This week, I’ve been using Joe’s Pizza in Greenwich Village as a case study to explore the broader question of what makes a business “detour-worthy?”
In a previous installment in this series, I wrote about the consistency of Joe’s. A slice from Joe’s is predictable, from day to day and from branch to branch. In fact, each branch looks like the original. Whether you’re in the West Village or in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, you know when you’re at Joe’s Pizza.
This consistency is crucial. Nobody goes out of their way for hit-or-miss pizza.
So it begs the question:
What is the secret to consistency?
Let’s revisit Grub Street’s review:
Cooked so it’s a few shades shy of burnt and speckled with black spots, the thin crust has that slightly yeasty tang, bends easily, and has a pudgier, puffy, and nicely-browned end crust. The cheese blisters, with occasional golden freckles, and the sauce has the brightness of fresh tomatoes. … the sauce and cheese are laid out evenly and in just the right amount so that you’re getting the ideal ratio with every bite.
Crust. Tomato sauce. Cheese. At the basic level, all pizza starts with the same ingredients. But all pizza is not equal.
What sets Joe’s apart from the other slice joints, before anything else, is its recipe.
What is a Recipe?
Let’s start by defining what a recipe is. This may seem obvious, but many people get this wrong.
A recipe has 3 components:
Recipe = Ingredients + Proportion + Process
We will explore these further in a moment. First, let’s review why we need a recipe.
Why You Need a Recipe
A recipe is essential to producing consistent results.
If you make a lot of pizza and want it to come out the same way each time, you will need a recipe. When you hire other people to help you, you need to give them the recipe (and train them, but more on that in a future article).
If you want to expand your business and maintain consistency, you need a recipe.
Without a recipe, you can’t scale or leverage, and you can’t delegate. You cannot produce any amount of volume with any degree of consistency without a recipe.
Recipe = Ingredients + Proportion + Process
Let’s look more closely at the components of a recipe.
The first part of the recipe is the ingredients. The ingredients are the elements you need to produce the desired outcome. For pizza, the basic ingredients include the cheese, the tomato sauce, and the dough.
Beyond the what of the ingredients is the quality of the ingredients. You can make pizza with pre-made dough, a jar of tomato sauce, and some processed cheese. Or you can make your dough from scratch, cook up a pot of tomato sauce, and buy the best cheese available.
Within the category of ingredients we are talking about two things:
- What: what are the ingredients?
- Quality: what is the quality of the ingredients?
Ingredients alone are only part of the story. The second element of a recipe is the proportions. How much sauce? How much cheese? How thin do you roll the crust?
The fact that the cheese stays on the slice from Joe’s has as much to do with the proportions as it does with the quality of the ingredients.
Proportions also has 2 elements:
- Quantity: how much of each ingredient do we need?
- Ratio: what’s the ratio of one ingredient to the other?
The most masterful chefs can often get great results using ratios; this is a skill cultivated over years of cooking. But even those master chefs need to use specific quantities when they are cooking for a crowd and desire consistently outstanding results.
The third element of a recipe is the process. Having the right quantities and ratios of the best quality ingredients still won’t get you the result you want if you don’t know what to do with them, and in what order.
How long do you rest the dough before you stretch it out? What’s the technique for stretching it? What’s the order of placing the ingredients? What temperature is the oven? How long do you bake it? Does it need to rest before you cut it?
Process is about these 3 things:
- Actions: what do you do with the ingredients?
- Technique: how do you do those things?
- Sequence: in what order do you do them?
In the context of making pizza, the order of the ingredients may seem obvious. Even if you’ve never eaten a pizza before, you can look at one and see that the ingredients must be applied in a certain order. Of course, we’re not really talking about pizza here.
Take this out of the realm of pizza and you will discover that sequence matters. In baking, for example, there’s a big difference between 2 cups of flour, sifted and 2 cups of sifted flour.
The Recipe is Not Just for the Product
Joe’s Pizza has become a destination for locals and tourists not just because of its pizza recipe, but also because it has a winning recipe for its business.
Every business needs a recipe if it wants to produce consistent results. In fact, that’s what defines a business. Without a recipe for how you run your business, you don’t really have a business.
In fact, recipes are essential in every area of life.
More on this in the coming installments in this series.
Check-in With Yourself
- In your business, do you follow a recipe, or do you “cook by feel”?
- Does the idea of following a recipe seem limiting to you, or does it comfort you?
- Are there areas in your life where you can see you follow a recipe?
- Are there areas in your life where you definitely do not follow a recipe?
Please share your insights in the comments. I’d love to know!