How to find the best location for a pizzeria

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I’ve spent many hours feasting my eyes on our business plan for the first Dodo Pizza delivery in Oxford. Then I pinched myself. A nice business plan is nothing but a dream. If you want that dream to come true, you should wake up and start doing something to move toward your goal. In our case, the first and most important step forward was to find a good location. And that task has never been an easy one.

Finding the best location is the key factor in a pizzeria’s success. Everybody who is in the pizza business knows that. But that knowledge doesn’t help much. In real life, it’s not that easy to make up your mind and decide which location is the best for a pizza delivery, since you have to take into account way too many factors.

How many people live around the place? Are there other restaurants and shops nearby? Does it have a separate entrance? Gas? How about water? Parking for customers and drivers? Is it possible to install a large sign? Can it be seen from the street? How many years can we secure the pizzeria in the lease agreement?

When you try to evaluate a location, you have to pay attention to just shy of forty factors, and half of them are crucial. Sometimes the task feels hopeless. How can you compare the benefits you get from a long-term agreement with the ones you get from the height of your ceiling? It’s like comparing kilograms with feet. The human mind just can’t do it.

Luckily, Dodo Pizza Oxford isn’t the first pizzeria we’re opening. After launching about 50 pizzerias in different regions, we’ve gained some experience. And since we’re all geeks who love to measure and automate everything, we wanted to use smart solutions to help entrepreneurs make up their minds when they’re looking for the best pizza location.

We studied our best and worst practices, reduced every factor to a common denominator, and came up with a smart spreadsheet. Now every Dodo Pizza franchisee has to fill in this table to get approval for their location from the head office because it helps them understand the situation.

If you’re looking for a pizzeria location, all you have to do is just fill in the table, answering around 60 simple questions about commercial, technical, and location factors. In return, the spreadsheet gives the location just two scores that represent its potential.

One evaluates the commercial value of the space; another assesses it from an investment point of view. If a place has a high investment score, you’ll spend less money launching your pizzeria. A high commercial score means that it will be easier to make a profit.

If you compare a few locations you’re considering, you’ll see which one is the best—it’s the one with the highest scores. Nice, isn’t it? All you have to do is call the landlord and make a deal.

Who needs entrepreneurs nowadays, since all the important decisions are made by spreadsheets?

(Un)fortunately, it’s not that easy. The score is just a tool, like a thermometer. You are the doctor who has to write the prescription. Places that score high in both rankings are rare. Usually you choose among a few imperfect options. And here you’ll need the help of your intuition (which should be founded on your experience in the pizza business).

As you can see from our spreadsheet for the Oxford locations, the Red House wasn’t the only obvious winner. Its commercial score was high (88 points), while the investment score was the lowest of the places we sampled (63.3). In the next post, we’ll tell you why we chose it anyway and how we fought for it.

By the way, if you’re going to open a pizza delivery and are looking for a good location, you can make a copy of our spreadsheet and fill it with your data (you don’t have to become a Dodo Pizza franchisee to do it!). It’s a great tool, but use it at your own risk. :)

Photo: Sebastiano Pitruzzello

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