The little Boston suburb we live in has about 11,000 residents. That’s pretty average by Massachusetts standards–in fact, it’s right about the mean for population of cities and towns in this state–although that also includes the tiny rural communities in the central and western parts of the state. For the area around Boston, we’re pretty small and easily overlooked. Yet for such a small town, we have a glut of pizza shops. It’s mind boggling.
According to a 2011 pizza industry report, Massachusetts is the state with the highest per capita number of pizza shops in the nation at 3.4 shops per 10,000 people. And how many does our small town of 11,000 have? Six. Yes, six. Nearly twice the per capita of the state with the highest per capita in the US.
We also have two Dunkin Donuts (within about a quarter-mile of each other), two breakfast/lunch places, a dive Chinese restaurant of the sort that seems to make most of its money from its bar, a sit-down family-style, sports-bar-ish restaurant, and a Burger King. And six pizza shops.
It’s not like our town can actually sustain six of them. Just as we moved into town almost 4 years ago, the local Domino’s (seven!) closed its doors. In the past year, two of the six have closed and changed hands. In the past four years, at least one other place has closed and re-opened under new management as well. (This one has become our favorite because their hot wings are great and we can order through their website, a convenience not to be underestimated when dealing with four hungry, hyper kids at 5pm. Phone calls are to be avoided at this time.)
The closest pizza place to us, about a quarter-mile away, closed about a year ago, I think, and several months ago, we saw work begin on the renovations of the closed store. What is it going to be, we asked ourselves, and we half-jokingly guessed at an authentic Mexican taco stand, a small sushi bar, a cute Indian cafe.
No, we got another pizza place. And I’m not confident this one’s going to be around that long.
For one thing, they don’t do delivery. In this day and age, if you sell pizza, you have to deliver, especially if your restaurant has no parking to speak of, as this one doesn’t. Even the venerable Italian grandma’s place downtown that sells pizza but tried to remain a classic, red-sauce Italian restaurant has started delivering.
The second strike against the new place is that they’ve done zero marketing. Keep in mind that in our area, when a new restaurant that does delivery opens up within a four-town radius of us, we get their menu in the mail right away. The new pizza place has been open for a couple of months now and we’ve received nothing. I’ve gone online to search for their website. Nothing. (Construction of the restaurant took months, perhaps six or more. At one point, I thought they’d given up. That should be plenty of time to come up with some kind of website, never mind a marketing plan.)
In fact, the extent of their marketing appears to be a three-foot by two-foot signboard out front on the street with their three telephone numbers handwritten on them all cramped so that it’s impossible to read when driving by at the marked speed limit, never mind memorize for later use.
If you’re going to open a restaurant in this economy, you have to have a rock-solid plan, a way to ensure that you’ll reach your customers. But then what should we expect from someone who opened another pizza shop in a town that has twice the per capita pizza shops of the entire state which leads the nation in per capita pizza shops in the same place another pizza shop failed just last year?
Oh well, maybe when this one closes someone will open a sushi place. Keep the hope alive.