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Last weekend, I took the ferry into San Francisco. It was a gorgeous fall day with crisp blue skies and a clear view of the new Bay Bridge. The trip made me think about alternative uses for transportation and how to build business and community.

As a former food distributor, I see the cost of transportation in all goods. Every item you ever bought traveled on a truck and companies that figure out how to do that most efficiently grow; think SYSCO and Wal-Mart. The more items you deliver on a single trip, the cheaper to deliver each item. If you charge $3 to deliver a pizza, the cost to deliver two pizzas to the same home stays the same, but the cost PER pizza falls to $1.50 each to the consumer and just a buck if you deliver three.

One of the key differentiators of pizza is the delivery component. Consumers know they can order from your restaurant and within an hour, there is a knock at the door. They expect this convenience and they expect to pay for the service. Pizza's popularity was built on this service.

As we make the turn into fall and the holidays, many people begin to think about the needy and less fortunate in our communities. Companies and individuals make donations for Thanksgiving or offer to work in soup kitchens. What if pizza's delivery component could be used to honor this spirit year round?

If a consumer places a $20 food order and pays $3 to have it delivered, what does it cost to make another delivery on the way back to the shop? Answer: zero. A pizza shop owner could commit to a local food bank, school, church, or soup kitchen to drop a few pizzas off once a week ON THE WAY BACK TO THE SHOP.

Generally, pizzerias have a few extra pizzas from missed orders, or wrong toppings. Rather than throw them away or give them to employees, consider donating these extras to a local food program. The consumer has already paid the cost of this trip; you are just extending the benefit.

Sure, nothing is free, you may have to pay the delivery driver a few extra dollars but it is worth it. You now support your community in the most natural charity for the food industry, feeding the hungry. In addition, think of the goodwill you establish with the feeding program — they will help promote your business. Lastly, you send a message to your staff that serving the community is a company value; this may translate to overall better service to ALL of your customers.

Money is tight, the economy remains challenging and there are 10 other reasons not to do something like this. Not everything in business can be about making a profit. Giving something back to be part of a community is a worthwhile goal. With the holidays around the corner, think creatively about using your difference — delivery — to achieve something greater than just the bottom line.

Wishing you success in pizza – Ed

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Ed Zimmerman
Ed Zimmerman is a pizza industry veteran and President of The Food Connector. His almost four decades of foodservice experience includes food manufacturing and distribution leadership, food industry technology, marketing services and restaurant and grocery operations management.
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