Friday

Pizza Operators are Making Dough Grow

Shakey's Pizza,

by Ron Wilkinson

Competition within the Pizza Industry is fierce! The number of dollars that the customers, in your market area, are going to spend is limited. To grow your business, you are going to have to take customers away from your competition. That's where a sound marketing plan comes in.

"After all these years, it's nice to reinvigorate your love for your business." says John McNulty, Shakey's Pizza licensee. McNulty's family has owned and operated the El Monte, California Shakey's Pizza restaurant since 1964. "I purchased the restaurant from my father in 1989. Until five months ago, our marketing efforts were limited. In recent years, advertising rates have dramatically increased. We haven't been able to keep up, and our marketing dollars have been buying fewer ads. We also focused on the local schools, which has been a combination community service and marketing campaign. Mostly our efforts focused on rewarding students for things like reading, attendance and citizenship," adds McNulty.

But all that has changed, "Our first marketing campaign using the restaurant marketing software began soon after Thanksgiving, and the results were"
overwhelming. I was stunned! It far exceeded my expectations," says McNulty. McNulty offered a "Photo with Santa Party." School children were invited to participate in a coloring contest and to stop by the restaurant for a free photo with Santa. Winners of the contest were to get a super-sized Christmas stocking packed full of fun toys. Other prizes such as DVDs and a DVD player were also given.

"We wanted to create an event that would bring customers into the restaurant with the hopes to establish goodwill in our community and to obtain marketing contact information from those who participated. From that event alone, we were able to enter 500 families into our database. The goal is to discover who our top 500 to 1,000 guests are so that we can target market to them. This has opened up a whole new avenue for me."

Customers from the "Photo with Santa Party" were encouraged to join the restaurant's VIP program. The incentives for joining included certificates for a free pizza and other VIP benefits. From the data gathered for the VIP program, McNulty now has developed a Birthday and Anniversary Program.

"This has also opened our eyes to the tremendous potential of business to business marketing. Now I have hired a woman to handle our neighborhood business marketing. She is making contacts with local businesses and opening the doors for potential catering, morning meetings, business luncheons and delivery opportunities. By marketing to businesses, we have already hooked up with a huge car dealership and are delivering food once or twice a week for luncheon parties and meetings. We can already see that there is a lot of potential," says McNulty.

McNulty continues, "The restaurant marketing software is easy to use: I have really enjoyed the restaurant marketing manuals that come with the software. They have hundreds of great "tried and true" marketing ideas. I've also appreciated the individual coaching sessions, which we do over the phone every week. We have lots on the horizon such as our Uniform Day. For that, we've invited recruiters from all the armed services as well as the local fire and police departments. They will each set up recruiting stations in our parking lot. We're advertising through the local high schools. It feels good to be a part of the community, and we know that it will come back to help our business grow.
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Thursday

Pecorino cheese - an Italian specialty

Pecorino, olive oil,

by Rachel Deutsch

Tuscany is famous worldwide for its wine and olive oil, however, the people of Tuscany have lots of other food products to be proud of. One of the best things that are made Tuscany is the pecorino cheese. The Pecorino is made of ewe's milk (pecora in Italian means sheep), and is also typical of more southern regions of Italy.

The Pecorino used to be considered a simple peasant's food, and was eaten as a snack with some bread and wine. Now it has become part of the best kitchens in Italy.

Pecorino types vary by the area of production, degree of ripeness and the way they were treated. The new Pecorino ripens for about 2-4 weeks. It is mild, and not very hard. The center of it can be creamy. The medium is sold after two months of ripening. As it ripens the taste gets sharper and the cheese is harder. Very ripe Pecorino that has matured for six months is usually used for grating over dishes, the same way Parmesan is used.

The different colors of the cheese depend on the way the crust was treated while the cheese was ripening. Some producers use tomato concentrate
, so the color becomes red. This is usually a sign of cheese from the area of Siena. Others use edible charcoal to give the cheese grey - black color. If the cheese was placed in walnut leaves while ripening, it is brown.

Other areas of Italy have more ways of treating the cheese, such as burying it in trenches filled with special ashes.

The Tuscany Pecorino is protected by DOP council - something like DOC for wine. It makes sure that only cheese that comes from the right area and the right process is sold as Pecorino Toscano.

The taste of the Pecorino is strongly influenced by the diet of the sheep, so the herds are allowed to feed in large areas full of herbs that give the cheese a special flavor depending on the area.

The Pecorino cheese is produced in Tuscany from December to August. The best areas in Tuscany for Pecorino are near Siena, in the Maremma, and in Chianti near Cortona and Casentino.

So - Which Pecorino is the best? All the experts agree that the best pecorino does not come from Tuscany, but from Lazio (the area of Rome) it is called Pecorino Romano. The Pecorino Romano is a cooked cheese that matures for at least 8 months, and contains 36% fat. It has a strong salty flavor, and it is a hard cheese.

This article will not be complete without a recipe:

Leek with Pecorino and olive oil
Ingredients:
8 leeks, olive oil, 5 tbsp. grated Pecorino
Preparation:
Clean the leeks and leave only the white part. In a pan, cover the leeks with olive oil and cook on a very low heat, not allowing to boil. After about an hour remove the leeks from the pot and cool. Cut each leek lengthwise into 4 sticks. Separate the leaves, put on a plate and sprinkle with the cheese.
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Tuesday

Cream Cheese Mincemeat Pie

pie crust, mincemeat, mincemeat pie

By LeAnn Ralph

• bottom pie crust for a 9 or 10 inch pie plate

• 3 cups mincemeat

• 8 ounces of cream cheese (softened)

• 1/2 cup sugar

• 1 egg

• 1 tablespoon lemon juice

Make the pie crust and line the pie plate with the crust (I know this seems obvious, but one time when I happened to listen to Oprah -- I have listened to the show about 3 times in my life -- there was a chef who was talking about cooking something in one of those plastic cooking bags. "When you take it out of the oven, cut open the bag and throw it away," Oprah said. "You have to say that because there are people out there who will eat the bag if you don't tell them to throw it away.")

Put the mincemeat on top of the pie crust. Bake at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for 20 to 25 minutes.

Using an electric mixer, whip the softened cream cheese, sugar, the egg and the lemon juice until smooth. Pour on top of the mincemeat and bake for another 25 to 30 minutes or until set.

LeAnn R. Ralph is the author of the books "Cream of the Crop (More True Stories from Wisconsin Farm)" (trade paperback, Sept. 2005); "Christmas in Dairyland (True Stories from a Wisconsin Farm" (trade paperback 2003); "Give Me a Home Where the Dairy Cows Roam" (trade paperback 2004); "Preserve Your Family History (A Step-by-Step Guide for Interviewing Family Members and Writing Oral Histories" (e-book 2004). You are invited to read sample chapters, order books and sign up for the free newsletter, Rural Route 2 News

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Monday

No-rennet cottage cheese

rennet, buttermilk, canning, kosher

1 gallon milk
1 cup cultured buttermilk

Warm the milk to about 95 [degrees] F. Stir in the buttermilk and allow to set at room temperature for 12 to 18 hours. The milk will clabber, or become thick.

Cut the curds into 1/2-inch cubes and let rest for 10 minutes. Place the pot into a double boiler-type pot and heat at a very low setting until the curd reaches 115 [degrees] F. Stir often to keep the curds from matting together. This will take an hour or more.

The curd is ready when it is somewhat firm on the interior of the cheese. Cook longer if necessary. Some whey will rise to the top. Let the curds settle to the bottom of the pot, drain off the whey and place the curds in a clothlined colander to drain. Be gentle, as the curds are rather fragile.

Allow the cheese to drain until it stops dripping. Place in a bowl and add salt to taste. I usually use about one teaspoon of kosher or canning salt per pound. Stir in about four ounces of half-and-half or cream per pound if you like a creamed cottage cheese.

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