It all started in 1992, when computers were a rarity and Tippex was a must for us all. The thought of our own Pizza shop was a mere wish sent out on the wind to all shooting stars as we sat one starry evening and discussed what we would do that others don’t, and how we would always strive to be the best. When we returned home filled with hope and enthusiasm, I sat hunched over the old fashioned heavy metal typewriter that had belonged to my father and between us we produced our first menu, surrounded by cookery books and scissors and glue to make the collage for the front cover!
We managed to locate our first shop and excitedly we began the refurbishment. Initially we wanted to have a predominantly eat-in clientele, so we had fresh flowers, candle sticks and lots of Monet pictures. Soon it became clear that as much as people liked to dine-in with us they were just as keen to have us deliver our restaurant quality food to their homes, as well as call in to us on their way home from work. Also they were keen to take advantage of what was then a ground breaking offer of Buy one get one free for collection orders.
This became a logistical nightmare with what was in effect three highly successful businesses running from one premise with just two Managers. There were collection customers waiting and eating out of cardboard boxes at the restaurant tables and a continual juggling for the pizza makers to know whose pizza to make first?
It became obvious to us that to maintain this success we had to make a decision as to which direction to take the focus of our business. Whilst no complaints had been made by our customers we knew deep down that we were occasionally slipping and not giving our customers the 100% service that they had become used to. We had long discussions and eventually formalized a plan that would shape the Village Pizza as we know it to today.
We refurbished again! this time to turn Village Pizza into a typical Take-Away but still with some of the original touches, such as tables for people to sit and eat if they wanted to, but no waitress service. This enabled us to concentrate on the customers’ needs a lot more.
Constantly striving for improved service we put ourselves in the customer’s shoes, and use this to set our aims by their needs, after all the customer is the most important part of our business. We want Village Pizza to give everyone an experience of great food, excellent customer service and complete understanding of all the varied needs of all ideas, cultures, religions and nationalities. If we have it, we will make it, and if we don’t we will do our best to source it, as we often do!
To us a pizza is not just a round circle of bread with sauce and cheese; it is a constantly evolving creation. The dough is hand made using the freshest and the best quality ingredients. We change our recipe to adapt to seasonal changes in the weather, as air flow and outdoor temperatures have a detrimental effect on the activity within the yeast that we use.
It would make for a very simple life for us to include additives and preservatives and take minimum risk with our dough bases by buying ready made chilled or frozen varieties, but pizzas are what we make the best so let’s, taste, trial and be daring and create the best fresh product available on the market today.
Freshness and Quality, Specialty and Individuality is the motto that we started this business with 20 years ago and at no time in the future is that motto going to change! So next time when you see the wind is blowing or the snow falling – please think of all of us Village Pizza Chefs out there in the elements, adapting and perfecting the pizza recipe to ensure that, that night’s pizza is as great as any other!
We source fresh vegetables direct from the London Markets thus ensuring that they are as fresh as possible as well as keeping down our carbon footprint. All our other toppings are the best quality available on the market, fresh meat only from the Butchers who can provide us with the origin and the batch codes of their products.
Some toppings are commissioned only for Village Pizza as we have designed and inspired them. The Roast Vegetable Pizza toppings are marinated and hand prepared on each of the Branches and wow does that freshness shine through compared to your shop bought pre-packaged product. The eggs are boiled or beaten to order and fresh herbs purchased daily. This may mean that you cannot order your favourite pizza at 2.00am but we will not compromise our freshness first policy, but there again why not take this opportunity to try another flavour! There is such a variety on the menu; it is almost sinful to stick to one taste! We promise Love at First Bite but as our Facebook fans will tell you it is Love at First Sniff!
All of our foods are oven baked never fried, we analyze all aspects of our menu including its healthiness and we try to give a great healthy food alternative to the usual image of Fast Food. As great as Fried Food tastes we do feel the responsibility to our customers to provide the best nutritional food possible, we are even sampling Omega enhanced Flour! We check the international market on a weekly basis for new suppliers and improved menu alternatives.
Customer service remains our key policy for a successful business and that is where Head Office comes in useful. I collect Complaints Sheets on a weekly basis from all of the Franchisees and although usually it is empty, it is sometimes it can be full of incidentals such as, we sent the pizza out 5 minutes .We discovered that the Deep Pan dough was slightly short of salt, or a credit card slip was not handed to the customer, all of these customers immediately receive a letter of sincere apology along with a goodwill voucher of some sort and the problem dealt with so it does not repeat.
At Head Office, weekly Memorandums are sent to the Franchisees updating everybody to the news of the week, for example last week it was the Health and Safety Updates, new dough recipe and dough ball sizes and this week it will be a reminder for the rise is minimum wages. The Franchise Manual is continual Training is offered to everybody that needs it, at any time that is convenient.
Pizza is our passion it is reinforced to everyone from staff to customers, every piece of Pepperoni and Mixed Peppers count, quality matters, value for money matters overall the Customers are number one, as difficult as this may be in today’s market.
Every year I undertake mail shots for the customers and send out free gifts, so far this year we have sent out Fridge magnets and Calendars and T-Shirts and Pizza Cutters are on their way. We used to have a Village Pizza fan Club, which was run on a quarterly basis, with news of customers, staff new products and a great kids section. It had competitions for colouring, word searches and quizzes. Logoed felt pens, rulers, pencils, pens and erasers were sent out alongside Jelly Pizzas to everyone who joined. The Club unfortunately ceased when the number of fans grew to more than a thousand and as soon as I had sent out my final pack I was back onto the welcome packs for new members and then starting the quarterly news letter straight away! I even employed to part time staff top help me run this but we were still inundated beyond capacity!
Now we jumped on social bandwagon by creating Face book and Twitter accounts as it is important for us to keep up with what our customers are doing and it is an excellent way of promoting the business for very little outlay.
The majority of Managers of our shops all started work with us a Leaflet Distributors and they pushed their way forward to earn promotions and now they are an integral part of Village Pizza. They work hard and we support them wherever and whenever we can.
As members of Health and Safety First, the FSB and PAPA, along with being signed up to additional Legal Services and Document writing Service, we are able to offer full information and relevant news articles to all of our staff who need assistance and more often than not, protect them from unfortunate situations.
All of the staff in all of the Branches have to wear the same uniform and are all treated equally and respectfully, some of our staff have been with us for more than 10 years so we must be doing something right! Equal opportunities are offered to all, alongside Fire Training, First Aid Training and all the systems are in place to assist Manual Handling, Safety for the Drivers and all Staff alike.
We have been collecting money in our stores for the British Heart Foundation for the last three years, but unfortunately this has not worked out to be a successful partnership, as the collection of the boxes is so erratic that we have had to provide our own money boxes and we have not received confirmation of any donations that we have made. The donations are made by the customers’ and staff’ wishes, when a customer asks a member of staff to, “Keep the change” the money goes in the box, as well as the money for pizzas uncollected but subsequently sold as well as mistake pizzas. I have now signed up for our Branches to be registered collectors for Marie Curie and they are providing me with money boxes and advertising materials as well as logos for display on our website and menus. We will also receive confirmation of donations which I believe will legitimize our contributions. I am hoping that this will work well with Marie Currie and we will carry out a lot of inspirational competitions and Football Matches as a way to increase our donations
I hope that you can feel our pride and passion for doing things right for both staff and customer alike. The sacrifices that we as entrepreneurs make to ensure that the business is successful is rarely seen or appreciated by anyone other than by recommendation to their friends, but we are there, and we intend to remain there, giving the best to all those that encounter Village Pizza in whichever capacity.