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Thread: Everything you ever wanted to know about the pizza biz

  1. #1
    Chairman of the bored Maister's avatar
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    Everything you ever wanted to know about the pizza biz

    I don't know jack about the pizza business, but I'm sure some of you have worked at pizza joints, and have baked pizzas, delivered pizzas, balanced the books and/or played zookeeper to a host of unruly adolescent/post-adolescent pizza parlor employees. You're going to tell the rest of us all about it.

    The first thing I want to ask is - why is it restaurant pizza crust almost always has a better texture and taste than the stuff I make in my own oven. Granted, I usually go either the Chef Boyardee/Pilsbury/Jiffy mix pizza crust route, or perhaps buy one of those premade Boboli crusts and just pile the toppings on. I've tried cooking on a pizza stone and I've tried the perforated metal pizza pans but it just never seems to be quite as good - what do they do differently than we do at home?

    Has anyone else ever heard the apocryphal tale that pizza places will hang up on you if you order toppings in this order: Onion, Ripe (black) olive, Green pepper, Anchovy, Sausage, Mushroom pizza (or something like that) because the topping short hand ordering system they use spells out 'ORGASM"?

    I tipped a delivery driver handsomely a couple times (like I told him to keep the change for a 20 on an $11 order) and I swear every subsequent time I ordered pizza from that place it would arrive practically before I had a chance to sit back down, even if it was a different driver. Do drivers actually compare notes on tips at various addresses (I would think they'd want to keep that info to themselves)?

    I see a 14" two item pizza goes for about $12 at a local middle of the road pizzeria. Forget overhead, labor, advertising, and all that other stuff. Just in terms of the product itself, how much does it cost them to make that pizza. And (I truly believe)a related question - how the hell is it those places that make crappy low quality pizza near every campus on earth manage to stay in business as long as they do?

    What else can you tell us about the pizza biz? What's good and bad about it? Know any of the industry's deep dark secrets?
    Last edited by Maister; 17 Nov 2010 at 4:50 PM.

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    Cyburbian ursus's avatar
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    Why aren't there pizza delivery "gals"? Is there some sort of glass ceiling in the pizza delivery business? I've never - and I truly mean never - had my pizza delivered by a woman. I've had my brakes replaced by women, I've had my home loan authorized by women, I've been hired and fired by women. I've never had my pizza delivered by a woman.
    "...I would never try to tick Hink off. He kinda intimidates me. He's quite butch, you know." - Maister

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    Cyburbian kalimotxo's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by ursus View post
    Why aren't there pizza delivery "gals"? Is there some sort of glass ceiling in the pizza delivery business? I've never - and I truly mean never - had my pizza delivered by a woman. I've had my brakes replaced by women, I've had my home loan authorized by women, I've been hired and fired by women. I've never had my pizza delivered by a woman.
    My downstairs neighbor is a pizza delivery gal... and not the only one I know.
    Process and dismissal. Shelter and location. Everybody wants somewhere.

  4. #4
    Cyburbian jsk1983's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by kalimotxo View post
    My downstairs neighbor is a pizza delivery gal... and not the only one I know.
    And I've never seen a female cab driver. Apparently there are some as a paper here ran an article on the subject, but I've never actually seen one.

  5. #5
    Cyburbian Otis's avatar
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    I have a friend who used to be in the pizza business. He says oregano is the key. Add more oregano.

    Also

  6. #6
    Cyburbian TerraSapient's avatar
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    Man-o -man-o-man you are asking me to recall some long ago info. Lets see here... about 14 years ago I worked in a rockin' little local pizzeria for a summer. They had the Best Crust. Ever. Seriously. Yum. I cannot recall how to make it exactly. Let me meditate on that and call up an old friend, maybe she will remember.

    On a side note related to homemade pizza, I do make a mean Chicago(ish)-style pizza from scratch. The trick with that one is the pan. I have this unbelievably perfect pan to use. It is like a 9' cake pan but the sides are detachable. Like this one: http://www.cutleryandmore.com/detail...ducts&kw=16106

    I make a thin and crispy style crust. Split it in half with one half being about 10% larger than the other half. Roll them out into circles. Then use the larger one to cover the bottom and sides of the pan, with about an inch or so extra hanging off the side. I put my cheese and "toppings" into the pan on top of my crust. Then add the second crust and roll the sides of the bottom and top crust together to make a pie. I put my sauce on top. Bake for about 30 mins in a 350 degree oven. Then proceed to eat eat eat yum yum yum.

  7. #7
    maudit anglais
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    Quote Originally posted by Maister View post
    The first thing I want to ask is - why is it restaurant pizza crust almost always has a better texture and taste than the stuff I make in my own oven. Granted, I usually go either the Chef Boyardee/Pilsbury/Jiffy mix pizza crust route, or perhaps buy one of those premade Boboli crusts and just pile the toppings on. I've tried cooking on a pizza stone and I've tried the perforated metal pizza pans but it just never seems to be quite as good - what do they do differently than we do at home?
    No pizza biz insider info here, but I will tell you that I have found the trick to making a good homemade pizza crust is part recipe, part using cornmeal on the bottom of the pizza, and part oven temperature. You need to cook that 'za at 500 degrees to get the crust nice and crispy. My best results have come from using an earthenware pizza baking dish (like a stone, only it has edges).

    PM me if you want the recipe.

  8. #8
    Cyburbian natski's avatar
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    All this pizza talk is making me hungry
    "Have you ever wondered if there was more to life, other than being really, really, ridiculously good looking?" Zoolander

  9. #9
    Cyburbia Administrator Dan's avatar
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    The pizza business isn't as shrouded in mystery as Chinese restaurants. Let this veteran be your guide.

    The first thing I want to ask is - why is it restaurant pizza crust almost always has a better texture and taste than the stuff I make in my own oven.
    It's the ovens and the dough.

    When you cook a pizza at home, it's usually a frozen pie (0-5 F) that's being placed into a regular kitchen oven (400-425), and cooked for 15 to 25 minutes, depending on the thickness.

    At a pizzeria, the dough will be closer to room temperature. (At chains, premade dough patties come from a commissary, delivered to a store in returnable trays. and stored in a walk-in cooler that is usually less frigid than a home freezer. Trays of dough patties will be taken out of the cooler a few hours before they're needed.) Oven temperatures, both for a conventional pizza oven (Baker's Pride) or a conveyor oven, will be much higher; around 550 F. A conveyor oven takes about six minutes to bake a pizza; a Baker's Pride can do it in eight to ten minutes.

    Run a thawed Totino's through a Baker's Pride or conveyor oven, and the results will be MUCH different than what you get at home. Yes, I've tried it.

    Has anyone else ever heard the apocryphal tale that pizza places will hang up on you if you order toppings in this order: Onion, Ripe (black) olive, Green pepper, Anchovy, Sausage, Mushroom pizza (or something like that) because the topping short hand ordering system they use spells out 'ORGASM"?
    "R" for black olives is old Domino's shorthand. ("B" is ground beef, "K" is bacon.) It''s an ancient practical joke Domino's employees pull on new drivers and order takers. It's a combination that never happens in the real world.

    A good order taker will call back on a pepperoni, mushroom and sausage (PMS). Usually people order the meats before the veggies.

    Do drivers actually compare notes on tips at various addresses (I would think they'd want to keep that info to themselves)?
    Yes, absolutely. They know the good addresses and the bad. Drivers keep a list of their deliveries, the cost of the order, and the tip, for accounting at the end of the shift.

    Deliveries are assigned in a first-in-first-out order, with adjustments made for multiple orders that may be in the same area. Drivers don't get to cherry pick large orders or known good tippers.

    Known low tippers won't be delivered pizzas with "special ingredients". A driver familiar with them, though, might deliver it at the end of a multiple address run, or keep the pie out of the hot bag, so it's too cold to really enjoy, but too warm to complain about.

    You said you want to know some tipping patterns?
    • Public college students tip far more than those at private colleges.
    • College students from the NYC area tip like one-legged log rollers.
    • Working-class and upper-middle class addresses generally tip better than middle-class addresses.
    • Attractive female drivers will get better tips than male drivers. Average-looking female drivers will get about the same as their male peers.
    • The elderly are often bad tippers. They will tip, but what they'll give you is what would have been considered a good tip in the 1940s or 1950s. "Here's a quarter, son! Now you can buy a new suit, take your sweetie out for a night dancing downtown, and have enough left over for carfare back home."
    • When mommy sends the kids to the door to get the pizza, drivers don't think it's cute, because the kids don't tip.
    • Canadians are not good tippers.
    • I don't mean to offend anyone by saying this, but what you might have heard about ethnic tipping patterns is true, unfortunately. When I delivered pizza back in the late 1980s, my average tip was about a dollar, but from that group, about ten cents. Every driver kept track. Some pizzerias redline certain neighborhoods, not because of any perceived danger, but because it makes it much more difficult to find drivers, and it's bad for morale.

    I see a 14" two item pizza goes for about $12 at a local middle of the road pizzeria. Forget overhead, labor, advertising, and all that other stuff. Just in terms of the product itself, how much does it cost them to make that pizza.
    That's a lot of money for what would be considered a small pizza here.



    This is half of an 18" pizza, from Bocce Club, one of Buffalo's best pizzerias. $8.20 after tax. Pizza in Buffalo is a bargain. There's a lot of competition, thanks to the region's love for comfort food and its very large Italian-American population. You can find overpriced wood-fired yuppie pizza in Buffalo if you look hard enough, but you would be hard-pressed to pay more than $14 or so for a large (18") one topping Buffalo-style.

    The ingredients used by a pizzeria will be much cheaper than what you pay, because they buy in bulk from the chain's commissary, Sysco, Aramark, or a local supplier. Not counting labor, overhead, the ingredients in a 16" one or two item pizza costs about $1.50 to $2.50, depending on the quality of ingredients. The most expensive item is the cheese.

    And (I truly believe)a related question - how the hell is it those places that make crappy low quality pizza near every campus on earth manage to stay in business as long as they do?
    There's a saying in the pizza business: pizza is a lot like sex. When it's good, it's really good. When it's bad, it's still kind of good.

    Students eat a LOT of pizza. Really. The store I used to work at would not be in business if there weren't two colleges in its delivery area. During the summer, the store maybe did a bit better than breaking even. During the school year, the pizzeria raked in the dough, both figuratively and literally. It's not just individual students that order pizza, but also clubs and organizations for their meetings, study groups, studios, and even classes. When I was delivering, back in the days when dorms were open, trash cans would be packed with empty pizza boxes from various pizzerias, with some empty boxes stacked by the cans.

    Some really bad pizzerias survive because they're a Sopranos-style front, or their specialty isn't pizza, if you know what I mean.

    What else can you tell us about the pizza biz? What's good and bad about it? Know any of the industry's deep dark secrets?
    Too much. Just ask.
    Growth for growth's sake is the ideology of the cancer cell. -- Edward Abbey

  10. #10
    Cyburbian Plus
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    around here the best pizza is from a tavern.
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  11. #11
    Cyburbian illinoisplanner's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by ursus
    Why aren't there pizza delivery "gals"? Is there some sort of glass ceiling in the pizza delivery business? I've never - and I truly mean never - had my pizza delivered by a woman. I've had my brakes replaced by women, I've had my home loan authorized by women, I've been hired and fired by women. I've never had my pizza delivered by a woman.
    I've definitely had pizza delivered by gals. True, they aren't as commons as pizza guys, but they're out there. I'd estimate that maybe 15% of my pizza deliveries were by females. Of those, half were younger broads that were usually good-looking and the other half were by middle-aged women.

    Quote Originally posted by Dan View post
    [*] Public college students tip far more than those at private colleges.[*] Working-class and upper-middle class addresses generally tip better than middle-class addresses.
    That's me. I was definitely a very good tipper as a public college student. Today, I'm a good tipper as a working class person. I always tip at least $2 for one pizza, and for multiple pizzas, $5+ isn't out the question. When I would order five pizzas as the leader of a college organization, tips approaching $10 would sometimes occur.

    [*] When mommy sends the kids to the door to get the pizza, drivers don't think it's cute, because the kids don't tip.
    As a kid, I was guilty of doing this one time. My dad was royally pissed when it happened.

    Quote Originally posted by Dan
    Students eat a LOT of pizza. Really. The store I used to work at would not be in business if there weren't two colleges in its delivery area. During the summer, the store maybe did a bit better than breaking even. During the school year, the pizzeria raked in the dough, both figuratively and literally. It's not just individual students that order pizza, but also clubs and organizations for their meetings, study groups, studios, and even classes. When I was delivering, back in the days when dorms were open, trash cans would be packed with empty pizza boxes from various pizzerias, with some empty boxes stacked by the cans.
    This is so true. At college, pizza was like a basic food group. I think I had it at least once a week, and often multiple times a week. At home in the suburbs, it's a once-a-month treat. And the student organization thing is so true. My college organization purchased $300 worth of Domino's pizza every year for our monthly meetings (broken down to about $35-40 a meeting for 5 medium pizzas each month). After I left, they switched to Papa John's, which costs even more. One time I participated in a debate sponsored by the NAACP before the 2008 Election and they must have had over 50 pizzas. It was ridiculous. They must have spent $400 or $500 on pizza for that one event.

    At college, there were two places in town that specialized in making these giant pizzas. A single slice would be bigger than your head. While you could order a whole pizza, most people would only order it by the slice, which was $4.50 per slice with a can of pop included. Anyone have any similar joints near them?
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  12. #12
    Cyburbian mgk920's avatar
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    There is a very good 'by the slice' place ('Sal's') right in the heart of Appleton's downtown nightlife district, $3.50-$4.00 for slices of very good hand-tossed pizzas, a couple of bucks more for slices of calizones, 'stuffed' pizzas and so forth. Lines go out the door on Friday and Saturday nights. The place is run by two Italian immigrants, one from Milano and the other from Palermo (yea, opposite ends of the country).



    Mike

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    Cyburbian Planit's avatar
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    Okay, now its pizza for lunch!

    The local place we get pizza from - well their crust is outstanding and we usually dip it in their house dressing (a creamy basalmic vinigerette) like a bread stick. I can honestly say we haven't had a pizza delivered in at least 3 or 4 years. We're less than a mile from the pizza place and we've riden our bikes there to eat in or stopped by and picked it up. One of their large (18") , 2 topping pizzas runs $14.00

    As for tipping, when we were in college one of my roommates did tip with something that caused muchies - hence why we had to order the pizza.
    "Whatever beer I'm drinking, is better than the one I'm not." DMLW
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    Chairman of the bored Maister's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Dan View post
    "R" for black olives is old Domino's shorthand. ("B" is ground beef, "K" is bacon.) It''s an ancient practical joke Domino's employees pull on new drivers and order takers. It's a combination that never happens in the real world.
    Indeed it was someone whose brother worked at a Domino's that told me this decades ago. Most of those shorthands make sense but I gotta wonder at the bacon abbreviation. "K"? Seems I've seen that on food labels elsewhere....now where was that? Ah yes, here it is. For bacon. Yes. That now makes perfect sense.

  15. #15
    Cyburbian Mud Princess's avatar
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    Off-topic

    Quote Originally posted by illinoisplanner View post
    I've definitely had pizza delivered by gals. True, they aren't as commons as pizza guys, but they're out there. I'd estimate that maybe 15% of my pizza deliveries were by females. Of those, half were younger broads that were usually good-looking and the other half were by middle-aged women.
    IP, you are way too young to be using that term!

    It's like something you'd hear in an old B&W gangster (not "gangsta'"!) movie.

  16. #16
    Cyburbian stroskey's avatar
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    My wife and I never have pizza delivered. We live by a Little Caesar's which charges $10 for two pizzas (!) and I think they taste great. Otherwise we go to Dominoes to pick it up, which again is about $14 for two pizzas. Compared to those deals we never go to Pizza Hut or any other non-chain because it's just too expensive. The first time we moved here and ordered pizza there was a $2 "delivery charge" that was not the tip (it said that right after the "delivery charge" on the receipt. There is no way ingredients can be so different that at one place a pizza is $5 and another with the same toppings is $17.
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  17. #17
    Chairman of the bored Maister's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by ursus View post
    Why aren't there pizza delivery "gals"? Is there some sort of glass ceiling in the pizza delivery business? I've never - and I truly mean never - had my pizza delivered by a woman. I've had my brakes replaced by women, I've had my home loan authorized by women, I've been hired and fired by women. I've never had my pizza delivered by a woman.
    I'd estimate maybe 10% of the drivers I've encountered were dames. And probably 85% of those broads were college aged and the other 15% of the skirts were middle aged.

    On a more serious note, I've heard it said from multiple sources that pizza delivery driving can be a dangerous occupation. I've actually seen chains with their own delivery vehicles that had little signs on them that said something like "our drivers carry less than $40" presumably so they wouldn't be perceived as good targets for robbery. I can understand why a young college aged woman travelling to often unfamiliar locations alone at night might think there are better and safer ways to earn a living.

    I also heard folks answering the door are sometimes in various stages of shall we say, undress, or stoned or otherwise incoherent.

    I wonder if real life pizza deliveries ever occur like you see in the movies.
    <ding dong> "Hi ladies, is this the 'Iota Eta Pi' sorority house? I've got the extra large sausage pizza you ordered....."

  18. #18
    Cyburbian Plus dandy_warhol's avatar
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    Yesterday I caught an episode of America's Test Kitchen on PBS where they made Pizza Bianca. It looked delicious. The dough is more like focaccia and reminds me of the dough at my favorite local joint.

    Apparently the secret to the dough (or any pizza dough) is the ratio of water to flour. The super wet pizza bianca dough, and letting it rest, are the main reasons for such a light, chewy, airy dough.

    I do think the HOT ovens are a key to good pizza.


    I agree with Maister, I think the reason there are fewer female pizza delivery persons is because of the danger involved. My brother delivered pizza for Dominoes a long time ago and he (average size, average build) got in some sticky situations when dealing with drunk/aggressive customers.

  19. #19
    Cyburbian Mud Princess's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Maister View post
    I'd estimate maybe 10% of the drivers I've encountered were dames. And probably 85% of those broads were college aged and the other 15% of the skirts were middle aged.
    Very funny, Maister!


  20. #20
    Cyburbia Administrator Dan's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Maister View post
    I'd estimate maybe 10% of the drivers I've encountered were dames. And probably 85% of those broads were college aged and the other 15% of the skirts were middle aged.
    You got it, mac. About 10% of the drivers I've worked with were dolls, legs, chippies and hussies.
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  21. #21
    Cyburbian illinoisplanner's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Mud Princess View post
    IP, you are way too young to be using that term!

    It's like something you'd hear in an old B&W gangster (not "gangsta'"!) movie.
    Well I guess I'm an old soul. Sorry, I hope I didn't offend anyone. I actually rarely use that term.

    ---

    On another note, speaking to college kids ordering lots of pizza...

    On my 21st birthday, I had a huge party at my place and I think I ordered pizza three times in one night. The 2nd and 3rd deliveries came surprisingly quickly. Of course, I gave big tips as well. And to the 3rd delivery person, in a drunken slur, I said something like "You guys are the greatest pizza place ever! I love you guys." Yeah, I was a token example of why there are so many pizza places and why they all do so well in college towns.
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  22. #22
    Cyburbian mgk920's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Maister View post
    Indeed it was someone whose brother worked at a Domino's that told me this decades ago. Most of those shorthands make sense but I gotta wonder at the bacon abbreviation. "K"? Seems I've seen that on food labels elsewhere....now where was that? Ah yes, here it is. For bacon. Yes. That now makes perfect sense.
    Maybe it was because all of the other letters were taken: 'B' = beef, 'A' = anchovies (stores without anchovies may have used 'A' for (American) bacon and 'K' for Canadian bacon and/or ham, although some stores used 'H' for ham - the 'hard K' sound is in both), 'C' = plain cheese (2C = double cheese, etc), 'O' = onions and 'N' = pineapples.



    Mike

  23. #23
    Cyburbia Administrator Dan's avatar
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    Maister asks about that old pron cliche: "I don't have enough money to pay you for the pizza, but I can give you a great tip! ♫ bow chikka wow wow ♫" Yes, I've encountered women at the door wearing only a bathrobe. I've encountered men only wearing a bathrobe. All that means is that they just gout out of the shower or pool.

    Yes, I've gotten offers of unconventional tips, but nothing sexual. Mainly beer. I've been offered weed before; I turned it down. One driver I worked with got offered a line of cocaine.

    The other stereotype is about how there's more than just pizza that gets baked at most pizzerias. Where I worked, a few employees would occasionally "go out to the dumpster", but otherwise it was a rare occurrence. We really didn't have time to stop and get stoned. I'm told it's far more common at independent pizzerias in traditional college towns. You don't find stoned drivers or managers at a Papa John's in Wichita, but at ,... oh, Joe's Pizza in State College, this might ring true a bit.
    Growth for growth's sake is the ideology of the cancer cell. -- Edward Abbey

  24. #24
    Cyburbian PrahaSMC's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Maister View post
    I tipped a delivery driver handsomely a couple times (like I told him to keep the change for a 20 on an $11 order) and I swear every subsequent time I ordered pizza from that place it would arrive practically before I had a chance to sit back down, even if it was a different driver. Do drivers actually compare notes on tips at various addresses (I would think they'd want to keep that info to themselves)?
    I worked as a delivery driver for a small, independent pizza shop and we absolutely shared notes on tips. I think what a lot of people don't realize is that at many smaller joints, for ease of accounting, the drivers aren't reimbursed for gas or mileage. Instead, they receive a slightly higher base wage (the real minimum wage, rather than a waiter's wage), and keep their own bank. It all works out in the end, but you better believe I did some mental accounting every time I was expected to drive 10 miles for a $1.32 tip on a $50.00 order... that trip is a loss and I would put it off, or hope to pass it off on another driver heading out that way anyway.

    Edit: Follow up on Dan's tipping patterns:

    - 99% of college kids are terrible tippers-- I was too. Public school, private school... it didn't seem to matter.
    - Best tips from the rich; surprisingly good tips from working class neighborhoods and mobile home parks.
    - Some of the worst tips from came from the middle class family types-- minivan and F150 in the driveway, middle-aged dad answers the door.
    - Younger apartment folk were typically pretty good tippers; older apartment folk not so much (across the housing/income spectrum).
    - Better tips on credit cards than cash... almost as if people are ashamed to write $.89 as the tip on a $39.11 bill, whereas people won't hesitate to drop you two Jackson and say "keep the change."
    - Don't recall ever being offered beer in lieu of a tip... but definitely offered beer in general.

  25. #25
    Cyburbian Emeritus Bear Up North's avatar
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    Pizza Adventures

    This Bear worked at Toledo's first Little Ceasar's Pizza, Westgate Shopping Center, back in the mid-1960s. Remembering.....

    Violence Against Drivers
    Back in the mid-1960s there was very little violence against pizza drivers. Once in a while a robbery made the news. I came close one night.....

    I was delivering pizzas in a VW Beatle. I had a big order to deliver to a dorm on the University of Toledo campus. I parked the bug, grabbed my pizza carrier (giant insulated thingy) and walked into the dorm. The room number given over the phone was non-existent. I walked back to the VW and there was a crowd of male students gathered next to it. BTW, it was February and there was snow on the ground.

    From the windows of one of the dorms a female voice yelled "Pants the pizza driver!" Fortunately I climbed into the bug and locked the door before any harm came to me. When I tried to drive away, a group of the guys picked up the VW.....at least for a few seconds. When they let it back down I sped away.

    As I was turning out of the campus onto Bancroft Street another pizza driver (another outlet, driving a Jeep) was driving toward the dorm. I signaled to him to not go into the dorm area but he ignored me. The next day the newspaper reported that that driver was assaulted and robbed.

    In today's world, violence against pizza drivers is all too common.

    Lou & The Woman
    One of my fellow drivers was named Lou. He talked very slow, often confusing his words. When a young female customer in a nicer neighborhood answered the door with no top on (and no bra) he rushed back to tell us. That was the first time we ever heard Lou talk fast and clearly. It was a riot!

    Margins
    Pizza has a very favorable gross profit margin. Very favorable.

    Bear
    Occupy Cyburbia!

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