flour and salt in a mixing bowl.  Mix while slowly incorporating the water and oil until you have a smooth, uniform mixture without any lumps. Let sit for 15 minutes (other recipes have a resting time from 1 to several hours).
Oil a pan, preferably a round one and preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
Put in the batter so that it’s about 1/2 inch thick.  Cook for 30 to 50 minutes or until golden brown.
*********
If you’re looking for a new way to surprise your customers and increase sales with exotic low-cost food items, you may be ready to give fainá a try as a temporary side to see how your customers react.

5 myths about what makes a good balsamic vinegar

Supermarkets are filled with products that claim the name Balsamico, a name that is sacred and protected by an official product consortium in Italy.  So how do you wade through the vinegar?

I visited Modena with my husband Jelle to find out.  We visited the Aceto Modena, a family owned vinegar house which has been producing vinegar for generations.  Gary Patton, a Scottish transplant gone Italian, took us on a tour of the acetaio where the vinegar is produced and gave us the skinny on what to look for when choosing your balsamic vinegar.

Gary set us down in the tasting room to show us a thing or two

Myth 1: Balsamico is made of the same stuff as wine

Yes and no.  Balsamico is made from grapes but not simply pressed grapes like wine.  The first step of making balsamic vinegar involves cooking the grapes over an open fire, and simmering it down into sugary globs called grape must.  The sugary white grape, Trebbiano, is the traditional variety used in Modena.

Myth 2: The thicker the vinegar the better

On the left is the oldest vinegar in the small barrels, while the barrels on the right have been freshly filled.
Though you may have noticed that the thicker stuff is more aged generally, what determines the thicknesses is not really the aging but how long the grape must was cooked.  Inexpensive Balsamic vinegars in the store are generally mixed with red wine vinegar which makes them fluid.

Myth 3: It must read “Balsamico” to be the good stuff

In Italy the name Balsamico is strictly protected by a consorzio or consortium whose main objective is to ensure the authentic production of Balsamico as an artisanal product.  Thus, there are two official categories for Balsamico to fall under, I.G.P. (aged maximum 3 years) and D.O.P. (aged either 12 or 25 years).  If a Balsamico falls in between 3-12 years it is not permitted to carry the title Balsamico on it, creating confusion for the customer and frustration for the producers.  Products produced by the Aceto Modena for example which fall out of I.G.P. and D.O.P. designations must bare the generic term condimento equivelant of dressing in English.

These oblong casks are over 100 years old and were used to strap onto either side of a horse.

Myth 4: D.O.P. is the only authentic Balsamico

In a post about Parmigiano-Reggiano I found that if you want the real deal Parmesan cheese you’ve got to go for the D.O.P variety which has been approved by official consortium agents by a series of ritualistic tests, such as gently tapping all around the cheese wheel to listen for imperfections.  With balsamico this is not the case as the D.O.P variety can ONLY be aged 12 or 25 years, bottles that will run between 100 to 200 dollars and can only be packaged in a specific bottle regardless of the brand or company that produces it.  I.G.P is the variety that you’ll want to look for if you’re looking for a solid, everyday Balsamico and don’t forget to follow the centuries old sequence of using Balsamico respecting this sequence: salt, balsamico, oil.
These round bottles to the right are the only bottles that D.O.P Balsamico can be sold in.

Myth 5: Balsamico is aged the same way as wine

Balsamico IS aged in wood casks, but the procedure is entirely different.  First of all it’s not aged in just one kind of wood.  Each year the final barrel in the “set” is poured out 2/3s of the way creating the finished product.  From there, it’s refilled taking from the second smallest barrel until that one is emptied out 2/3s of the way and so on.  Like this there is a common thread of ancient vinegar always mixing with the next product, keeping a centuries old tradition alive.
Traditionally in Modena, one of these sets would be started when a baby girl
was born so that when she’s married, the finished vinegar would serve as the dowry.It was a deliciously eventful afternoon at the acetaio thanks to Gary Patton and Aceto Modena for warmly welcoming the PMQ staff.

In Japan, Neapolitan boom makes Pizza Hut adorably desperate

Japan is a country of culinary intrigue and (occasionally) horror for Westerners.  Horse meat flavored ice cream, eel soda and grilled potato kit kats are just a few of the unexpected snack foods one can find in Japan (Huffington Post). But parallel to Japan’s hunger for bizarre cuisine, runs a deep respect and adherence to long cultural traditions.

Enter Neapolitan pizza.

Making artisan pizza, loyal to the one from Naples is booming in Japan.  Like other European traditions such as whiskey making or flamenco dancing, Japan has embraced the tradition of pizza making with precision and diligence to recreate an identical experience in Japan to what you would find in Italy.  Pizza Da Isa in Tokyo even keeps its restaurant uncomfortably warm to recreate the real dining experience of being in Naples (The Wall Street Journal).

Honda “Soy Soy” Yutaro spinning pizza in Turin

I spoke with Honda “Soy Soy” Yutaro about pizza in Japan.  He is a young Japanese pizza spinner who is dedicating his university studies to the life of Italian Immigrants and by extension, pizza.  His studies in Italy introduced him to a world of pizzaiolos and pizza spinners who taught him how to make and spin dough.  Soy Soy says he’s eaten by now hundreds of Italian pizzas and that the Neapolitan pizzas in Japan are spot on.

In fact, Japan’s pizza is so authentic, it is one of only 3 countries to have it’s own VPN delegation outside of Italy (the others are the U.S. and Canada).  VPN stands for Vera Pizza Napoletana (Genuine Neapolitan Pizza), the association which certifies pizzerias for making Neapolitan pizza which holds up to the official STG authenticity rules.

This pizza, as the first one, is from Seirinkan which means Hollywood
in English.  Photos by Honda Yuataro

Japan has 53 VPN certified pizzerias, making it the country with the 3rd most certified pizzerias after Italy and the USA.  Vice president of the Japanese VPN delegation, Yoichi Watanabe, told the Wall Street Journal that Neapolitan pizza became so popular in Japan because it’s composed of ingredients that are foreign to Japan.  “We didn’t used to eat tomatoes, cheese or olive oil,” Mr. Watanabe said. “Since this is totally foreign to us, we studied it diligently.”

The Wall Street Journal picks out these 4 Tokyo-based pizzerias as some of the more popular ones: Seirinkan, Frey’s Famous Pizzeria, Pizzeria e trattoria da ISA, and Savoy.

Seirinkan is the one credited as being the first Neapolitan pizzeria in Japan.  The owner, Susumu Kakinuma, began with Neapolitan pizzas in the mid 90s which have since become more and more popular.

Chain pizza pulling out the crazy stops
While Neapolitan pizzerias attract a sophisticated crowd, chain pizzerias like Domino’s and Pizza Hut use plenty of shock value to keep their mainstream customers interested.  Shortly after Domino’s entered Japan in the 80s, they realized the need to keep their menu rotating with frequently new, more extreme toppings.  This model went directly against the American model of consistency for a chain restaurant (Japan Eats).

Today at a Domino’s in Japan you can buy a pizza with unusual toppings such as camembert cheese, asparagus, mayonnaise or even a pizza with a layer of meat sauce sandwiched between two layers of dough in the base if you’re feeling “saucy.”

CEO of McDonald’s Japan is quoted saying it is the job of restaurants in Japan to “astonish” the customers to keep their business (3 bizarre marketing tactics from Japan). Pizza Hut’s latest marketing campaign is a perfect example of how to “astonish.”  Pizza Hut made an extensive (4 minute!) commercial of cats dressed up as Pizza Hut employees doing nothing really but being cats.

Real taste costs real dough, but…
One of the biggest problems Japan faces however is the price of ingredients.  Authentic Neapolitan pizzas are expensive.  Even chain and fast-food pizza can cost a lot.  A large specialty pizza at Dominos will cost you the equivalent of $30 U.S. dollars.

Amid expensive prices and a passion for pizza, the fast casual has come to Japan.  A chain called Sempre Pizza specializes in simple, low-cost Neapolitan wood-fired pizzas.  The chain is similar to Sbarro’s new concept Cucinova, which delivers a high quality product quickly and affordably to its customers.  Soy Soy says the pizzas are not bad, especially for the price which can be as low as $4 per pizza.

These quick service restaurants may be giving artisan Neapolitan places a run for their money. In any case, Japan’s enthusiasm for the food continues to grow in several directions accommodating gourmet pizza purists, the easily amused and low-budget diners.

3 marketing ideas from wood-fired pizza shops in London

You might not have guessed it, but five years ago London was awarded an international prize for harboring the most delicious food in the world which was (no surprise) pizza!  The pizza was an Italian style Margherita created with Italian flour with a crunchy Roman more than Neapolitan base.

In my recent visit to London I discovered that this was no accident.  This winner of the prize wasn’t Italian, but there is no shortage of Italian influence in London.  Italian could be heard on the bright red double decker buses, on the streets and most frequently inside of pizzerias.

In the 2 of the 3 pizzerias, the wait staff was all Italian and many of the customers too.  The ingredients were authentic, using flour from Naples and buffalo mozzarella.  Most notably, all 3 pizzerias that I visited took pride in using impressive wood-fired ovens.  So here they are in no particular order.

Pizza Pilgrims: Pizza making kits to go 

Pizza Pilgrims was perhaps the most fanatical about making authentic pizza.  The premise of the restaurant began when two Englishmen took a trip around Italy on a pizza pilgrimage to discover the secrets of making Italian pizza.  I was hoping to speak to one of the owners during my impromptu visit but they weren’t around.  The pizza makers at the shop, were Antimo and Antonio, two pizziolos from Italy.  Hey, that’s another way to make authenic Italian food abroad, import your chefs!

At Pizza Pilgrims I had my first ever marinara pizza which was amazing, so saucy! Along with a buffalo mozzarella pie served to me by an Italian waitress.  It was way too much pizza for one person, but it was worth it.  Especially because I was able to see their take away pizza box which was unlike any other.

Logo stamp on the outside
Generic box on the inside

 

 

 

 

Pizza Pilgrims offered a take and bake in a format I had never seen.  For 10 pounds sterling customers can get two fresh dough balls, mozzarella, olive oil, tomato sauce, parmesan and basil all in an easy kit to be cooked in a frying pan. 

This method looks to be a lot easier than traditional methods of take and bake which requires altering the yeast depending on how long of a shelf life you’re going for.  Also you won’t have to get a shrink wrap machine and staff can prep a couple of these kits in advance.

La Parpadella: No dough goes to waste

This pizzeria came as a recommendation from White’s Foodservice Equipment based in the UK who helped bring one of Italy’s finest ovens to their store.  The head pizzaiolo proudly showed off the Marana Forni which has been built into the very wall of the kitchen.  The oven works dually with gas and/or wood.  The oven doesn’t just rotate, as Marana Fornis have been popularized for, the base will also lift or descend so pizza makers have full control over temperature.  Oh yeah, and it shoots gigantic flames like a blow torch.

Oh joy! The rotating base is controlled with a joy stick.
Left over pizza dough that would normally get tossed out is made
into loaves of bread.

Homeslice Pizza: Wine by the inch

Next on the menu was a visit to Homeslice which was recommended to me by a gentleman who works for Yelp London and personally takes pride in giving restaurant recommendations. Homeslice was created around the wood fired pizza concept too.  The oven was built homemade and cooks up non traditional pizzas.  Needlessly to say, I didn’t hear any Italian spoken here, but the pizza was great.
This pizza had mushrooms, soy sauce and pumpkin seeds. 🙂
When you order wine you get a HUGE bottle and you only pay
for what you drink.   The wine glasses were marked so you know
roughly how much you’re paying.  Glass and a half? No problem!

 

Custom built wood-fired oven
This is how they know how much wine you drank

 

Delicious pizza in London in booming.  Strongly influenced by Italian traditions and innovative marketing concepts, it’s no wonder pizzas there are “on the rise.”

Toilet-themed restaurant in China poops out

sign in china, no rushing, engrish
Timeless wisdom on everyday elevators

While visiting China with the U.S. Pizza Team, I followed an eye-catching sign in Shanghai’s trendy Tianzifang district for the restroom. “More Than Toilet” sounded like another awkwardly worded sign which are just about everywhere in China.  Yet this one was full of promise, that it would be a “delicious and happy” experience, perhaps a seated toilet instead of squatting one. Instead I stumbled upon one of the strangest restaurants of my life.  More Than Toilet wasn’t a restroom at all but a full service restaurant serving up some of the most unappealing menu items you could picture, all related to potty humor of course.

At dinner time the restaurant is (shockingly) empty

As PMQ Publisher, Steve Green, noted, “this restaurant is empty at dinner time on a Friday night….It’s not really surprising why.”  The urinal lamps and the commode seats have their shock-value charm, but overall it doesn’t make for appetizing decor. If you want to know more about what More Than Toilet had to offer, you’ll have to check this blog at SmartShanghai.com which has some excellent photos of dishes ordered from the menu.  The folks at Smart Shanghai were more enthusiastic than most online reviewers who generally agreed the novelty wore off when they tasted their food.

(Un)fortunately for us, we didn’t eat at More Than Toilet.  We went to a different place and enjoyed more traditional Chinese fare, which included a bowl of peeled and boiled frogs served with shaved lotus root.

Dave, Karil and Chris Sommers attempt to figure out what they are eating in China

Sadly (not), the U.S. Pizza Team won’t get a chance to experience More Than Toilet this year either during our annual visit to Shanghai for the FHC show and Chinese Pizza Championships as the restaurant has closed.

Just check the hash tag #morethantoilet on Instagram.  They went to the restaurant so you don’t have to!

Baguette vending machine in Paris is REAL

Not far from the Eiffel tower, you can find this handy little machine.  Attached to a bakery, these vending machines store nearly finished baguettes in their interior refrigeration.  All you have to do is put in 1 euro and wait 15 seconds for the baguette to pop out of the bottom.  The beauty of these machines is that it allows the French to work even less hours!
Joking aside, French bakers work hard, long hours.  Most tend to take a day off only once a week.  This picture was taken on a Sunday when all the bakeries in the neighborhood were closed.  Fortunately now they don’t have to leave you high and dry or… hungry anyway.

 

5 key concepts from restaurant designers in Milan

In my latest quest for pizza overseas, I attended the HoReCa (Hotel, Restaurant, Café) Architecture and Marketing Workshop in Milan, the fashion capital of the world. After three days of lectures from architects, designers and lighting experts, I came back with a new perspective on how to more adeptly use commercial space to get the sale. Here are the highlights from what I learned there.

  1. there is no ‘pretty’ or ‘ugly’

    By far the most recurring theme of the workshop was viability first. “In restaurant design we don’t speak about what’s pretty or ugly because beauty is subjective. The question we must ask is, does it work or doesn’t it?” says Nicola Ticozzi, Head Coordinator at HoReCa Workshop – Architecture & Marketing.

    Designing a restaurant, bar, or café requires the appropriate layout for its proper function.  For example, a lounge bar is centered around the art of cocktail making (and drinking) so the bar is placed in the center. In a nightclub (discoteca), the primary focus is on the dance floor so it is placed in the center and couches face outward towards it. (Slide courtesy of Andrea Langhi)

    When choosing restaurant design elements, rather than asking yourself “What would look nice?” think about “What do I want the customer to experience?” For example, if you own a lounge, you might consider comfortable chairs that invite guests to linger, whereas a fast casual restaurant that benefits from fast turnover would do better with chairs that aren’t too comfortable. Each element, such as color, light, furniture and decorative objects, must be considered from a functionality standpoint before aesthetics.

  2. You must tell a story with your design

    People remember stories, and, most of all, they remember stories that they understand. Andrea Langhi, architect behind the highly successful Italian pizza chain Pizzikotto, characterizes a good design as one that is understandable and translatable. In his design of Pizzikotto, he sought elements that are simple, striking and different to set them apart from other Italian pizza chains. Langhi points to the lamps made from plastic water coolers as unattractive but successful in reflecting the brand’s values, particularly its commitment to sustainability.

    Andrea Langhi used non-traditional design to reflect a brand of innovation
  3. The Bathroom really doesn’t get enough attention

    Nisi Magnoni, an architect and HoReCa Workshop teacher, takes a certain pride in building bathrooms because, frankly, they have a big impact on your experience at a restaurant. “If you have a large, beautiful restaurant but then only one bathroom and people have to wait in line, they’re not going to have a positive experience,” says Magnoni. In his design, he doesn’t overlook this oft-neglected yet essential place for your customers.

    At first glance these bathrooms are transparent. But close the lock and microparticles turn the glass translucent.
  4. Chiaroscuro is back!

    Remember the light technique DaVinci (and his contemporaries) were so famous for? Chiaroscuro, which means “light dark,” is the practice of drawing the viewers’ attention to a specific area of a painting by brightening some areas and darkening others. According to bio-architect and inventor Massimo Duroni, “The human eye physically cannot take in too much information at once. In places with uniform, diffused light, our eyes are not drawn to observe anything in particular.” The use of chiaroscuro lighting to create a contrast allows you to direct the attention of the customer to whatever it is you want to sell more of.

    Massimo Duroni designed Liquid Bar, which draws customers’ attention to the bar using chiaroscuro lighting. The lamps above the bar alternate through a range of colors throughout the evening to continuously alter the customers’ perception.
  5. Beware of Excitement “sickness”

    Remember that the concept must be easily understandable and that too many elements are difficult to process. Nisi Magnoni describes the common “illness” of a restaurant entrepreneur who has had success and gets particularly excited about including all of his favorite elements in one restaurant. “Over-enthusiasm can happen to anyone. Don’t let it happen to you!” warns Magnoni.

    Magnoni referenced this restaurant (presumably in Milan) as an example of one that has too many design elements, to the point that it doesn’t communicate a clear concept/brand.

    So when choosing a layout, remember to keep in mind the demands and needs of your target audience, the experience you want them to have when they get there, and the understandability of the overall concept to perpetuate good experiences for you, your staff and your customers.

    This information was presented at the HoReCa Workshop in downtown Milan. The workshop is a collaboration of the Milano Business School, Il Politecnico School of Architecture and some key companies specializing in interior design materials.

    This HoReCa Workshop also organizes events in Russian, Portuguese and Spanish, and heads up a prestigious design competition for pizzerias and bakeries. Their international contest for planning a successful pizzeria centers on design, concept, marketing and architecture in one. It is done in collaboration with 5 Stagioni and offers up to 7,500 euros in prizes.  For more information visit http://www.concorsole5stagioni.it.

5 Italian cooking tips from the Barilla Academy

The Barilla Academy doesn’t teach recipes; they teach Italian food culture and gastronomy.  Their mission is to empower people to choose the right ingredients and cook delicious meals with their families, all while promoting a global brand and being an authority on nutrition.  On the U.S. Pizza Team’s visit to Parma, we visited The Barilla Academy and came back inspired.  Here are 5 highlight tips from the Italian kitchen.

  1. Safe and Authentic TiramisU

    Chef at Barilla Academy Marcello Zaccaria strays from the official tiramisu recipe and incorporates hot simple syrup into the raw eggs.  Simple syrup is made by boiling sugar with water and is most often used in bars as an ingredient for cocktails since the sugar is already dissolved.  “At the Barilla plant we pasteurize our sauce and pesto in a sort of oven, but you can’t do that with eggs or they’ll cook.  If you add hot boiled sugar to the raw eggs it also has a pasteurizing effect to make it safer to eat,” says Zaccaria.

    Avoid raw eggs in italian desserts
    Let your raw eggs get fluffy in the mixer before slowly adding hot simple syrup
  2. Softer Focaccia

    Standard Italian focaccia crisps up in a bakery pan, but in the region of Puglia, potatoes are added to the dough to keep it soft after baking.  Potatoes are peeled, boiled and mashed before being incorporated into the dough during initial mixing.  It may be acclaimed in the region of Puglia, but many of the U.S. Pizza Team members found this bread too soft, like focaccia that needed more time in the oven.

  3. bitter chocolate bread with seafood

    Pure, sugarless cocoa powder can be added to a bread recipe for a distinct color and aroma.  However the taste of chocolate bread varies little from that of normal bread.  Chef Zaccaria suggests eating chocolate bread with salmon, tuna, or any other type of seafood.

    Chef Tomasso Moroni points to a correctly executed chocolate bread with the signature cornucopia shape with slits in the center to allow the roll to open during baking.
  4. perfectly charred piadina

    If you haven’t made a piadina before, it’s not too different from making a tortilla or a crêpe.  Piadinas are Italian flatbreads used for making wraps or sandwiches.  Chef Zaccaria advised us not to use any oil when baking a piadina in a pan to get the same “rustic char” of the classic Italian food.

    Don't use oil when cooking a piadina
    USPT member Massimo flips a piadina in the pan
  5. how to make a cornucopia

    The ancient Greek symbol for plenty, the cornucopia is still being used in bread imagery today.  It’s commonplace in the Parma region to find bread rolls with the iconic swirling shape of a cornucopia.  These dinner rolls are very soft on the inside and extremely hard on the inside, served without butter or oil!  Chef Tomasso Moroni demonstrates how to roll out and roll up a cornucopia-shaped bread roll.

5 robots taking foodservice jobs today

Across the world of foodservice, robots are getting hired for the jobs us pathetic humans used to do.

What’s the driving force behind it?  Price, novelty, oh and fewer mistakes.  To err is human after all.  Here are five jobs that robots are sneaking their wheelie feet in the door with and the countries that are hosting them.

1. Sweden: Kebab Slicing Robot

This bad boy was on display at the FastFood & Café Expo in Stockholm.  It makes the perfect cut of shoarma meat so your employees don’t have to!

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    2. France: Ordering Kiosk

    France, which boasts some of the best labor rights in the world, is also the country which has the most ordering kiosks.  In fast food restaurants, touchscreen automated kiosks are commonplace.  A representative at SoftCaisse explained that ‘hiring’ a kiosk is about 3 times more cost effective than hiring a human.  Plus, you don’t have to put up with their whining or worry about them showing up on time!

    parizza, softcaisse, pmq

    3. Italy: 24/7 Automated Pizzaiolo

    Many of the pizza vending machines on the market today finish baking a par-baked or even fully prepared fresh pizza.   But Let’s Pizza lets you have the full experience of watching a pizzaiolo through a pizza shop window, except it’s a robot doing the job.  This pizza only takes 2.5 minutes to be mixed, topped and baked which begs the question, why would you use one of these if you’re in Italy?

    4. Australia: Robot Pizza Delivery

    Now launched at Domino’s in Germany and the Netherlands, Domino’s delivery robot DRU (Domino’s Robotic Unit) is taking to the sidewalks.  The droid was first developed with the help of an Australian company using “military technology” and has proven to be less dangerous, less regulation bound and much cuter than delivery drones.

  2. 5. San Francisco: Sandwich making machine

    Peanut butter and jelly sandwiches can be SO complicated.  Now with the Bistrobot, located in San Franciso’s Bernal Heights district, you can have a machine make one for you.  It looks like the company hasn’t advanced with more sandwich building technology since 2015 or maybe they’re just keeping their next product… under wraps.