This week, I’ve been using Joe’s Pizza — the best pizza by the slice in New York City — as a case study for what makes a detour-worthy business.
What is a Detour-Worthy Business? And Why Does it Matter?
A detour-worthy business is one that customers will go out of their way to patronize. They’ll walk a few extra blocks, wait in a line, or wait longer to get on your calendar.
When you have a detour-worthy business, you stop competing on price. Customers seek you out; you don’t need to chase them. You gain a lot more word-of-mouth traffic.
Core Elements of Detour-Worthy Businesses
I previously examined some of the core elements of a detour-worthy business. To start, you must deliver an outstanding experience that leaves customers wanting more. Then you must deliver that experience and result consistently.
All Businesses Have a Recipe
What all detour-worthy businesses — and in fact all business — have is a recipe. Every business may have a different recipe, but there are some universal ingredients and processes that all successful business have.
Almost every food recipe has a dash of salt. Every recipe that requires something to bake in the oven will have a step in the process to preheat the oven.
Similarly, certain ingredients and processes are universal to successful, detour-worthy businesses.
Universal Ingredients of a Winning Business Recipe
Here are some of the ingredients and processes I observed at Joe’s Pizza that are universal to all great businesses. I’ve divided them into “customer-facing” and “behind the scenes.”
Joe’s is a pizza-by-the-slice joint. Yes, you can get a whole pie. You can even get a salad (I think; I’ve never seen them serve one). But that’s not really why most people go to Joe’s. They offer a limited range of pizza varieties: plain, pepperoni, caprese, white pizza. They have fountain soda, and a fridge case with water and other sodas. That’s it.
This doesn’t mean your business needs to be so limited with its offering. Look at Amazon. You can order electronics, books, and socks from Amazon. Pizza too.
What matters most is that you are clear on what your business is and what it is not. Joe’s Pizza is a slice joint. It’s not a sit-down place like Grimaldi’s. And it’s not trying to be.
A well-run business has clear boundaries and rules. Joe’s is open from 10 am – 4 am. Those are long hours. But they are not 24/7 hours. If you try to get a slice from Joe’s between 4–10 am, you’re out of luck.
This is not a place for lingering. Counters line the perimeter, they have a few high top tables, and a smattering of bar stools. This is not the place to settle in with your laptop for an afternoon of work.
Clearly Defined Path to Progress
A well-run business provides its customers with a clear path to progress or path to the product. The customer should know where they are and what they need to do to get the result they desire.
Even if you’re a first-timer at Joe’s, you can clearly discern path to your pizza from the moment you enter. You wait in line. You order. You pay. You move out of the way while you wait for your slice.
The menu and prices are clearly posted on the wall. The minimum transaction amount for credit cards is clearly posted at the cash register. There’s no guess-work about how to order and what to do.
Make it Easy for the Customer
Joe’s knows its customer: New Yorkers on the go, who want to get in and out quickly.
In nice weather the door is physically propped open. This removes a barrier to entry and helps the traffic flow when they get crowded.
The best sellers are plain and pepperoni, and there is always a pie going into or coming out of the oven, especially at peak hours. This means the staff can keep the pizza flying over the counter, lowering the wait time for the slice.
It’s important to note that “making it easy” doesn’t mean “open all the time.” Nor does it necessarily mean that you make it easy for customers to hire you. Some businesses have a model that deliberately makes it difficult for their customers to find them or hire them.
How you “make it easy” for your customer will depend on your business model and your offering.
Behind the Scenes
The people in your business are a prime ingredient that will determine its success or failure. Some of the guys have worked with Joe for decades. There is definitely a process in place behind the scenes that helps Joe hire the right guys for the right job, and to cultivate that loyalty from his employees.
The team at each Joe’s location is like a well-oiled machine. The pizza men make the pizza in the back. The guys at the counter take the orders and the payment, and interact with customers.
Everything happens fast, and in flow. To sit and watch it operate is like watching a well-rehearsed dance troupe. There’s a rhythm to how they work, and to how they keep the pace of the crowds at peak times.
Everyone is serving the same mission.
Training and Practice
The staff at Joe’s are masters in their skills.
Joe trained his pizza guys with good practices from the start. Some of them have been working with Joe for decades. They practice for years, and they are masters in their craft. Of course, Joe was able to train them in the art of making pizza because he had a recipe and a process.
The guys working the counter are likewise masters, but of a different craft. To be a good counter guy, you’ve got to engage in some banter with the regular customers, but not too much that it will slow down the line. That’s where proportion comes in.
The crucial element here is acquiring and training the right skills for the job. This, of course, assumes that you know what your actual job is and what business you are really in. More on that another time.
Finding Your Winning Recipe
Joe Pozzuoli was able to scale and replicate his business because he has a solid recipe. He started with quality ingredients in the right proportions and applied a well-honed process.
There are other successful pizza shops, and food businesses, that followed a different recipe. No single method is the method.
Your recipe for your business likely has some different ingredients, in different proportions. You might have a different process. The point isn’t to copy someone else’s recipe, but to find your own.
Take a look at your business.
- What are your ingredients?
- In what proportions are your ingredients?
- What are your processes?
If the results you are getting are not the results you desire, perhaps it’s time to tweak something.
By the way, I know you may by thinking, My business is too specialized for recipes. I don’t create products. I serve clients. Each one is special and unique.Stay tuned. Next week, I will share how to apply these concepts even if your business is a highly specialized, one-on-one service business where every client is different.