Pizza Expo Podcast Episode 14 - Alan White

October 13, 2021

Pizza Expo Podcast Episode 14 - Alan White

[00:00:00.000] - Rev and Eric

Hi, we're here at the Pizza Expo. This is Alan White from Sofia's Pizzeria in San Antonio, Texas. Buddy, how are you?


[00:00:05.580] - Alan

I am doing great. Different show this year but good turn out.


[00:00:10.300] - Rev and Eric

How many expos have you been to?


[00:00:12.020] - Alan

This is number six


[00:00:13.520] - Rev and Eric

Six. Obviously, other than masks and attendance numbers, what's different this year?


[00:00:18.100] - Alan

The biggest thing I've noticed is plant based booths. I don't know why, but, I mean, I know it's trending, but I guess I just haven't gotten into that market, yet.


[00:00:32.650] - Rev and Eric

So nothing plant based in your shop, yet?


[00:00:35.060] - Alan



[00:00:35.060] - Rev and Eric

Do you think people would care?


[00:00:38.150] - Alan

I don't know, you know. We were just over there with the guys from Fontanini. I told him I've never had a customer ask about it, but he pointed out that we've never advertised it either. So, you know, it's a good point. I mean, I don't know. I know Austin is up the street from us and it's, Austin's a different demographic, and it's trending very big up there. And there's a big marketing push in that area, so I don't know if it's something it would fly in our area.


[00:01:10.700] - Alan

You never know until you try sometimes.


[00:01:12.340] - Rev and Eric

Well, I know you, most other people that are listening, watching this don't, but I know that you have a system where if you wanted to do that, you would know how to market it.


[00:01:19.900] - Alan



[00:01:19.900] - Rev and Eric

You would have that figured out.


[00:01:22.160] - Alan

Yes, I would.


[00:01:22.810] - Rev and Eric

Is it something you are going to consider? Are you going to look into it? Maybe a plant based pepperoni or something?


[00:01:27.180] - Alan

One of the things we do is our email marketing, and we usually do, like, a pizza of the month or something of the month, pepperoni roll or whatever you want to call it. And it it's something that I could try and put out there.


[00:01:41.940] - Rev and Eric

Yeah, do an LTO on it and see what happens.


[00:01:43.400] - Alan

Because when you work with the brokers, I mean, to be honest with you, if I try it, they're going to bring me a 25 pound case or 10 pound or however it's sold. And here. So I'm not really losing out of it. I might pick up a demographic that I didn't know about. You know, so it's something that's definitely worth considering and worth trying.


[00:02:04.520] - Rev and Eric

The average LTO is worth an 18-20% lift in your business. I know all the stats.


[00:02:10.960] - Rev and Eric

I know you do. Well, we're here in the Marqii booth, and I know he does a lot of social media stuff with you, right? I mean is this stuff for him that you manage as far as like what Marqii does or is he a customer of Marqii?


[00:02:22.410] - Alan

I'm a customer of Marqii, also.


[00:02:24.300] - Rev and Eric

Awesome. Yeah. It's so important. So, when you looked at his business, when you guys started talking, did you see discrepancies where phone numbers weren't right? Things weren't right?


[00:02:33.370] - Rev and Eric

Well, he was using, so there are a number of other companies that do what Marqii does. And he was using one of the other ones, and I was able to find where it wasn't working.


[00:02:42.990] - Rev and Eric



[00:02:43.160] - Alan

And Alan was like well, I'm paying for this. I want a thing that works. I was like, I know another company that works.


[00:02:48.600] - Rev and Eric

We were talking earlier about your staff at your store. You said you've got a good group and everyone else is having staffing issues. Are you feeling that at all or is it just you've got pretty lucky?


[00:03:00.100] - Alan

I've been pretty lucky. I think also, you know, we're known in our community for the, for the culture we have in the store. I mean, customers come in sometimes just to interact with us.


[00:03:14.590] - Rev and Eric



[00:03:14.920] - Alan

So I think that helps when we're, when we do need to look for employees in the community, they know, "hey, I like that place". You know, other than the food, they seem to always be having a good time.


[00:03:27.690] - Rev and Eric

How did you develop that culture? Like how, was that something like on purpose or is that just the way you treat people?


[00:03:33.720] - Alan

No, no, no, no, no. So at the beginning of the pandemic, how I met Rev was through Donald. Through Donald Burns. And when I started working with Donald, that was one of his big things other than processes in the restaurant and marketing, is "Hey, what's the culture in your store?" "What do you do for the, for your people?"


[00:03:57.080] - Alan

And that's what I really focused on a lot. I was really focused on our product, our service and the community. Our big thing is to be involved in our community, and we do that through a program called Pies for Kids that we have in the store. But it also, working with Donald, helped me realize that the culture in the store is very important and that's one of the big things for us.


[00:04:21.160] - Rev and Eric

That's awesome. How did you do during covid? Did you adapt and do a lot more carry out, curb side, delivery? What did you do?


[00:04:27.140] - Alan

I think we were pretty well set up for covid because we already had delivery and carry out in place, although we had a small dining area also, but it's just covid just helped that explode for us, to be honest with you, without being arrogant, we did really, really good during COVID, and you know we had to add a second oven to the store. And it's been very good for us.


[00:04:56.920] - Rev and Eric

What I think is more fun story than what happened to Alan's business in covid is what happened to Alan's business during the brown out, when San Antonio lost power.


[00:05:08.830] - Alan

Yeah, so when San Antonio lost power...


[00:05:10.240] - Rev and Eric

Gas oven?


[00:05:16.860] - Alan

Gas oven.


[00:05:16.860] - Rev and Eric

Cha ching, cha ching, cha ching.


[00:05:16.860] - Alan

So, gas oven and when the power was out in our store, which was only half of a day, we were still taking orders and cooking in the dark, you know semi dark.


[00:05:27.130] - Rev and Eric

Cooking by candlelight


[00:05:28.360] - Alan

And writing people's credit card numbers down and running them later.


[00:05:31.770] - Rev and Eric



[00:05:32.080] - Alan

And they didn't have a problem with it. But when the other Dominos and other chain started running out of food and closing, our vendor wasn't delivering. But we put new tires on my wife's car and I was running back and forth to the distributor in the snow and we stayed open. And we were, it was just crazy. We were the only restaurant open in the community, and it was just, it was crazy. Three hour wait for pizza. You know, but you know I had a team meeting. And and one of the questions somebody asked me something during the team meeting and I asked my team you know, "Why do you think we're open right now?"


[00:06:15.960] - Alan

And the first answer was so you can make more money. I was like, no, that's not the right answer. That the last thing we're open. We're open for the community because they have, they can't cook at home. Water was off for a while, too. A lot of people have electric appliances at home. I said they're coming here getting food from us because they can't cook at home.


[00:06:39.480] - Rev and Eric



[00:06:39.790] - Alan

The grocery stores are out of all sorts of stuff. That's why, that's why we're open, it has nothing to do with the dollar at that point.


[00:06:47.730] - Rev and Eric

I think sometimes the most powerful thing you can do in your community is for them to realize and know that you're locally owned and you're community involved. You do those two things and people get it. I think it just takes your restaurant to another level.


[00:06:59.560] - Alan

Yeah, the support you get from it, you know is just is tremendous. And it also helps when you do have that one little hiccup on a night and maybe their pizza was overcooked. You know, they're not so quick to drop you...


[00:07:14.900] - Rev and Eric

They're forgiving


[00:07:17.430] - Alan

Because of what we do in the community. So it helps out in many, many ways.


[00:07:20.400] - Rev and Eric

I wanted to ask you this because you said this is your 6th Pizza Expo. And maybe over what, the course of, like, eight, nine years, something like that?


[00:07:26.730] - Alan

Yeah about that, yeah.


[00:07:27.590] - Rev and Eric

What's changed from Expo One to Expo Six?


[00:07:30.770] - Alan

Technology for one.


[00:07:32.310] - Rev and Eric



[00:07:33.590] - Alan

Technology. Like I said, six years ago, eight years ago, there was no plant based items. So maybe some of the different options, but a lot of the big distributors, the big food manufacturers are still here. They just have newer items. But I would say the two biggest things are technology and things that are new to the market, like plant based foods.


[00:08:01.600] - Rev and Eric

So what do you do to get better personally, like to manage? Are you a reader? Are you, do you study stuff? To just be a better owner or what do you do for that personally?


[00:08:10.480] - Alan

So I have a personal coach also. And I do a lot of John Maxwell leadership, podcasts and and books and things of that nature. And take that one step further. Matter of fact, I'm having one this Saturday where we have personal development meetings or seminars, I guess within the store. They're strictly voluntary for the employees if they want to come. But they've learned that it helps them out. So I get a pretty big turnout for it with the employees and we'll cover something that I learned in one of the podcasts or something that I learned from somewhere because a lot of them are younger kids.


[00:09:02.460] - Alan

A few months ago, I had a financial advisor that's a friend of mine come in and talk to them about the importance of their credit score.


[00:09:11.020] - Rev and Eric



[00:09:14.280] - Alan

And uh, you know, building a retirement plan now. So things like that. And I think that is huge for the employees and they see that.


[00:09:21.480] - Rev and Eric

Well that right there explains to me a lot about culture because nobody's doing that.


[00:09:25.650] - Rev and Eric

I was like, "where were you when I was sixteen?"


[00:09:27.330] - Rev and Eric

No, that's awesome. I love hearing that. I think it's, like I said nobody's doing that.


[00:09:32.050] - Alan

Well, I look at it like, when I was 16, 17, 18, 19 years old, my dad never told me anything about, "hey, watch your credit score". And, you know, it took me, of course I screwed it up. And it took me a long time to realize, "oh, this is important".  And now if you can do something for these kids or even some of the 30 year olds that work in my store, it's huge. And I'll just go on because of the culture because of working with Donald and you know, realizing I need to do stuff for my employees.


[00:10:09.490] - Alan

Back in April, I asked my management staff, which is three, what I could do for them. And it was, to them, it was health insurance. So, you know, I looked at it was like, oh, the cost. But in June, we started with health insurance for the three of them. But I told them we're going to start with it. All right. You're familiar with the story, but you all have to use it. So you're all going to get physicals. And I'll make this real short. Three weeks after his physical, not even three weeks, two weeks after his physical, my general manager underwent a triple heart bypass'


[00:10:49.100] - Rev and Eric

Because that was found out from the physical?


[00:10:51.000] - Alan



[00:10:51.420] - Rev and Eric



[00:10:51.900] - Alan

And he had a family vacation planned at Disney World. Doctors told him if you'd have gone to Disney World, you wouldn't be here.


[00:10:57.840] - Rev and Eric

I mean you legitimately saved somebody's life.


[00:11:00.050] - Rev and Eric



[00:11:00.330] - Alan

Yeah, you know, so it's just things that happen that make you appreciate...


[00:11:07.430] - Rev and Eric

This is for me, this is very sincere this could be the best conversation I have all week. Because I love that, you just don't see that stuff in restaurants. And I don't know how busy you are, I don't know if you're 2 million, 1 million, 500, I don't know what you do. But nobody's doing that stuff. I love it. And hats off to you, that's awesome.


[00:11:23.060] - Alan

And I think more operators need to realize that. And it helps with, I guarantee you it helps me with my recruiting because I don't have problems finding people because my people talk about what we do.


[00:11:37.060] - Rev and Eric

You're pouring into them, they're going to pour back into you. It's, I love it. That's awesome. It's good stuff. So, we don't want to keep you all day. I know you're a Perfect Crust customer.


[00:11:46.200] - Alan

Yes sir.


[00:11:46.660] - Rev and Eric

Thank you for that. We appreciate that. I know he appreciates you, talks about you all the time, but like I said I already know this is my best conversation. I got goosebumps by you talking about it because you just you can look around this Expo, and there's thousands and thousands of people here and they're not doing that. And that's why you don't have staffing issues. That's why you talked about the culture in your business. And it starts with you and you pouring into them. I love it. My hats off to you.


[00:12:13.300] - Alan

I appreciate it, I appreciate it. Thank you for everything you do for us as well.


[00:12:18.180] - Rev and Eric

You're very welcome. It's a pleasure.


[00:12:19.730] - Alan

Cool. Thanks, guys.


[00:12:20.960] - Rev and Eric

Thank you.