You didn't know about these Italian craft beers

The American craft beer scene is booming, as you probably read in PMQ’s March issue in the article entitled Raising the Bar. In the midst of national brands losing popularity, some pizzerias are forfeiting all big-name brands on tap for local or craft brews because "people simply aren’t buying the big names anymore."  According to U.S. Pizza Team's Leah Scurto from Pizza My Heart, "The craft beer industry is so big right now, if you’re not in it, you’re losing out."

But America is not the only country undergoing a “brewvolution.” Italy’s own boom has been brewing for the past 20 years or so.   Italy is now estimated to have nearly 700 microbreweries scattered throughout the country, rich in the varieties one might find in the U.K., the U.S., Belgium or Germany with their own unique twist and self proclamations of "real Italian taste."   I discovered a few of these beers at the Pa.Bo.Gel Food Show in Rome and on the U.S. Pizza Team’s adventure to the World Pizza Championships in Parma.

Europe looks to America for beer

One of the most surprising things about Italian craft beer is that America has been a huge influence for Italy’s beer movement (as opposed to exclusively the traditional beer-maven countries such as Belgium or Germany).

Indian Pale Ales (IPAs or EE-buhs as they are pronounced in Italian) are coming to the forefront of Italian craft beer.  I spoke with microbrewer Marco Turbacci about the artisanal beer movement in Italy and how it began.  Turbacci is the Master Brewer at Turbacci Brewpub, a microbrewery and restaurant located above an ice skating rink just outside of Rome. 
Turbacci considers Rome the hub of craft beer and the birthplace of American-style IPAs in Italy. His signature Turbacci Quinn is a hoppy, blonde beer with a low amount of alcohol (4.8%) compared to many American IPAs.  The American brands Flying Dog and Dogfish Head along with the Scottish IPA Blue Dog were some of the first to become successful imported brands in Italy.

The first Italian-produced IPA can be traced back to Rome in 2000 with an American brewer named Mike Murphy, says Turbacci.  Murphy came to live in Rome in 1999.  There he began dating the manager of a Roman pub where he dearly missed his hoppy American beer. Soon he began brewing in the bar, producing the first IPA in Italy which he appropriately named “Pioneer.“ Murphy has since been a source of inspiration for other micro brewers looking to replicate American tastes in Italy.

How does it taste?

At Pa.Bo.Gel I was able to taste a few of the Italian craft beers which were making it in Italy. Brooklyn Lager and Sam Adams were the two American beers making their debut in Italy, on a side note.

Belgian style blonde - So Sweet

High alcohol content, sweet to the taste. This beer is heavy but light in color and deceivingly sweet.

Black IPA - Humulus Black Stoner

This beer was a dark hoppy beer, with hints of amber caramelization.

I had the U.S. Pizza Team try a couple of beers on their first day of arriving in Italy. The beers that had a lot of hops were immediately signaled out as having an American taste similar to a Sam Adams.

Of course they were all delicious. 

The second beer pictured above, the Special Bergomotto was a  favorite of the U.S. Pizza Team. This one has some hops but its most distinctive taste is the coriander and bergomotto, a citrus fruit similar to lemon and lime grown in Southern Italy.

Limitations to Italian Beer

Naturally when I discovered Italian craft beer my first thought was, “how can we get this in America.” Marco Turbacci explained to me some of the complications and limitations of exporting Italian craft brews to the U.S.

* The movement has been brewing for nearly 2 decades, but still only 2% of beer sold in Italy is craft beer.

* Unlike the big national beer brands, craft beers must pay tax on all the beer they MAKE not all the beer they SELL.  Microbreweries are still lacking proper laws and administration. 

* Microbreweries in Italy also have much less capacity. They are able to produce about 13,500 liters per year maximum, whereas the American microbreweries can produce up to 1,800,000 liters per year and still bear the title "microbrewery." That makes the average Italian microbrewery more than 100 times smaller than its American counterpart.

* Competition. American beer is so plentiful, varied and conveniently local that he finds Italian beer would have a hard time taking off in the USA. 

American Gastronomy is Entertaining 

Beer isn't the only thing Italians admire about American cuisine.  At this trendy gastropub in Rome called Funny Burger, diners can order a burger big enough for 6 people, cut into slices like big meaty pieces of cake along with their craft beer.  This burger was, by the way, fantastic.  

Italy strays from pizza tradition in Rome, Florence

On a recent visit to Rome and Florence, some curious-looking pizzas caught my attention.

Now, having been going to Italy once a year for the past 10 years or so, I was convinced Italy was the only place left on earth to defend the true goodness of a simple Margherita pizza.  In fact, while American fast casuals are striving to bring pizza back to its Neapolitan roots with chains like Live Basil, Cucinova, Project Pie, Italy seems to be breaking its own frontier into more innovative toppings and varying dough recipes.  Make room, traditional pizza.


While in Rome I had the honor of serving as a pizza judge for Pizza & Core magazine's Pizza Talent Show, a unique blend of pizza and performance talent at the Pa.Bo.Gel food show.  My job was to taste 11 pizzas and judge them on a scale from 5-10.

The pizzas were amazing and always surprising.  Here are some photos of the most interesting innovations in the Italian pizza world.

Purple potatoes, cod and wild asparagus pizza was simply one of the best pizzas in the competition.  The pizzaiolo behind it, Giuseppe Cravero comes from Vetralla, a city north of Rome, and writes poetry along with perfecting his pizza making skills.

He explained that these purple potatoes were a hybrid between eggplant and white potatoes.  Also he spent two days soaking the cod and dumping it's water out to minimize the saltiness.  This pizza was 1 of 3 to take home first place on day 2 of the Pizza Talent Show.

Bresaola, strawberries, Parmesan, saffron and red-flower/ricotta infused foam pizza.

This pie was truly a work of art with a unique display, on a two step glass stand, complete with meticulous fruit garnishes.

The dough was a change from the traditional 00 Neapolitan flour.  It was a whole wheat crust with flax seeds which gave a beautiful aroma to the dough.

I didn't favor the combination of flavors and textures, but innovative nevertheless.

This is a dessert pizza by Giovanni Giorgio.  The crust is made with a 00 flour, mixed with cocoa powder.  The base is baked in the oven then topped with a light custard before adding the fruit.

This pizza was in my top 3 favorite but the other judges scored it lower, partially because a dessert pizza "doesn't count" as real pizza.  Adding cocoa to the crust was definitely a winner, it made the dough taste more like a crusty pancake.

Adding the chocolate to the dough was a smart move because when it's melted on top, it tends to make it feel heavy.  This was kept sweet and light, just what you want after a day of eating pizzas.

Michele Digiglio presents his pizza calzone hybrid which is a traditional Margherita in the center and as non-traditional as you can get on the outside.

Each pocket it filled with a different flavored, spicy cream.  Salmon cream, asparagus cream, truffle cream, pumpkin cream, etc.

This is a pizza they offer in his pizzeria, Peperon, only during the week since during the busiest nights it's too time-consuming to prepare.

Multiple-time world pizza champion and member of the U.S. Pizza Team International Massimo Bruni prepares a pizza dough that has been mixed with vegetable charcoal.  What's that you ask?  It's a remedy found in Italian pharmacies to aid digestion.

This competition was a different one from the Pizza Talent Show where the photos above come from.  This one was the City of Rome Trophy, also at Pa.Bo.Gel, held by the the Association of Italian Pizzerias (API).  API is an organization which focuses on pizza making education, primarily for learning how to create the most digestible pizza dough possible.

Bruni's grey, charcoal laden dough is an attempt at making his already digestible pizza even more digestible.  He says with his dough, you can drink 2 beers instead of 1 and not feel bloated.


I spent a few days in Florence before going to visit pizza competitions at the Pa.Bo.Gel food show in Rome.  In Florence I spotted a pizza with french fries and sausage.

This pizza was on display in a small café near Florence's Duomo.  The area was exceptionally touristy, so it might have just been a pull for tourists.

The waitress gave me a big smile when I ordered it.  I'm probably not the first American who thought, "wow! french fries on a pizza! I've got to try that!"

All and all, I wouldn't really recommend it though the crumbled sausage was really tasty.

Perhaps due to tourism, perhaps due to its many pizza competitions, Italy is undergoing a pizza renaissance where pizza makers are boldly experimenting with new flavors, new forms and new ways to present their beloved food.

Can you use your employees to authenticate your brand like Pizza Rustica does in Paris?

Pizza Rustica, the trending fast casual chain made its debut in Paris five years ago with a never-before seen marketing tactic - relying heavily on their employees to build authenticity to their brand and a lively ambiance to their stores.

If you're not familiar with Pizza Rustica, it's a Miami-based chain which focuses on high-quality ingredients and both Neapolitan and Roman pizza served up by the slice.  The kitchen is placed right behind the display counter so the employees have multiple roles. They greet customers from behind the counter where they also prepare the food and check customers out.  They are the center of the store and the face of the brand.

Walking through downtown Paris I recognized their familiar colorful red tomato logo from the States.  I had read a few months back that Pizza Rustica was expanding to Mexico and here they were in Paris all along!  I had been meaning to try them out so I stopped in for a slice.  But when I entered, something unusual happened.  The whole staff behind the counter was speaking Italian.  I was greeted in italian and asked what I'd like to eat in Italian at the register!  "Ok, so this is not the American chain," I thought.

Completely caught off guard, I managed to respond in some uncouth Italian and place my order.  Behind the display counter, the fully Italian staff bantered with each other in their native language, "eehhh! Cosa fai??" and more.  The care-free atmosphere made it feel a lot like Italy right in the middle of Paris.  Not to mention this pizza had the Italian stamp of approval from their authentic employees.  I walked away that day thinking this Pizza Rustica was something far off from the American version.

I fell in love with their Roman-style pizza by the slice and went back a few weeks later.  Different staff were working this time but they were again all Italian, all with big personalities, welcoming customers in Italian and joking with them at the register.  This time the grey-haired, male cashier was articulating loudly "cin-que mil eu-ro!, cinque. mil. euro." (5,000 euros) to a customer who had just ordered in Spanish.  The young girl grinned and pulled out a pink 10 euro bill to pay for her meal, amused at his joke.

"100% Italiano" is the slogan of Pizza Rustica in Paris.  Boy, do they have it down.  Their wines are Italian, their ingredients are Italian and their staff is Italian.  So how was this an American pizza chain?  I spoke with the general manager Piero Pepe to find out.

Q: Is this the same Pizza Rustica from the U.S.?  It seems very Italian!

A: Pizza Rustica was founded by Pino Piroso, an Italian who lives in America.  The chain began in Miami with origins in traditional Roman pizza.  There are now 13 in the States, 5 of which are in Miami.  We've expanded to Europe now and have 3 locations in Paris.

Q: Are all your staff in Paris Italian?

A: Yes, they are.  Our slogan is 100% Italian, we try to live up to that promise with our staff as well.  Customers trust our brand more when they see that Italians are working behind the counter.

Q: Are they all Italian in the American chain?

A: No.  Some, but it's more difficult.  In France we are close to Italy and there are many more Italians here.

Q: Do you ask your staff specifically to speak Italian to the customers.

A: Yes, we tell them to interact with the customers in Italian.  The customers love it! (on a side note, all employees have name tags which indicate which other languages they speak so that customers can easily switch to whichever language they choose.)

Q: Have you had any complaints from people who say you ought to speak French while in France?

A:  Not at all.  French people love Italian culture and Italian cuisine.  Some tell me they come to the store just to hear Italian being spoken.

Q:  The concept is well received?

A:  Absolutely, our stores in Paris have been a great success.

I have often said in previous blogs that the menu is often overlooked as a tool for marketing.  Employees are no different.  They are the face of your store and your brand.  In the case of Pizza Rustica, you can see that they have tapped into the psychology of the customer which searches for, not only Italian food, but an entire Italian experience where language and culture are infused into the customer's experience.

I would be curious to know who makes "being entertaining" part of their restaurant's job description.  Employees are often asked to be polite, to smile, to listen to the customer, but what about to make them laugh?

To the left are two members of the Pizza Rustica famiglia.  Left is Claudia from Sicily and on the right we have Valerio from Naples, advocates for Pizza Rustica's Italian nature.  

6 ways to market to Hispanic customers

Race and ethnicity are difficult issues to approach in America.  But if you're going to market effectively, you must follow the basic first step in creating a campaign, know thy customer. 

Hispanics are more likely to choose pizza when they go out for fast food as compared to the general market, according to Chris Miller, exec VP at Sandleman (via Ad Age).  Making up 17% of the American population, Hispanics comprise a large demographic in the American market with a unique and varying culture, identity and language.  Latin American countries have different histories, indigenous cultures, indigenous languages and identities.

In the U.S., the Hispanic demographic breaks down 64.6% are of Mexican origin, 16% from the Caribbean (Cuba, Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic), 8.3% from Central America (El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua) and the remaining 11.1% from various other Spanish-speaking countries according to the Pew Hispanic Center.  While this article refers to Hispanics in general terms, it is probably the most relevant for Mexican Americans who make up the majority of Hispanics in America.  I will use the word "Hispanic" in this article specifically referring to the demographic in the United States which encompasses all Latin American countries yet more heavily Mexican-origin based.

But it's not always easy to connect with the Hispanic population, especially in places were Latin natives have really only arrived in the past decade or so.  In my hometown of Oxford, MS there are a number of Mexican born families who arrived in the past 15 years and remain fairly isolated in their close-knit communities.  You might see them at church or at the Mexican grocery store but never in our downtown.  In fact, on the rare occasion that I did see a Mexican couple in a downtown restaurant, I over zealously introduced myself and immediately exclaimed in Spanish how I was so happy to see them out in the town center to which they looked displeased. Then they asked me if I was a Republican or a Democrat to which I was at a complete loss of words.  This couple was uneasy with America's political climate and needed to feel some kind of connection that didn't feel condescending such as "thank you for visiting a white part of town!!!"  As someone who has lived in Ecuador, Costa Rica, Spain and France, I know it can be difficult making friends with local people. I wanted them to feel welcome.  This was clearly not the right way to do it. 

So how can we make our pizza appeal to the Hispanic customer?  Latinos born outside of America and those born in the country are two slightly different demographics.  Those born in America are more likely to be on a quest for an affirmation of their cultural identity and more accepting of trendy advertising. Those who were born and raised outside of America are more likely to focus on nostalgia for their country they know from their childhood and family-oriented values.  This is probably true for any foreign national which comes to raise a family in America.  The children are raised between two identities while the parents grow accustomed to American life but will always recognize the land they grew up as their true home. 

This difference between foreign-raised and American-born Hispanics came out big time recently in a controversy over Pizza Patrón's latest marketing campaign which some media outlets such as Univision Radio and CBS radio refused to air calling it offensive.  The ad uses the word chingón (from the verb chingar) which, as I understand it, older people find offensive while the younger generation not at all.  It could perhaps be best translated as "badass" but has layers of multiple meanings ranging from a threat to a compliment.  The dictionary definition of chingar places it as Mexican slang which is "said about one who is competent in a particular activity or know-how."  The shades of meaning are so peculiarly defined one can even purchase a chingonario on Amazon, an entire book dedicated to "the use, reuse and abuse of chingar."  Either way it's undeniably Mexican and a marketing tactic aimed at connecting with the Mexican American (aka La Raza as Pizza Patron calls them)'s identity.

In a Spanish-language interview on Telemundo, Edgar Padilla, corporate marketing manager from Pizza Patrón explains "the pizza is called la ch!ngona [bleeped out in the video] because it takes a daring person to eat it.  It's got nearly 90 slices of jalepeño encrusted pepperonis which makes it extremely spicy.

Once the campaign was rejected from various media and condemned by conservative Hispanics, Pizza Patrón took full advantage of the attention they received from the press.  Rather than making some kind of apology, Pizza Patrón raised the question to Spanish speakers all across America, "what does chingón mean?"  Here is one of a series of short interviews. The first man says, something is chingón when it appeals to you. A young lady says, chingón is "super."  The last frame shows a young girl proudly boasting that Mexicans are chingones!

The video series creates a way for customers to interact with the brand and think about their language and identity.  Very quickly Pizza Patrón equated censoring the Mexican slang word chingón with censoring being Mexican in general and asking their Facebook fans, "is it offensive to be Mexican?"

It seems like a stretch, jumping from censoring a controversial word to censoring Mexican-ness in general.  Nevertheless, it makes for fabulous internet memes always depicting something distinctly Mexican with the label "CENSORED"

Here we have a picture of the President eating tacos which connects viewers to both their American and Mexican identity with the caption reading, "CENSORED - for eating tacos in the street."

Pizza Patrón states on its websites that it doesn't just market to Hispanics but actively creates a brand that is meant for "la raza."  If you want to see the page in English you'll have to click on the button which is shunningly labeled "gringos."

What Mexicans say

I interviewed some friends, family member and by coincidence some Mexicans who I met randomly in a bar in Paris (and whom I freaked out less than the ones in Mississippi).  Hands down they agreed that using a word that's charged with Mexican identity would be an appealing way to get attention from the Hispanic community in America.  One interviewee said this campaign would be a success in the U.S. but definitely not work in Mexico itself, perhaps because in Mexico there is less of a need to "reclaim" your Mexican identity as with Mexican-Americans.

After speaking with my Mexican marketing informants, I created these 6 ways to connect with your Hispanic demographic.

1) Online ordering (works for any non-English speaker)
Isn't it awful when a non-native English speaker calls up and both him/her and your employee are struggling to understand each other?  Or what about when you're called by a very young child whose parents have come to rely on them for translation?  Online ordering can really minimize these issues.

As a native English speaker living in France, I can attest to the sheer horror of ordering a pizza over the phone in my non-native tongue.  It's complicated and frustrating which is why I am about 10 times more likely to order a pizza from a store where I can take my time browsing the menu and looking up words I don't know without the painful miscommunications.  There are many companies out there who set up independents with online ordering now for a small fee or fraction of the sales.  Some of them won't even charge you until you make an online sale.

2) Wholesome values 
Mexican and many other Latin American cultures structure their lives around their family, a good honest living and God.  Domino's took that core principal of hard work and the American dream and made it into a commercial entirely in Spanish.  The commercial shows a real Latin American born franchisee Mauricio Arroyave and how he moved up to the top ranks with Domino's.  Domino's boasts that 90% of their franchisees began as delivery drivers or pizza makers, making it accessible for anyone to become their next success story.

3) Aztec pride (specifically for the Mexican/Mexican-American consumer)
My cousin who is half Mexican and lives in the California Bay Area suggests appealing to Mexican Americans' interest in their ancient cultural identity.  She says, "Mexicans have too much Aztec pride!" She herself has a enormous tattoo which pays homage to the Aztec culture.  For example, a Pizza Azteca on your menu could be more attention grabbing than a Pizza Mexicana.  A Pizza Azteca could use ingredients that are native to North America like corn, chilies, potatoes, tomatoes or... chocolate?  Alternatively, you could just put whatever you would put on a Pizza Mexicana and call it Azteca.

4) Price point
According to research from Sandleman & Associates, Little Caesar's was found to be the most favored chain by Hispanics which they believe is due to Little Caesar's very competitive pricing (via Ad Age).  Pizza Patrón, whose main customer base is Hispanics, emphasizes price point too in their slogan, Más pizza. Menos dinero. (More pizza. Less money).

5) Real ingredients from Mexico... or whatever other country is most relevant. 
One interviewee, Juan Hermosillo, who owns a pizza shop in Mexico (but spent most of his life in California) says that he would never use the word "chingón" to market his pizzeria.  His perception was that a pizza chingona sounds like it focuses on the quantity over quality.  Instead, he would use authentic Mexican ingredients.  Some examples are cactus, chorizo and chile peppers.

If the concentration of Hispanics in your area is not of Mexican-descent, let's say they are from cuba, then you may incorporate some of their traditional foods such as pork and any kind of tropical fruits.  Pizza with plantains?  Could be good.  These unique ingredients would likewise be a pull for your non-Hispanic customers.

These girls won a school contest for their "most latina pizza in Los Angeles" which was topped with a spicy bean sauce, barbecue chicken and a cilantro-spiked fruit cocktail.

6) Incorporate Spanish words
You don't have to go all out and spend a fortune translating everything in your store.  Just a few Spanish words incorporated into your advertising or literature will catch the attention of Hispanics in the U.S.  I took these photos in the South, one in Mississippi and one in Alabama.

Coca-Cola did an excellent job of subtly sneaking in some Spanish words as kind of a wink to their Spanish speaking demographic without imposing the Spanish language on their native English speaking customers.

5 things every employee should know how to do

"The only thing worse than training employees and losing them is to not train them and keep them"

I love this quote by Zig Ziglar because it's so true and quite easily forgotten.  Employees are the ambassadors to your brand who greatly help determine what kind of experience your customer will have and how big their order ticket will be. 

We often put our focus on marketing that gets customers in the door or makes our brand known.  It’s easy to forget that marketing practices should continue in-store to promote the most profitable menu items, encourage upselling and facilitate positive customer service experiences which will lead to greater loyalty. 

Erika Silva Aguilera, founder of identifies forming a strong team as the #1 way to increase your sales.  With the right knowledge, your employees can be your greatest ally in upselling and pleasing your customers.  

Here are the top 5 things your employees must know how to do.  

1) Upsell like a natural 

Upselling is an effective way to increase ticket size when it’s done in the right way.  Customers don’t want to feel pressured into buying anything.  Train your servers to be intuitive about when to approach a table and to upsell when it would be natural to add on a appetizer, side, beverage or dessert. 

The power of suggestion is strong.  Make sure your employees know it's not their goal to convince the customer.  Your customers are there to have a nice experience, not to be sold at every turn.  That being said, there are ways to deal with customers who are indecisive as you’ll see in the next tip.   

Here is a classic scene from Office Space for ineffective upselling.  Notice the server interrupts the customers, doesn’t sense that it’s an appropriate time to upsell and suggests 3 appetizers all at once, not effectively helping the customer decide.  

2) Help your customers decide 

If a customer is spending a long time looking and the menu or if they seem to be having a hard time deciding what to order, have your employees offer them suggestions.  Again, knowing which items bring in the most profit (not necessarily the most expensive), will give your employees a guideline for what they should suggest first to the customer.  If the customer turns down the more profitable items, the employee should be trained to guide the customer to a selection based on what kind of tastes, temperatures they are looking for which requires that the employee be familiar with the menu.  

 3) Make it sound irresistible 

It’s not the same to say “would you like dessert tonight?” as it is to say, “tonight I recommend our 3 layer chocolate cake with warm dulce de leche sauce and homemade ice cream. It’s the house favorite.” 

Once the customer can imagine the flavors, textures and temperatures of the dessert it’s much more difficult for them to say no than it is to the abstract idea of a “dessert.”

If customers seem like they’ve had enough to eat but are intrigued, let your servers know they can offer to bring one dessert with several spoons to share. 

4) Know their pairings 

Servers rarely suggest a beer or wine to go with an order, yet alcoholic beverage sales are shown to be highly profitable items. Jim Sullivan, consultant and CEO of estimates alcoholic beverages bring in a 80% higher gross profit margin per serving than food items.  With the boom in craft beers and wine always having been a nice match with pizza, it’s a no brainer upsell item.

Your employees will have a hard time upselling your beer and wine if they don't know what they taste like and what pairs well with them.  Organizing a tasting night with food and beverages is a great way to make your employees experts on how to upsell your menu.  Your beverage distributor should be able to provide information on the characteristics and pairing info for the beer and wine to give you a information base. 

5) Know food allergies/dietary restrictions 

Make your customers aware of the various kinds of food allergies, sensitivities and diets that exist along with which menu items meet those needs.  Your employees should know which menu items are suitable for vegan, vegetarian, paleo and gluten-free diets.  This will involve familiarizing them with your most basic ingredients.  Is there any dairy in your soup? Is a meat-based stock used to make veggies? Certain ingredients can be tricky, such as lactose which is sometimes used as a preservative in salamis.  According to the Mayo Clinic, 90% of adult food allergies are due to the follow 10 foods.

  • Milk
  • Eggs
  • Peanuts
  • Tree nuts (such as almonds, cashews, walnuts)
  • Fish (such as bass, cod, flounder)
  • Shellfish (such as crab, lobster, shrimp)
  • Soy
  • Wheat
You'll also have your sporadicly unusual allergies like those to garlic and onion.  The last thing you want is your customers getting sick. The second to last thing you want? Your customers thinking that no one working at your restaurant actually knows what ingredients go into the food. 

Before you begin

Determine your most profitable menu items.  Knowing which items bring in the most profit will help you multiple levels.  It can help you organize your menu to bring focus on certain items and help you determine which items need to be removed from the menu.  You won’t know which items to have your employees upsell if you don’t know which ones bring the most money back.  See Mike Rassmussen's article on how to control your true pie cost here. 

Spending time on your employees is spending time improving your brand.  With the right guidance, they will be able to upsell and completely accommodate your customer.  Employees should be able to help customers decide what to order, select a beverage pairing for their order and let them know which menu items are safe for them due to their diet or food allergies.  

Veg-ethics: Developed nations demand vegetarian/ethical meal choices

Veg-ethics is taking over industrialized nations by storm.

This year it has been declared a major food trend for 2014 in France, the UK and the good ole USA.  The term veg-ethics refers to the growing restaurant trend in developed nations to serve vegetarian and/or ethical menu items which are animal cruelty-free and contribute to environmental sustainability.

Veg-ethics is a translation of the original French, veg&thic which I first heard at a trends session at Paris' restaurant trade show Parizza this past February.  Veg-ethics was declared 1 of the 3 major restaurant trends in France along with food trucks
and selling takeaway food by the kilo.

By comparison, the National Restaurant Association (NRA) has pinpointed the top 3 trends for 2014 in the USA to all be linked to ethical practices focusing on local and sustainable food.  Furthermore, studies show that 70 percent of consumers are willing to pay more for local food, showing an allegiance to environmental sustainability and moral sense of community which goes beyond price point.

It's for real, ya'll.

Why are people going veg? 

Most people are not going completely vegetarian in fact.  Many are minimizing their meat intake rather than cutting it out completely. 

Health reasons, animal cruelty, and environmental sustainability are all factors which lead omnivores away from consuming meat.  These morals can be maintained with a flexitarian diet which is a mostly vegetarian diet that offers some grace meals in between.  Flexitarians may eat meat when they know and trust the source of the meat or avoid meat for a certain number of days of the week.  

Remy Lucas director of the restaurant marketing agency Cate Marketing in France explains that having vegetarian items on your menu is a must and it means much more than offering a simple green salad which is boring, cold and frankly quite sad.  Vegetarians want to be intrigued and surprised when they eat out just like your omnivore customers do.  Whether it be vegetarians or flexitarians, these consumers are looking for novel, delicious ways to meet their dietary needs.

Veg-ethical Ideas 

So how do you make a vegetable pizza interesting?  Vegetarians are all too familiar with the single vegetarian pizza on many pizzerias' menu, "the veggie." 

Let's take a look at India, country that consumes more pizza than any other quick service food - about half of which is vegetarian.  (See infographic on Indian foodtrends here.)   

If you go onto the main pizza chains' websites in India you'll find pizza divided into two sections, veg and non-veg.  Pizza Hut lists more specialty vegetarian pizzas than non-vegetarians, about 23 varieties altogether.  Some novel veggie toppings include paneer cheese, red and yellow peppers instead of just plain green, sweet corn, baby corn and hot green chilies.  In reality these specialty pizzas are not too different from one another, but arranging them in different ways with attractive names such as the Exotica from Pizza Hut help guests decide what to order and lets them know that you have vegetarians in mind. 

As you might have guessed, there is also an enormous amount of inspiration online for creative ways to do up your pizza vegetarian and vegan-style. One of my favorite groups on Google + is called Vegan. Pizza. Period.  In this vegan pizza Google community you will find, well, exactly what you might expect. 

Eating Your Locals 

For your meat options, think ethical.  Look for local products in your area.  I found this interactive map online which locates local farmers near you.  Your customers will feel a sense of pride when they eat animals that grew up right around the corner, particularly if they have been raised in a special way (e.g. cage-free, grass-fed etc.)

Smoking meat or preparing sausage in house is another way to demonstrate to your customers that you are sticking to your ethics.  Consumers are much more skeptical of processed foods than they used to be and making meat products in house will win you ethical brownie points.  Check out this back article by PMQ's Tracy Morin on how to create signature sausages in store.

If you got it, flaunt it!

Any time you can brag about your ingredients being local, organic, environmentally sustainable, all natural - DO IT.  The consumer will assume otherwise if you don't point it out to them.  Eating at your restaurant could go from a guilty pleasure to a sense of moral duty for your customers who will want to bring their friends in too.

This picture to the right was taken at a fast food vendor stand in Paris.  In general, the French make dishes vegetarian by heaping on huge amounts of cheese or egg which is indeed more vegetarian but not much more ethical considering at fast food places you cannot count on the cheese to be coming from free frolicking cows and the eggs were more likely than not from a factory farm.

Soup is a great vegetarian option to add on your menu as it's warm, easily vegan, easily gluten free and keeps well if you don't sell out in one night.  A minestrone with buckwheat noodles could be a cheap, delicious and "ethical" addition.

Lastly, I will leave you with this video on an app from McDonald's Australia which brilliantly tackles the problem of consumer mistrust in fastfood ingredients.  The app is called Track my Maccas (Maccas is evidently Australian for Mickey D's).  The app is nothing short of amazing.  It's able to scan your food from a QR code on the box of whatever you're eating and tell you which farm it came from.  The app will even introduce you to the farmer, fisher or rancher who produced it.  Check out how it works below.

Fainá: a simple, gluten-free pizza accompaniment from South America to your pizzeria

Fainá, a crunchy, thin bread made from chickpea flour is a hugely popular accompaniment to pizza in Uruguay and Argentina.  Fainá is served in slices alongside pizza and is made to be set on top of the pizza as a crunchy top layer.  That’s right - it’s a chickpea wafer served on top of pizza.  It’s a gluten-free, multicultural treat which is a simple up-sell item made from inexpensive ingredients - chickpea flour, water, oil and salt.  Would you like some fainá with that? 

I spoke with Irene, a pizza enthusiast and former colleague from Uruguay who lives in Oxford, MS, home of PMQ Pizza Magazine about the fainá she grew up with in Uruguay's capital Montevideo. 

“When I was growing up, I thought all Italian restaurants sold fainá,” says Irene. “It wasn’t until much later that I went abroad and realized this wan’t true.”  In fact the bread isn’t classically Italian nor Uruguayan, but from the city of Genova located in the Ligurian region in the North West of Italy. 

The dish came to Uruguay during the waves of Italian immigration that came to Argentina and Uruguay at the turn of the 20th century, populating much of the two Spanish-speaking countries with Italian people, cuisine and traditions.  

Irene points out that the Ligurian immigrants were proud of their local specialities such as fainá and reproduced them in the New World.  Fainá still exists in Liguria to this day as farinata.  It’s name in Genovese dialect, fainâ, suggests that it was implanted directly from Genova into the Southern Cone. 

In Uruguay, pizza is a food shared among a large family or group of friends.  It’s most commonly served as pizza a la pala, which is a very long pizza, about a yard or so, which is cut into many small slices for the group.  Below you see two Uruguayans making some fainá. Flipping not required, but it certainly looks cool.  Photo courtesy of Los Yoruguas de aqui y de alla

Pizza in Uruguay is kept simple usually to either just dough with tomato sauce (called a pizza) or dough, sauce and cheese (a muzzerella).  Getting your pizza a caballo, or “horse-backed,” means you want your pizza served up with that crispy chickpea bread, fainá. 

“It doesn’t really taste like anything,” says Irene.   It's more about the added texture.  “Uruguayans just add a dash of pepper on top.  In Argentina it’s not uncommon to add a variety of toppings treating it more like a focaccia bread."  Irene says that fainá reminds her of home and getting together with the people she loves.  When friends come from Uruguay she frequently requests a package of fainá mix that she can make in her conventional oven.  

The times that Irene has had American guests over to try fainá they seemed to like it.  “All I know,” says Irene, “is that whenever I make it, it’s gone.”

A friend of Irene passed along this recipe for fainá.  Though fainá is best baked in a pizza oven, the recipe looks like it was made for a conventional oven.  I would just use whatever temperature your oven is normally set to for  your pizza and cut down the bake time.  It requires a large pan to be able to spread out the batter thinly.  Chickpea flour can be found in international or health food stores and the rest of the ingredients you will already have. 

  • 7 ounces of chickpea flour
  • 2.5 cups of water 
  • 3 tablespoons of oil 
  • Salt to taste


Place the flour and salt in a mixing bowl.  Mix while slowly incorporating the water and oil until you have a smooth, uniform mixture without any lumps. Let sit for 15 minutes (other recipes have a resting time from 1 to several hours). 

Oil a pan, preferably a round one and preheat the oven to 350 degrees. 

Put in the batter so that it's about 1/2 inch thick.  Cook for 30 to 50 minutes or until golden brown.  


If you're looking for a new way to surprise your customers and increase sales with exotic low-cost food items, you may be ready to give fainá a try as a temporary side to see how your customers react. 
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