Saturday, January 13, 2007

Pizzetta 211

Tonight is a special night for Tom and me. I wanted to get something for dinner that I knew he would really like. Suddenly it came to me: Pizzetta pizza! We had given up on Pizzetta, but just enough time had gone by to brave it again. After all, their pizza is fantastic.

It was only 5:00, so I decided to call and see if they were taking phone orders. (Their menu changes weekly, and often they don't want to have to go over it with you on the phone.) I was told that they weren't taking phone orders. I decided that for tonight it was worth it to get in the car and drive over to Pizzetta, which is at 211 23rd Avenue, San Francisco, CA. I would order it in person, go for a walk, and come back and pick it up.

At the counter I told the woman I wanted to place an order to go. It was sweet: She went over the menu with me and told me what she thought was really good–a pizza with fennel and sheep's cheese. I placed an order for 2 pizzas. She wrote down my name and said, "OK! That'll be ten minutes or so." As I turned to walk out, a tall guy with dark hair walked up behind her, nudged her and whispered something. The woman called me back, and said,
"I'm so sorry! We don't make to-go orders on weekends!"
My heart sank.
"We don't make to-go orders on weekends."
I looked around. There was a total of four people in the restaurant.
"Why? We've gotten take out on weekends before."
"It's just a rule that we can't break."
"But I just spoke with somebody on the phone; he said you don't take orders on the phone. And I understand that it's hard to go over the menu on the phone. So I drove over."
"I'm so sorry. It's just a rule that we cannot break."
I was so flabbergasted that I said something silly like, "But, but–This is a really special night for me and my husband, and this is his favorite pizza!"
"I'm really sorry. It's a rule we have. If you come back during the week, we can make you an order to go."
"Okay. What if I sit down at a table, and you bring it to me on a plate. Then I'll pay for the pizza and the plate, so I can take it home."
"Buy the plate? No, we don't sell plates."
"Is your manager here?"
The tall guy with dark hair walked back up. "It was me you talked to on the phone. And I told you that we didn't do to-go orders on the weekend."
"But I understood you to say you didn't take to-go orders over the phone on the weekend."
"It's a rule. We can't break it. We don't make any to-go orders on the weekends any more."
"I don't know how you guys stay in business."
"If you don't like our pizza, go some place else!" (The tall guy with dark hair speaking.)
"I LOVE your pizza! It's the best!" I'm desperate. I look around. The place is virtually empty. "Look, no one will even notice!"
"That doesn't matter. It's a rule."
I'm stunned. "You should really put something up on your web site regarding this."
"We don't have a web site," says the woman.
"Yes we do!" insists the tall guy with dark hair. "We do have a web site–it just hasn't been touched in years."
I stand there staring; I'm in shock. The tall guy with dark hair continues: "OK. To tell you the truth, it's because we only have a certain amount of dough. If we make to-go orders on the weekends, we run out of dough. Then if a customer comes in later and wants to eat here, we have to tell him that we have no more dough. But there's plenty of dough to go around during the week."
"I'm really disappointed," I say.
"It's a rule. And if we break the rule for one person, we'll have to start breaking the rule for everybody."
It's not the first time I've been astonished by Pizzetta's inconsistent approach in dealing with orders over the phone or to go. But I know it will be my last time.

This isn't so much a complaint as a plea for suggestions. If you know of a place near the Richmond District that serves great pizza and offers reasonable service as well, please let me know.

I'm a person who needs pizza. And people who need pizza are the luckiest people in the world (except for tonight).

© Linda Davick

e-mail from Scott on MLK Jr. Day: The pizza restaurant episode, quite amusing, reminds me of me. You have a choice: run your business to please your customers, or run your business to please yourself. I much prefer the latter, which drives my partner Ksiel crazy. But it works for me (so to speak), thus: just this morning we spoke and he allowed that it was a holiday and was planning to take off; what about me? I'd scheduled a meeting w/an inquiring prospect for 11 AM. We discussed that while this lady (a choclatier), suggested she would need a good deal of time in the kitchen (thus more $ for us potentially), she sounded like a problem customer over the phone. Needs a temp-controlled environment, has her own v. expensive equipment that requires 3 phase power; very pleasant, seemingly very together, but fussy/picky, &c. I'd advised her that it seemed unlikely that she would find our facility suitable for her operation, but was happy to show her around.

Ksiel immediately suggested it would be better for him to meet w/her, as he would encourage her, while I would likely do the opposite. So, he is going in to work and I'm getting the day off instead. Thus, my approach once again yields an immediate benefit! This is, of course, an intangible benefit, in the sense that it yields no financial gain. My approach to business yields primarily such intangible benefits.

The guy at the pizza place is definitely my soul brother. The important thing about disappointed take-out customers vs. disappointed sit-down customers isn't that, either way, they are disappointed customers. The important thing is that they ARE disappointed!