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Prime Cost Wizard

Shakespeare's Pizza Develops Standardized Procedures to Improve Consistency and Bottom Line

Standardization and consistency were the main reasons 40-year-old Shakespeare's Pizza, sought out RestaurantOwner.com. General Manager Kurt Mirtsching's certainly the right man for the job: As he notes, "I have a bunch of different business cards. Some of them say Janitor. Some say Boss. Some say Director of Everything. It's a small business; we're not big on titles."

Name: Shakespeare's Pizza
General Manager Kurt Drennen Mirtsching
Location: Columbia, Missouri
Website: ShakespearesPizza.com
Type: Pizzeria
Seats: 450, 235 and 135 (3 locations)
Annual Sales: $8 million (combined)
Opening: 1974

The restaurants' current owners, the Lewis family of Columbia, Missouri, have owned the company for the past 38 years. The three locations, which seat 450, 235 and 135, notch combined annual sales of $8 million. The company also operates a frozen foods division, which supplies pizzas to 90 grocery stores across Missouri.

Kurt Mirtsching first sought out RO.com to help get a handle on food and labor costs. He credits the site with "repeating and repeating the importance of frequently tracking prime cost, (which) helped me drive home to my team the need of doing so. I immediately recognized that it's not just a lot of fluff like so many of the trade journals are. I use it off and on for a bunch of different things. I think it's responsible for a 6% to 11% increase in our bottom line."

Topping the list of things to do is developing a good training system, he says. "We are trying to get standardized procedures and accountability, checklists and inspections and so forth so that the same thing happens in all three restaurants. I mean, if we are going to brand these as the same thing at different locations, then it needs to be the same thing."

To that end, he has written an ops manual that he concedes is "pretty good. It's got lots of pictures and explanations and recipes and procedures for everything from how to make a pizza to how to bus a table to how to wash the dishes." Getting young employees to embrace it has proven to be another challenge. "Kids these days don't read stuff; you give them a book and they'll look at it like we did when we were 12 years old reading National Geographic. They'll look at the pictures, but that's all."

To make training more effective, Mirtsching is establishing a system of trainers in each restaurant, and crafting a video-based training system that obviates the need for reading. "We're making movies. It turns out we have two film school graduates working with us, busing tables, who couldn't find work. They know all about how to do the mechanical stuff on it. We're working on creating a library of very short, Windows Movie Player pieces on how, for instance, to sauce pizzas." He has also installed 23-inch touch-screen displays in each of the kitchen.

"If a guy is saucing a pizza incorrectly - he's not getting it nice and even, and there are big blobs over here and it's not right amount, it's not spread evenly, it's not the right distance from the edge of the crust - the manager can walk over to the screen that's right there in front of him and say, 'You're not doing it right - watch this.' He will touch the screen and the movie plays and shows him how to do it right; same thing with olives and sausage, how to make a salad and so on."

With a system like that in place, who needs to read?

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