School pizza contracts are not for the operationally weak.

Many districts insist operators who bid for school contracts have enough stores and staff to serve an entire district, not just select schools. Accordingly, such an effort demands that operators and school foodservice directors choreograph their delivery and service periods precisely.

Operators must also allocate labor carefully, staffing enough help to assemble the large number of pies needed in the morning for school orders, and then deciding what to do with those workers when that brief rush is over.

"Telling someone you want them to come in for a two-hour shift isn't going to work," said Ann Reichle, co-owner and operator of an Angelina's unit in Olmsted Falls, Ohio.

Lee Bauer, COO of Louisville, Ky.-based Pizza Magia, said his company will use 12 stores to serve about 700 pizzas a week to Jefferson County (Ky.) Public School students, while Reichle's two Angelina's units will serve about 200 over three delivery periods.

To maximize its labor, about a third of Angelina's pizzas this year will be take-and-bake pies assembled the night before and delivered to the schools at 7:30 a.m. the next day.

"It's real simple: you drive up, drop them off, sign a paper and go home," said Jim Reichle, who operates an Angelina's in North Olmsted, Ohio. "It saves us a lot on oven capacity. When a school wants 190 pizzas, it's hard to get them all through on time."

Deals also a good marketing tool

Bauer admitted that at $4.75 a pizza, Pizza Magia's margin isn't large, but the payback in exposure to thousands of JCPS students is invaluable. Kids at 45 middle and high schools will get the chance to eat Pizza Magia products on Tuesdays and Wednesdays, cafeteria workers will be wearing Pizza Magia uniforms, and advertising banners will hang in lunchrooms.

Those sales represent solid income reaped from a normally slow daypart as well, he said.

"We'll be selling in excess of 200,000 dough balls from our commissary, and those are sales we didn't have before," said Bauer. Pizza Magia, he added, currently is negotiating school contracts with other cities.

Ann Reichle said Angelina's takes the school sales approach a step further by contracting to supply pies at athletic events. They also get key advertising spots in event programs and on ticket stubs. Bottom line, she said, is "everybody knows who we are, and they know we support them with advertising."

Still, the deal is only as good as each partner's commitment, Reichle stressed. Operators who sell Angelina's pizzas — whether in schools or recreational venues — must maintain Angelina's standards as dictated by the Reichles. In the past, she said, some foodservice vendors wanted to take delivery and then sell slices from pizzas left to cool on concession stand counters.

"We don't want our reputation going down the drain because someone doesn't want to handle it right," she said. "We tell them very clearly how to handle the pizza, and if they don't, then they can't have our pizza."

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