We sell our pizzas for $16.50. Here's how the costs break down.
June 14, 2019 9:44 AM   Subscribe

Jessica Cantarelli's husband's family owns an independent pizzeria in Chicago. She explains the costs that go into a basic 15-inch cheese pizza, including the $0.30 for the box.
posted by Etrigan (104 comments total) 25 users marked this as a favorite
 
Wow, high real estate prices really are ruining everything.
posted by idiopath at 9:58 AM on June 14 [18 favorites]


If you were tantalized by the mention of the ten minute open outcry spot cheese market, here's a video of it happening!
posted by neustile at 9:59 AM on June 14 [15 favorites]


67% gross margin on an entree is about as good as it gets so I'm not sure what the takeaway from this is supposed to be.
posted by mikek at 10:04 AM on June 14 [33 favorites]


Sauce is twice as much as whole milk mozzarella?? I would have guessed the cheese was the most expensive component. Anyway, this looks like a pretty standard 1/3 ingredients, 1/3 overhead, 1/3 profit that so many mid-range restaurants try to aim for to stay competitive. I wonder how much more profitable the meatier pizzas are. I figure they're good for business since most traditional pizza meats are so salty they probably have great shelf-life, unlike mushrooms, peppers, etc.
posted by skewed at 10:05 AM on June 14 [3 favorites]


mikek: "67% gross margin on an entree is about as good as it gets so I'm not sure what the takeaway from this is supposed to be."

Agreed -- 32.3% profit is great, especially in light of how little they're paying the people actually making the pizzas.
posted by crazy with stars at 10:06 AM on June 14 [19 favorites]


It's no $1 grilled cheese, that's for sure.
posted by Greg_Ace at 10:07 AM on June 14 [66 favorites]


I have in-laws that own a number of pizza places and cheese is always the thing they're on about too (including the blue cheese dressing for the wings they also sell). I've never once heard them say sauce was the big ingredient cost. Surprised me too.
posted by bonehead at 10:08 AM on June 14 [2 favorites]


Agreed -- 32.3% profit is great, especially in light of how little they're paying the people actually making the pizzas.

Yes i was surprised at how little of a driver of costs labor was, although i think shes doing something a little creative with the math - the $12/hr average rate for employees isnt super low, so it would appear that the labor costs for each pie are just very few minutes (which does track, i made pizzas in a professional setting and per unit they dont take a lot of time).
posted by Exceptional_Hubris at 10:08 AM on June 14 [2 favorites]


If she's just calculating minutes spent per pizza, it's likely underestimating things like cleaning or prep or even just slow periods. She should be including time spent not making pizza too. They pay rent on the buildings full-time. Similarly they should calculate labour costs based on pies sold per shift or something.
posted by bonehead at 10:14 AM on June 14 [36 favorites]


shes doing something a little creative with the math

Yeah, I was puzzled by that. She explains that 'profit' includes buffer for slow periods, and there's no mention of higher-margin items (salad, soda, booze) or waste (half a pan of pizza sauce at the end of the night) that would affect all the calculations. The calculation really could have been a monthly break-down: we sell 5000 pizzas a month and bring in $xx,000 in revenue, etc, etc.
posted by rh at 10:17 AM on June 14 [7 favorites]


It seems to me like this calculation really underestimates the cost of the labour. She says 8 to 10 minutes of labour, and $1.60 is 8 minutes at $12/hour. But that only works if your employees are actually making pizzas at capacity. She allocates a cashier/phone worker and a cook, but the cashier time is probably only 1 or 2 minutes of the pizza time. So unless there are 5 or more cooks (and this doesn't sound like that sort of place), the cashier isn't working at 100%.

And because pizza orders surely don't come in at an even pace, the cooks are probably not cooking at capacity from when they clock in until they clock out, every night. Surely from (say) 4-5 PM on a Tuesday the cooks aren't putting out as many pies as 6 to 7 on a Saturday. You don't pay your staff a per-unit rate at a pizza joint, part of what you are paying for is them to show up so the place is open. (She also doesn't talk about the non-immediate tasks; she mentions rolling dough and spreading sauce, but not making the dough or sauce to start with, or cleaning up afterward. Of course, these tasks can get done during the quieter times, but those aren't being counted.)

I wouldn't be surprised if the actual cost of labour (ie take the total wage bill and divide by the number of pizzas) is triple this estimate, which eats into the profit substantially.
posted by Homeboy Trouble at 10:19 AM on June 14 [11 favorites]


Unit margins are a valid measurement and especially important when starting your own business, but yes this doesn't include all of the labour used.
posted by mikek at 10:19 AM on June 14 [1 favorite]


But isn't she strictly talking about how they price a pizza and what part of that could be considered to go to rent, labor, materials, etc.?
posted by amanda at 10:20 AM on June 14


The Best Pizza Topping That You’ve Probably Never Heard About.
I had heard of giardiniera, but never considered putting it on a pizza.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 10:21 AM on June 14 [11 favorites]


Restaurants profit margins are way lower than this, I dunno wtf is going on here.
posted by odinsdream at 10:22 AM on June 14 [3 favorites]


> what part of that could be considered to go to rent,

Yes, that's not really valid
posted by mikek at 10:23 AM on June 14


The price for pizza-sauce-as-I-know-it seems completely ridiculous, but I guess some people put a bunch of Parmesan cheese in the sauce? That could get expensive.
posted by Western Infidels at 10:24 AM on June 14 [3 favorites]


I am also curious about the relative cost of sauce to cheese in the calculation. A #10 can of decent pizza sauce is about $6 online from a restaurant supply store. That's about 3 quarts of sauce, or 24 cups, or maybe 48 pizzas for a price of $0.12 per pizza. Even doubling that for more sauce and then doubling again for high quality instead of a can, it's still about $0.50 / pizza. I'm certainly not saying the expert author is wrong, I just don't understand the number.

PS: the best ever pizza topping is daikon radish kimchi.
posted by Nelson at 10:26 AM on June 14 [4 favorites]


what i’m taking away from this is that socialized pizza could be made for 65% of the cost
posted by sixswitch at 10:34 AM on June 14 [21 favorites]


> I'm not sure what the takeaway from this is supposed to be

Stop complaining about how expensive locally owned pizza is compared to Little Caesars.
posted by The corpse in the library at 10:37 AM on June 14 [24 favorites]


socialized pizza

But I like white pizza, as well as red pizza!

Seriously, there's a family-run store near our place that makes a toum-based garlic sauce pizza that's just to die for. Also Halifax sweet sauce isn't just for donairs.
posted by bonehead at 10:38 AM on June 14 [8 favorites]


The Best Pizza Topping That You’ve Probably Never Heard About.
I had heard of giardiniera, but never considered putting it on a pizza.


I wonder the extent to which you can take a jar of giardiniera to a pizza shop and ask for a special order topping. Seems like Chicago's the only place it'll be on the menu itself.
posted by kafziel at 10:43 AM on June 14 [1 favorite]


I don't see how you break down the per-pizza costs without knowing how many pies are sold. Rent, Internet, phone, etc. are fixed costs that are going to cause the per-pizza profits to change quite a bit. And ignores the rest of the menu they have to carry, etc.

Also, is the author counting their own pay out of the labor cost or is that out of "profit"? Because a family restaurant where you work 60 or more hours per week, you need to sell a fair number of pies to make it worthwhile.
posted by jzb at 10:43 AM on June 14


I worked at various pizzerias for about seven years total through high school and past college, and my two cents on this breakdown are:
1) this is already a pretty good profit margin for pizza (as others have mentioned) and a great one for a restaurant in general
2) selling by the slice makes the margins even better
3) your worst margins are gonna be on cheese pizza - good pepperoni aside, the margins on toppings are exceptional. Onion, mushroom, bell peppers, basically most vegetables, the customer's paying $1.50-$2 extra for like 15 cents worth of product
4) how in the world are they paying $2 a pizza for sauce?? I worked at a regionally famous pizzeria in the Midwest whose sauce was beloved. It was pretty much this stuff with a few spices added, ever so slightly watered down. In bulk it's like a dollar a pound.
5) every pizza place I worked at workers bounced from cash register to ovens to topping to rolling, depending on need. everyone had their "station" but nobody ever stood around while others were in the weeds, which might explain what appears to be a low labor cost. as anyone whose worked in food service can attest, restaurant owners milk workers like nobody else
posted by joechip at 10:48 AM on June 14 [8 favorites]


what i’m taking away from this is that socialized pizza could be made for 65% of the cost

the people’s slice is deepest red.
posted by The Whelk at 11:07 AM on June 14 [26 favorites]


I too believe that I know more about the costs of running this particular restaurant than the person who actually owns it.
posted by schroedinger at 11:07 AM on June 14 [44 favorites]


I am also curious about the relative cost of sauce to cheese in the calculation. A #10 can of decent pizza sauce is about $6 online from a restaurant supply store.

The author mentions in the comment section:
"Here’s the reason: we make our own sauce--it’s not just the canned paste and puree--there’s more involved. (I’m sorry, I’m Italian-American, I can’t give those special secrets away!)"
posted by Secret Sparrow at 11:14 AM on June 14 [10 favorites]


I'm sure her numbers add up. What's happening, in my view, is that she's stated costs in a particular way that looks a bit odd, and people are trying to figure out what her numbers mean.

She's counting only direct time for labour costs. All of the employees' other time is embedded in the "profits" so she's not putting in the full labour cost into that slice. However, she is putting in the full overhead costs. For example, she doesn't appear to be including just the rent cost for the 4-6 minutes needed to make the pizza either. So there are two sets of numbers being reported in (at least) two different ways. It's not criticism. It's trying to understand a somewhat confusing set of numbers, at least for me.
posted by bonehead at 11:14 AM on June 14 [7 favorites]


"Here’s the reason: we make our own sauce--it’s not just the canned paste and puree--there’s more involved. (I’m sorry, I’m Italian-American, I can’t give those special secrets away!)"

Unless, as has been suggested, the "more" is parm (or wine?) it just doesnt add up. I have worked in commercial settings making pizza, and if shes saying her pizza sauce isnt just canned paste and puree then what is it? paste, puree, and whole tomatoes? im struggling to find a source online for any prepared tomato product that costs more than 6 bucks for a #10 can.
posted by Exceptional_Hubris at 11:29 AM on June 14 [1 favorite]


I wish the labor costs were more accurate, because this would be a great chance to calculate the impact of a minimum wage increase. With the costs stated in the article, a 25% wage increase (from $12/hr to $15/hr) would add 40 cents of direct labor cost, resulting in a 2.5% increase in the price of the pizza. If we factor in indirect effects (cheese, sauce, dough, and box suppliers also increase their prices by 2.5%) then we get another 10 cents or so of increased material costs.
So a $15 minimum wage takes a pizza from $16.50 to $17.00.

Of course, it looks like labor costs are underestimated so the impact would be more severe...maybe an $18 pie. Still worth it.
posted by rocket88 at 11:37 AM on June 14 [4 favorites]


Unless, as has been suggested, the "more" is parm (or wine?) it just doesnt add up. I have worked in commercial settings making pizza, and if shes saying her pizza sauce isnt just canned paste and puree then what is it? paste, puree, and whole tomatoes? im struggling to find a source online for any prepared tomato product that costs more than 6 bucks for a #10 can.

The extra ingredient is the friends they made along the way.
posted by briank at 11:40 AM on June 14 [8 favorites]


the people’s slice is deepest red.

$5.50 for dough
$5.50 for toppings
$5.50 for what we will
posted by lazaruslong at 11:44 AM on June 14 [45 favorites]


> what i’m taking away from this is that socialized pizza could be made for 65% of the cost

Or that the Pizza business is ready for disruption and more competition.

Or more likely, that the overall profit, employment, and community welfare could be improved by lowering the price and selling more pizza. But then you'd be one of those icky 'chains' that you know, actually feeds humanity.

Or, the accounting is overall flawed, and there is actually no profit, just a small business owner who's bad at math, especially when the math says they're doing a good job.
posted by pwnguin at 11:47 AM on June 14 [1 favorite]


the people’s slice is deepest red

And all our martyred dead smell faintly of garlic and oregano.
posted by Frowner at 11:50 AM on June 14 [5 favorites]


Damn, I wish I could get a good Chicago pizza for anything close to $16.50! Pizza prices here are through the roof, and I don't know why (though labor and rents probably don't help). Got a delicious pizza the other night. 18" pie cost me $30 with 3 toppings on it. Ugh.

Yes, I make my own too, but sometimes I just want a take-out pizza.
posted by hydra77 at 11:59 AM on June 14 [1 favorite]


But then you'd be one of those icky 'chains' that you know, actually feeds humanity.

Ah, yes, Pizza Hut, that bastion of humanitarianism.
posted by tobascodagama at 12:07 PM on June 14 [22 favorites]


I understand some of the confusion over the cost breakdown, but I don’t really see why there’s so much hostility that things are not specified precisely.

We already know she’s being cagey about the specific restaurant in question because the information is useful to the competition; I suspect that some of her competition will be able to figure it out anyway just from knowing who she is (unless the byline is a pseudonym, and even then there may be other clues). I think we can safely assume that the lack of specificity about volume, other ingredients and menu items is on purpose. She’s giving us a rough idea of why a decent non-chain pizza costs what it does, not trying to tell us exactly what she has on her business plan.

If you think that the difference in quality isn’t worth the difference in cost, then go to a chain (not that the chain is likely to break out their per pizza costs for you), but at least you’ll have some idea of why the independent charges what it does.
posted by Quinbus Flestrin at 12:15 PM on June 14 [9 favorites]


The extra ingredient is the friends they made along the way.
Pizza Hut, that bastion of humanitarianism.



uhhhh, guys? What was the fourth meat in the "Four Meat Extravaganza"?
posted by the man of twists and turns at 12:15 PM on June 14 [6 favorites]


It's a good thing TFA wasn't about a Plate-of-Beans-eria.
posted by notyou at 12:19 PM on June 14


PS: the best ever pizza topping is daikon radish kimchi.
That stuff is loaded with natural MSG flavor.

giardiniera
Is this stuff just marinated in vinegar, or is it pickled, fermented, like kimchi? Wikipedia is ambiguous.
posted by Bee'sWing at 12:24 PM on June 14


Butter. The secret ingredient is always butter.
posted by The corpse in the library at 12:26 PM on June 14 [6 favorites]


To folks questioning her profit calculations, and wondering why she's not including things like the cost of e.ployees cleaning, or just standing around during slow periods, please look up "gross profit" vs "net profit".

She is explaining in the article the gross profit, which takes in to account the cost of making the goods, but not the overhead of running the business. She points to the overheads at the end by noting overhead costs still need to be taken out of the 30% "gross profit" she calculated.
posted by gus at 12:27 PM on June 14 [1 favorite]


I'm confused as to why she included profit with all the costs. 30% of pizzas #1 through breakeven point is not profit, so why include it? Is that markup?
posted by punchee at 12:36 PM on June 14


Just FYI, but giardiniera (SLYT) is great and you can easily make your own. I did, and I'm an idiot. Although on review Chicago-style giardiniera in oil is probably a different beast.
posted by SonInLawOfSam at 12:43 PM on June 14


I posted a similar article from DC's Washington City Paper a little over a year ago (definitely not meant to be a "this is a double post!" type comment, in fact I find this stuff really fascinating so more is always better!). The restaurants City Paper talked to factor in all the labor, not just the direct labor to make a specific dish, and they come out with a considerably thinner profit margin. That said, City Paper didn't talk to a pizza place and pizza is a cheaper model, because presumably if you make pizza your only heat source is a pizza oven so you have fewer workstations.
posted by capricorn at 12:43 PM on June 14 [1 favorite]


Whoops, my bad: only one of the restaurants, Baan Thai, did that. The other restaurants in the article I linked did not include non-ingredient costs and so their profit margins look bigger than reality.
posted by capricorn at 12:51 PM on June 14



Or that the Pizza business is ready for disruption and more competition


PIZZR. Ok, we make a car, but it's completely made out of pizza...and then you can rideshare in it and also eat it and also it delivers itself.
posted by sexyrobot at 12:53 PM on June 14 [11 favorites]


If you don’t know what I’m talking about, giardiniera is a blend of chopped vegetables (celery, peppers, carrots, cauliflower, and sometimes olives, although they are a controversial element) pickled in vinegar.
from the man of twists and turns link, above.

Oh, this is the stuff that goes on muffuletta sandwiches. Mmmmmm.

And it is escabeche, the pickled carrots and jalapenos you see in Mexican food, so not entirely limited to Chicago.
posted by Bee'sWing at 1:04 PM on June 14 [1 favorite]


thin-crust pie sliced into squares as God intended.

What? No.
posted by Splunge at 1:15 PM on June 14 [6 favorites]


chicago style pizza: a budget

rent, utility, facilities: $5.65
labor: $1.60
cheese $1.04
crust: $0.45
sauce: $72.85
pizza box: $0.30

someone who is good at the economy please help me budget this. my family is dying
posted by Ahmad Khani at 1:22 PM on June 14 [40 favorites]


In case y'all run out of things to argue about, take a gander at this linked article: What region has the nation's best pizza?
posted by Johnny Wallflower at 1:41 PM on June 14


uhhhh, guys? What was the fourth meat in the "Four Meat Extravaganza"?

the friends we made along the way
posted by poffin boffin at 1:42 PM on June 14 [30 favorites]


what i’m taking away from this is that socialized pizza could be made for 65% of the cost

the people’s slice is deepest red.


Hearts starve as well as bodies,
give us bread, but give us pizza.
posted by ActingTheGoat at 1:51 PM on June 14 [3 favorites]


Giardiniara isn’t muffuletta spread (which is heavy on the olives) or escabeche. They’re more like cousins.
posted by Big Al 8000 at 2:02 PM on June 14 [2 favorites]


I worked at Pizza Hut back in the early 90s when Hillary Clinton first did her universal healthcare push and they pushed out some pretty hilarious anti-universal healthcare propaganda. Basically, they claimed they’d have to double the price of their pizza to pay for coverage.
posted by Big Al 8000 at 2:04 PM on June 14 [2 favorites]


What was the fourth meat in the "Four Meat Extravaganza"?

"Fourth Meat" is what Taco Bell puts in their burritos after midnight.
posted by straight at 2:17 PM on June 14 [9 favorites]


Lifelong Chicagoan here and I loves me some giardiniara on everything, but let's be honest. You can put sliced jalapenos and a little dried red pepper on a pizza and you'll be 90% of the way there.

But I will fight you about the pub cut. That little dry triangle of crust with a fingernail-sized dollop of sauce sitting by itself in the corner of the box is the first thing I always eat.
posted by JoeZydeco at 2:21 PM on June 14 [8 favorites]


if shes saying her pizza sauce isnt just canned paste and puree then what is it? paste, puree, and whole tomatoes?

I dunno, my go-to pizza sauce recipe from Serious Eats includes garlic, onion, basil, olive oil, red pepper flakes (and yes, butter).

It's very good btw.
posted by jeremias at 2:21 PM on June 14 [3 favorites]


garlic, onion, basil, olive oil, red pepper flakes (and yes, butter).

Those are all delicious things but adding them to pizza sauce isn't going to make it cost $2 per pie. I find it hard to imagine what you could add that would, really, on any sort of wholesale rate (you could make it cost that much by making your sauce from farmers'-market tomatoes bought retail, surely, but, uh, I assume they're getting good-quality bulk tomatoes at a reasonable price).
posted by jackbishop at 2:56 PM on June 14 [1 favorite]


One other thing I'm not sure is clear from the breakdown: "profit" as far as I can tell is basically income for the owner, unless they're also paying themselves $12/hr for every hour they're on/in the shop, which it doesn't sound like runs itself without their attention. What that income looks like depends heavily on how many hundreds/thousands of pizzas they sell per month.

And that means without knowing what volume they're doing, it's hard to say if the natural association of a fat cat with dollar signs for eyes taking food out of the hands babies that lots of people's subconscious minds make (maybe especially us left-leaners) when they hear it is true or not.

If it's less than 1000 pizzas per month, then these owners aren't doing too well. If it's 1000 or 2000 pizzas / mo, they're not rich (especially if their taxes have the extra bite that self-employment has in my various exercises in independence). 5000/mo? Then maybe they could keep from growing a waistline, tail, and dollar signs for pupils by cutting their margins (either by sharing w/ labor, upping quality, or cutting price). That sounds like a lot of pizza to me, though.
posted by wildblueyonder at 3:04 PM on June 14 [1 favorite]


Unfortunately while I appreciate the insight I actually find that this raises more questions than it answers. The words profit and overhead are not really working here. "loan repayment" isn't really good either.

I am assuming that the reason pizza making looks so profitable in this example is that the cost of the owners labor isn't accounted for nor is the true cost of labor to generate pies as opposed to the notional cost of labor for the amount of time to make one pie. (If their is only one pie order an hour on average it doesn't cost 8-10 minutes of labor to make a pie it costs an hour.)

I would be really curious how profitable a pizzeria is and how much they sell for but this seems like the kind of information that people keep close to the vest. Overall I suspect that it is more profitable to own the real estate the pizzeria is renting, both from the passive rent income and the absurd speculative increase in value that seems to happen.
posted by Pembquist at 3:30 PM on June 14 [3 favorites]


The "per pizza" operating margin isn't very meaningful, typical business case analysis would break down the cost into variable / non variable then compute a breakeven point to see if it makes sense then run a sensitivity analysis showing profit in response to demand.

Variable per unit costs - in this case, purely the ingredients of the pizza. $3.91

Variable margin - $16.50 minus $3.91 = $12.59

Non variable costs - everything else. Say rent, utilities and labor (including the owner) are $600 per day.

Breakeven - you need to sell 48 pizzas per day to cover that $600

Sensitivity - every 10 pizzas you sell over the 48 breakeven point generates $126 profit, every 10 that you sell under generates a $126 loss.
posted by xdvesper at 3:36 PM on June 14 [6 favorites]


I'm surprised so many people are balking at the cost of the sauce. This is Chicago and so I assume that the recipe involves huge, dripping ladles of sauce, filling each pizza to the brim. The kind of pizza where texture or crispness are as foreign a concept as restraint and proportion, and where baby cockroaches go for their swimming lessons. Of course the sauce is expensive; they're using two gallons per pie.

Obligatory Jon Stewart. This is my hill, and when I die on it they'll find soggy tomato dough beneath my fingernails.
posted by ZaphodB at 4:11 PM on June 14 [4 favorites]


If we're talking deep dish I'm unsurprised that such a tomato pie might contain $2 worth of sauce.
posted by aspersioncast at 4:21 PM on June 14 [1 favorite]


This is Chicago and so I assume that the recipe involves huge, dripping ladles of sauce, filling each pizza to the brim.

It's thin crust, not deep dish or stuffed. Uses a bit more sauce than some styles, but it's actually much crisper than, say, a New York slice.
posted by Iridic at 4:53 PM on June 14 [4 favorites]


Or that the Pizza business is ready for disruption and more competition.

Not ignoring the off chance this was made out of jest, but it’d be nice if people realize “disruption” just means grinding all margins down to the smallest possible amount so that profit is only possible if you have fantastic amounts of money with which to create economies of scale that allow pennies of profit per transaction to create enough income to keep moving forward. If you don’t have access to that level of wealth, or infrastructure, if you’re just trying to run your own business, which is sort of the whole American Dream thing, you’re an irresponsible asshole for paying staff a living wage, or not maximizing your profit in every conceivable way possible.

The engineers have won, the only laudable quality is efficiency.
posted by Ghidorah at 5:03 PM on June 14 [8 favorites]


Iridic: "It's thin crust, not deep dish or stuffed."

Yes, she explicitly says "tavern-style," i.e. cut into squares instead of wedges. A staple of my central Illinois childhood.
posted by crazy with stars at 5:16 PM on June 14 [5 favorites]


If they're making the sauce in house then presumably there's not just ingredients but also labor built in to the cost for the sauce.
posted by I paid money to offer this... insight? at 5:36 PM on June 14 [2 favorites]


When you look at the breakdown of costs, workers are a tiny percentage. There is something fundamentally wrong about that. 12 dollars an hour is not something you can reasonably live off in the modern western world.
posted by Dumsnill at 5:50 PM on June 14 [1 favorite]


ready for disruption

A chain of independent contractors, each buying the product from the person before from ingredients to assembler to baker, etc. They then perform their task and sell the product to the next person at the going rate. There can be as many bakers on duty as think they can make money, and they all try to undercut each other. Each person updates their current going rate on a smartphone, and the digital screen menu calculates and displays in real time the cheapest path to the pie. When the customer makes the order, all the shortest-path contractors are dispatched the task on their phone app and credited the amount they bid, minus the amount they owe to the previous-pizza-making-step contractor.

Each pays equipment rental to the owner, plus a small percentage cut for "facilitating" the sale, naturally.
posted by ctmf at 6:39 PM on June 14 [2 favorites]


From the way it's described a lot of the "profit" is labor done by the owners if you're doing a strict accounting, as opposed to return on the owner's capital investment.
posted by mark k at 6:45 PM on June 14


When you look at the breakdown of costs, workers are a tiny percentage. There is something fundamentally wrong about that.

Workers were absolutely involved in all the other costs as well. Who grew the vegetables and tomatoes? Even machines - say the flour was milled by machines. Humans were involved in building and designing the machines. The building was built by human hands. Materials were delivered by human drivers, using vehicles built by human hands, assisted by tools made by other tools made by human hands, mined using human hands or tools made by human hands etc. Almost all costs ultimately come down to worker costs. Conceptually it's not meaningful to separate "worker" and "non-worker" costs - operating in a high labor cost economy jacks up the price of all inputs, well, unless you import it from lower cost regions...

The only thing that doesn't come from worker labor is the value of the land under the restaurant, which was arguably stolen from the original inhabitants hundreds of years ago, well, it's the labor of the colonizers that did the stealing...
posted by xdvesper at 6:45 PM on June 14 [4 favorites]


The labor cost is also missing the incredible amount of work that goes into putting up with people who debate pizza styles in Chicago.
posted by srboisvert at 7:07 PM on June 14 [9 favorites]


Actually I think that’s built into our property tax bill.
posted by JoeZydeco at 7:18 PM on June 14 [10 favorites]


Yes, she explicitly says "tavern-style," i.e. cut into squares instead of wedges. A staple of my central Illinois childhood.

Ah. This is my favorite style of pizza, but I’ve never heard the term “tavern-style” before. This is Milwaukee style pizza; it’s what I grew up with. Standard toppings are mushrooms onions and sausage. Cut into squares. Aggressive crunch to the crust. This is the best pizza.
posted by mr_roboto at 7:32 PM on June 14 [1 favorite]


Nice read while wood firing a cheese pizza in the back yard!
posted by klausman at 7:50 PM on June 14 [2 favorites]


>isnt just canned paste and puree then what is it?

Uh, presumably if you're making "real homemade Italian sauce"--as the article says, "from scratch"--you're like buying tomatoes and other produce and real food and stuff and cooking it all up in various ways etc until you have a sauce.

You know, like they did back in the days before canned tomato paste and puree even existed.

When you say "from scratch" it pretty much means 100% the opposite of "canned paste" and "puree". Those are like pre-made, pre-fab ingredients. "From scratch" means, you buy produce, cook it etc, and in the end you have a sauce.

It's expense is not only in the produce itself, but preparation, cooking, fuel/utilities, etc. It cooks for a l-o-n-g time.

(I hope have haven't given away any hitherto unknown ancient Pizzeria-maker secrets here . . . )
posted by flug at 8:32 PM on June 14 [3 favorites]


What's the legal definition of "from scratch"?* Does that require them to prep and cook a sauce from literally raw unprocessed ingredients? Or can they get away with calling their recipe "from scratch" if it calls for them to dump a few jumbo cans of Sysco crushed tomatoes into a pot, add a few pinches each of salt/sugar/oregano/dried basil/onion powder/garlic powder, and bring it to a simmer for 5 minutes? I know which one my money is on.

*spoiler alert: there isn't one
posted by Greg_Ace at 9:39 PM on June 14


Toronto Life ran a similar break-down of the cost of a pizza at a very successful and fairly bougie pizzeria. The profit on a basic pie was $1.35/7.5%. And in this case the cheese they use isn't something that is traded on the commodities market and makes up 60% of their ingredients cost.
posted by thecjm at 10:22 PM on June 14 [1 favorite]


As someone who up until recently worked in a pizza shop where we made as much of our ingredients as we could, never buy the pet crushed or diced tomatoes. In general, that’s the stuff full of water and preservatives. Get the cans of whole tomatoes, wash your arms (and hands, duh) really well, dump all of those whole tomatoes into a giant bowl and crush them by hand.

There’s time involved. It costs more. It tastes better.

And tavern style is probably the best of all possible pizza worlds. Pepperoni, sausage, mushroom.
posted by Ghidorah at 10:50 PM on June 14 [4 favorites]


When you say "from scratch" it pretty much means 100% the opposite of "canned paste" and "puree". Those are like pre-made, pre-fab ingredients. "From scratch" means, you buy produce, cook it etc, and in the end you have a sauce.

It's expense is not only in the produce itself, but preparation, cooking, fuel/utilities, etc. It cooks for a l-o-n-g time.


Continuing the tomato sauce tangent, seconding Ghidorah, I would suggest that "from scratch" would include whole, peeled plum tomatoes ( 22USD/case of 6 #10 ( 12-3/4 cups ) cans )

Using my basic "homemade" recipe, that scales up to

1 #10 ounce can of whole peeled plum tomatoes
20 cloves of garlic
4 cups of grated Pecorino Romano cheese
4 cups of cooking Sherry wine
8 tablespoons of extra-virgin olive oil
16 tablespoons of butter (2 sticks)
2 teaspoon of dried basil
2 teaspoon of sea salt

So, we can see here the real money items are the quart of sherry, even omitting the cheese and butter.
posted by mikelieman at 3:33 AM on June 15 [3 favorites]


Seven cans, because that’s what fits the pot.
posted by Ghidorah at 3:54 AM on June 15 [2 favorites]


Seven cans, because that’s what fits the pot.

so... /me does math... 140 cloves of garlic?

Sounds a little light, doesn't it? Let's go with 165...
posted by mikelieman at 3:59 AM on June 15 [4 favorites]


What's the legal definition of "from scratch"?* Does that require them to prep and cook a sauce from literally raw unprocessed ingredients?

I suppose we could assume that she’s lying about the origin of the sauce and therefore its price because this is just a vaguely interesting article that isn’t really making any demands on society or even anyone’s headspace, but I can’t imagine why we would bother.
posted by Etrigan at 5:05 AM on June 15 [5 favorites]


so... /me does math... 140 cloves of garlic?


Gotta measure it all by weight. We did 85 grams of garlic, though I would’ve done more, and less sugar. It was their recipe, though, I just followed it.
posted by Ghidorah at 5:24 AM on June 15


It's all an elaborate ruse to drive her competitors out of business by convincing them they need to quadruple their sauce costs, and we're playing right into her hands!
posted by lucidium at 5:26 AM on June 15 [12 favorites]


If you were tantalized by the mention of the ten minute open outcry spot cheese market, here's a video of it happening!

Open auction trading videos of trading rooms or pits always look like some particularly mad Terry Gilliam movie scene, especially with all the weird fake mesh blazers and ridiculous shouting, pushing and incessant harrumphing.
posted by loquacious at 5:49 AM on June 15 [1 favorite]


It’s chain, to be certain, but I was told a number of times that back in the days before Domino’s delivered sauce in bags of concentrate, it used to come in giant cans, and back then the sauce was the most expensive part of the pizza.

Now that it’s concentrate, apparently it’s the cheapest part (and the cheese is the most expensive ingredient now). I guess a large part of the price was just related to shipping density, or something? Who knows.

Also we lived in Chicagoland for a year (Naperville) and it still bugs me that not only is the norm to go full-on pizza anarchy with a grid on a circle, but that it’s referred to as “party cut.”
posted by DoctorFedora at 6:42 AM on June 15 [2 favorites]


How much “oregano” are they putting in that sauce?
posted by snofoam at 10:40 AM on June 15


1 dime bag per pizza
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 11:16 AM on June 15 [2 favorites]


It’s called “tavern style” because you have to be hitting the sauce pretty hard for cutting pizza into squares to seem like a good idea
posted by invitapriore at 2:46 PM on June 15 [4 favorites]


Since my wife was diagnosed with celiac disease a year and a half ago, I have had one real pizza and a number of sad, nasty pizzas with crusts made from everything except wheat (e.g., rice flour, cauliflower (!), etc.). You people that are concerned with how pizza should be cut are definitely having First Pizza World problems.

In a perfect world, there would be sufficient information in the article so several MFers could open their own Chicagoland pizza joints to try replicating the results. In fact, I think they should do that and get back to us in a year.
posted by Gilgamesh's Chauffeur at 5:35 PM on June 15 [2 favorites]


I favorited the members who pointed out that labour cost goes beyond what you pay your employees, biut nevertheless: 12 dollars per hour is not acceptable.
posted by Dumsnill at 2:46 AM on June 16 [2 favorites]


I was fine with that article until I read

There are tactile pleasures in folding its triangular slices up as a stream of orange oil drips down your inside forearm.

Uh, sorry, hell no. That orange oil is from bad sauce and crappy cheese. No decent pizza will have it.
posted by Splunge at 12:12 PM on June 16


Not always. You also get orange oil from glorious amounts of various types of sausage.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 2:25 PM on June 16 [1 favorite]


You also get orange oil from glorious amounts of various types of sausage.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson


Okay, granted. But I do not believe that is what was under discussion.
posted by Splunge at 4:33 PM on June 16


My homemade pizza can lead to orange oil :( :( :(

but it's from the butter I put into my sauce, rendering out but filled with tomato redness
posted by DoctorFedora at 7:27 PM on June 16


Orange oil from sausage is where I'm a viking!

Seriously, though, the orangeness in the oil is usually down to there being a good healthy amount of paprika in any Italian sausage that's worthy of the name. Pepperoni, another key ingredient of good pizza, also contains significant amounts of paprika, and also makes orange grease. Your average pizza sauce, as long as it's not an entirely flavorless mass of unseasoned tomato pulp, with has a decent amount of oil (those seven cans of tomatoes and the 85g of garlic don't just make a sauce. You get a decent several glugs of olive oil from a restaurant size can of olive oil to get enough oil into the pot to saute the garlic, after all). That oil, though blended into the sauce as much as possible, it's there, and it's going to be reddish, and that cheese, definitely it's going to break down a bit under high heat, and its clearish oil leavings are going to mix with that sauce oil, and the sausage oil, and the pepperoni oil, and that's why the bottom of your paper plate is translucently orange.

The orange grease from tacos, though, totally different animal.

Why yes, I am killing time until I can leave work, why do you ask?
posted by Ghidorah at 10:55 PM on June 16 [5 favorites]


paprika is the bane of my existence

chili flake too

my wife (italian! works in the industry!) is allergic to capsicum and chefs reach for paprika and flake like salt these days. if it's not for finishing, it's in the dish. if not in the dish, it's in the poaching liquid / marinade / brine / whatever.

grrrrrrr
posted by lazaruslong at 5:37 AM on June 17


I feel like some folks on this thread might really enjoy (and/or hate) this absurdly long taped meeting from Bon Appetit on What Makes a Perfect Pizza?*

*This may not be entertaining at all if you're not already a bon-appetit-on-youtube superfan, idk
posted by mosst at 8:42 AM on June 17 [1 favorite]


It’s called “tavern style” because you have to be hitting the sauce pretty hard for cutting pizza into squares to seem like a good idea

I always draw the line here too.
posted by aspersioncast at 8:59 PM on June 17


If you're going with squares, might as well make them small checkerboard squares and call them "pizza bites"
posted by ctmf at 1:06 PM on June 18 [1 favorite]


Suddenly I'm really into the idea of little square pizza bites! Put a toothpick in each one! Hors d'oeuvres à taverne!
posted by moonmilk at 1:53 PM on June 18 [1 favorite]


Tavern cut is used on crusts that are crispier and crackery-er than the typical New York-style crust.

And it’s friggin’ delicious. Corner piece, FTMFW!
posted by Big Al 8000 at 8:26 PM on June 18 [1 favorite]


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