February 1, 2014

Respecting the Craft: Delayed Start

How social media prevented us from opening for two weeks

Like most new restaurants, the opening of our Pizza Rock II in Las Vegas had to be delayed beyond our initially planned opening date. As we scrambled to get our final inspections passed, we realized something scary: we needed to open ASAP. Every day that we were delayed was costing us money.

We were nearing our pre-opening training. We were going to host a VIP event, a friends and family event and then kick it all off officially with an opening weekend.

A huge area festival was looming in just three weeks. We needed to be open by then to maximize the benefit we could receive from the crowds. But we also needed to be open far enough ahead of the festival that we could work out the bugs and issues that always surface when a new restaurant gets off the ground.

One of my partners, Trevor, said in a meeting that we would not be able to open during our target week because Bike Fest was coming to Vegas. Bike Fest is a street party that brings thousands of bikers down our street for four days. With social media outlets such as Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest, the perception of downtown (old Vegas) clientele would be very misleading, especially when everywhere you looked people would be dressed in full black leather as they drank beers and partied. Additionally, local officials recommended that we shouldn’t open that week, either, because of the possible fights that would likely occur in the street.

We were new to the area, of course. Some of the neighboring businesses loved the festival; others hated it and closed down for those four days. Ultimately, these facts led us to believe that our marketing campaign was going to be so strong and so visible that opening that week would be a mistake. We determined it could be a disaster because there would be so many social media videos, news posts and pictures that would be taken inside and directly outside of our pizzeria on opening weekend. Our project was part of a redevelopment of downtown, so one mishap could be detrimental and cost us repeat customers. We needed to have a perfect opening weekend. This ended up delaying us 12 days.

In the end, our wait was worth it and our opening was a success. Our social media played a major role in our opening, and we were received well from the start. Though the choice to delay the opening was a difficult one, it ultimately paid off by getting Pizza Rock II off to the solid start we needed and for which we hoped.

RESPECTING THE CRAFT features World Pizza Champion Tony Gemignani, owner of Tony’s Pizza Napoletana in San Francisco and Pizza Rock in Sacramento.  Tony compiles the column with the help of his trusty assistants, Laura Meyer and Thiago Vasconcelos. If you have questions on any kitchen topic ranging from prep to finish, Tony’s your guy. Send questions via Twitter @PizzaToday, Facebook (search: Pizza Today) or e-mail and we’ll pass the best ones on to Tony.