This is the fifth in a multi-part series that shows you step-by-step how to plan, start, and grow your pizzeria business

2013-market-research-trendsPizza is one of the most popular foods in the world, but that doesn’t mean your pizzeria will be successful. Nothing can guarantee success, but a healthy dose of critical market research can vastly increase your chances of achieving it. The following presents tips for researching the market so you can start a successful pizzeria.

Location, location, location

Location is everything. Too many would-be pizzeria operators believe their concept is so good, they’ll become a “destination restaurant.” That is to say, they believe customers will go well out of their way to patronize their establishments. In reality, the chances of that happening are slim-to-none; moreover, operating far from your customers will increase overhead – especially if you offer delivery.

Most pizzerias service an area within a two- to five-mile radius. Thus, your best bet is to open your pizzeria in a location that has a healthy market in your service area. Keep in mind if you’re located near a large lake, forest, or air field that part of your market is dead space and unserviceable.

In addition, it’s a good idea to conduct a traffic study, even informally, to see how much foot and vehicle traffic passes by any location you’re considering on any given day. Locations that have excellent traffic are better-positioned for success.

Who is your market?

Start by defining your customer demographics. Pizza is enjoyed by people of all ages, but some areas are likely to perform others predictably based on demographic data. Middle class neighborhoods, for example, might be more profitable than business districts; and locations near college housing are probably better than locations near senior housing.

There are plenty of websites you can use to research demographic data by location, including Alteryx, the SBA, ESRI, and Census.gov. These are just a few sites you can take advantage of to conduct market research.

Consider demographics such as age, population, lifestyle habits, and income to find a location that aligns with your concept and has enough people who share best-customer demographics to support your pizzeria.

Another great way to research your market is to develop focus groups – representative samplings of community members within your service area who can objectively answer questions that will help you improve your pizzeria and make informed business decisions.

Competitor research

Once you’ve created a short list of potential locations, be sure to scope out your competitors to see what they offer, what they charge, how they serve their customers, and to determine the health of their businesses.

If you want to compete, you need to offer something different and better. At the same time, if your competitors are doing well you can be certain they’re doing something right. Pay attention to details such as how much they charge for their menu items, what their wait times are, whether they offer delivery or carryout, and any delivery fees they charge.

Become a customer to your competitors so you can identify ways they could improve, then incorporate those ideas into your pizzeria. You can even “play dumb” by visiting your competitors to feel them out, ask them how business is doing, and generally monitor how they operate.

Finally, if you’re thinking about opening a pizzeria in an area in which other pizzerias seem to be failing or going out of business, you should probably reconsider. Unless your concept is so drastically unique or they were so terrible at business that you can easily identify what went wrong, chances are the outlook is grim and your pizzeria will suffer the same fate.

You have to know your market in order to serve it, so take your time to fairly evaluate any location with a critical eye. Figure out what challenges you face and reasons why it will fail. The pessimistic you are at this phase, the greater the chances you’ll find the perfect location that will help propel your pizzeria to success.