Pizza: Homemade vs. Carryout vs. Sit-Down

Pizza.  Who’s having it tonight for dinner?  Chances are, somebody reading this is already planning on pizza as tonight’s dinner.  And, now that I’m writing about it, chances are at least one more person will choose pizza for dinner.

It’s just that good!

Our family loves pizza, and we love all three kinds of pizza. I’m not talking three different brands of pizza, but I’m talking homemade, carryout, and sit-down. What’s our favorite?  Read on to find out.

To start off, here are some pros and cons of each.

Homemade Pizza

I never knew how easy it was to make homemade pizzas, but now we make a couple of different kinds.  In the cooler months, we’ll make a pizza in the oven using pizza crust yeast, which mixes in with flour and a couple of other quick, easy ingredients to provide crust.  In the summer months, we will get pita bread and make pizzas on the outdoor grill. Yum!

Pros:

  • It’s fun to make a pizza together.  Everybody gets in the game
  • It’s cheap
  • It’s customizable.  Every person can get exactly what they want and how they want it, even on the same pizza
  • It’s healthier (if you want it to be).  You know what’s going on your pizza so you can control what goes on, and we’ve found that things like turkey based pepperoni work just great, and make things a lot less greasy.

Cons:

  • Dirty dishes. One of the best benefits to pizza is typically less dishes, but you need a pizza dish, a bowl to mix the dough, something to roll it out, and a pin, all of which require washing.
  • Rolling out pizza dough.  The first couple of times rolling out pizza dough is interesting and it usually doesn’t come out very round.  The good news is that after a few tries, you get the hang of it!

Carryout Pizza (or Delivery)

mb-2014-11pizzaWhether it’s Little Caesars Hot & Ready or something a bit more upscale, there’s just something great about picking up a phone and a few minutes and a quick trip later, having a hot pizza in a box ready to drive back home and eat.

Pros:

  • It’s easy.  With Little Caesar’s, you don’t even have to call or wait.  Other places, you might have a quick phone call and a short wait, but it’s quick and easy!
  • It’s hot. There’s nothing like getting a piping hot pizza that can only seem to work after it’s been in one of the super hot pizza ovens that only pizza places have.
  • More toppings. Pizza places typically have more toppings available to choose from than you’ll find at home.

Cons:

  • Risk.  Every once in a while, opening the pizza box at home yields less than satisfactory results, whether it be overdone (or underdone), too much sauce, too little cheese or just made wrong.  Since it’s often more trouble than it’s worth, many times you end up stuck with it.

Sit-Down Restaurant Pizza

Who doesn’t love going to a restaurant that specializes in pizza, and will bring it to you?  We have several local places around Detroit, The Alibi and Buddy’s to name a couple, that make pizza an experience.

Pros:

  • Quality.  Typically, quality is top notch and a step above carryout or delivery places.
  • The other stuff.  Our favorite pizza places are also our favorite places for salad and bread sticks.  Typically, a place that does pizza well seems to find a way to do other things well, so when it comes to good things, you get two (or three) for the price of one.
  • Full service.  Going out means no dishes or tables to clean up.  It’s all right there!

Cons:

  • Cost.  The pizzas are more expensive, and you also pay for drinks, tip, and other things that can add up quickly.
  • Wait.  Your favorite pizza place is probably the favorite pizza place for a lot of other people, so you might have to wait…and be really hungry!

As you can see, all pizza options have their share of great things and maybe not so great things, but the one thing that trumps all is that in every scenario….you get pizza!

And, that is the number one thing.

For the record, our favorite out of all three…is all of them!  That sounds like a cop-out and it might be, but we love all three.  The difference is that on some pizza days, one stands out more than another, but overall, we love all three and would never dream of dropping any option out of our ‘rotation’.

Readers, who’s having pizza tonight?  What are your favorite pizza options, toppings, and all the rest?

Copyright 2014 Original content authorized only to appear on Money Beagle. Please subscribe via RSS, follow me on Twitter, Facebook, or receive e-mail updates. Thank you for reading.

Red Lobster Appears Doomed For Failure

Ever since I was old enough to actually enjoy eating fish, Red Lobster has been a pretty solid option for getting some seafood.  We don’t go very often because we have a local place that we enjoy much better, but we’ve been a number of times over the years.

Recently, Red Lobster was sold by their former parent company, the Darden Group (who also owns Olive Garden as the most comparable type of restaurant), and the new holding company, Golden Gate Capital, just completed the sale, and has already announced some changes.

They boil down to two changes: They’re going to charge more money and they’re going to try to present the restaurant as more fancy.  Both of these things are with the intent to curb years of steadily declining sales.

After reading the article and absorbing the strategy, I think that Golden Gate Capital may have just wasted a whole lot of money.  Personally I don’t see things working out.  Here is why I think that Red Lobster may be doomed for failure based on the strategy and their history:

  • People love promotions – Red Lobster wants to get away from low priced specials and many promotional items.  On paper their reason looks good: Promotions like that tend to erode the brand, so why not end the erosion?  In reality, the damage has been done and it’s going to be next to impossible to unwind that clock.  People are used to promotions, and by eliminating them, the people that would have come in the door are now going to go elsewhere.  If you want to see how eliminating promotions works out, let’s remember the massive failure that almost sent an iconic department store chain into bankruptcy.
  • Chain restaurants aren’t fancy – Apparently laying food out on the plate is another big part of the turnaround strategy.  Instead of having the fish side by side with the other items (potatoes, rice, vegetables), the fish will now be placed on top of those items.  This will make the fish the centerpiece of the…..You know what?  I can’t even finish the sentence.  This strategy might make a difference in a high end restaurant with one or two locations, but for a chain restaurant with thousands of locations, this is not going to be a difference maker.
  • Things run their course – I was originally going to split this post into two parts, the reason I think the strategy stinks (which I did), and what they should do instead.  Then, I got to thinking that maybe there really isn’t anything much they can do.  Many things simply come and go in terms of popularity.  Maybe Red Lobster has been around for long enough that it’s simply run out of steam.  It happens.  Especially in the food industry where tastes change and what’s cool one day is replaced by the new cool thing down the street the next day.

Simply put, I think Red Lobster is going to continue on the downtrend.  I just don’t see how different pricing or plate arrangement is going to change that.

Readers, what do you think?  Is Red Lobster a brand that can be revived or is it a brand that has run its course?  What do you think about the new approaches?

Copyright 2014 Original content authorized only to appear on Money Beagle. Please subscribe via RSS, follow me on Twitter, Facebook, or receive e-mail updates. Thank you for reading.

Trans Fats: When Zero Plus Zero Equals Heart Disease

Eliminating trans fats from food seemed to be the ‘big thing’ at the end of the 2000’s and the first part of the 2010’s.  And, if you look at most labels, you’d think that we were fairly successful at this.

Except you would be wrong.  Read on.

What Are Trans Fats?

mb-201311nutritionTrans fats are produced by hydrogenation, which is the process of adding hydrogen to vegetable oil.  The reason for doing this is to make the oil last longer.  Without hydrogenation, the oil would break down sooner, meaning the products in which it’s contained would not last as long.  So, the long and short is that hydrogenation was a pretty standard practice.

Why They’re Bad

This didn’t seem like any big deal except when it was discovered that hydrogenation was directly responsible for increased levels of LDL (bad) cholesterol and heart disease.  Long story short, trans fats are terrible for you.

Where were they?

Pretty much everywhere.  Cookies, baked goods, chips, really anything containing oil that had a long shelf life were all fair game.  In addition, fried foods were often culprits,

Once this correlation was discovered and the alarm was sounded, there was a big wave to get rid of them.  Cities started banning them in foods.  Article after article was written.  The FDA even got in on the game and changed product labeling standards so that trans fat contents were disclosed as part of the standard nutrition label.

The FDA to the rescue…or not?

The new labeling went into effect a few years back and made ‘Trans Fat’ one of the items that was required in addition to calories, fat calories, sodium, and other items which are pretty standard.

I remember seeing a lot of the new labels and noticing that items contained trans fats.  Then, it seemed, one by one, products started getting re-formulated to where the Trans Fat listing was 0g (zero grams).

Understandably, they’d even tout this on the front of their product ‘Now Trans Fat Free!’

Except in many cases it’s not true.

See, the FDA allowed rounding.  And, they allow rounding down, so that if a serving of food contains anywhere less than 0.5 grams of trans fat, they can say that it has none.

What’s the big deal?

The big deal is that any amount of trans fat is bad.  It’s not like you can consume 10 grams per day before it starts being bad.  Even a gram or two per day increases the bodies chances of having higher cholesterol and heart disease.

Meaning, it doesn’t take long for a few servings of food that each have, say, 0.4 grams of trans fat, to add up into unhealthy levels.

All the while, people are eating them, oblivious to the fact that they’re harming their bodies.

What To Do?

Right now, you can see through the lies by looking at the ingredients list.  If you see anything that contains the word ‘Hydrogenated’ in any form, then there are trans fats in that product, regardless of what it says on the nutrition label.

You should probably assume that most fried food contains trans fats as well.  Even though many fast food makers ‘eliminated’ trans fats from their fries and other foods, they still contain enough trace amounts that it should be assumed you’re eating them.

How This Should Be Fixed

I believe that the FDA made a big error when they allowed for this loophole, especially given how little it takes for trans fats to cause health problems.  Honestly, the only way a product should be allowed to have a 0 g (zero gram) listing is if it contains none at all.  If it’s anything less than the 0.5 gram threshold, then it should have to be noted as such.  Manufacturers will complain that it’s hard to measure with accuracy at those levels, but even if the label read <0.5 grams (less than 0.5 grams), it still alerts the consumer that there are trans fats in the product.

This is important.  While I believe that every individual is responsible for their own health and understanding the things that they put into their body, this is so important that I don’t think that the current standards are inadequate for this product.

Think of it this way

Trans fats are a problem.  If they eliminated 90% of the problem but the other 10% is still causing problems, then the labeling should not allow the 10% remaining to stay in existence.

I’m making up those numbers, but I hope I’m also making my point.

Readers, do you look beyond the Trans Fat listing on the nutrition labels and into the ingredients list to get the true reading?  Did you know that this loophole is out there?

Copyright 2014 Original content authorized only to appear on Money Beagle. Please subscribe via RSS, follow me on Twitter, Facebook, or receive e-mail updates. Thank you for reading.

Identify Clever Marketing Ideas To Stand Out

A couple of months back, we saw a Groupon for a local frozen yogurt place that had recently opened.  We looked into it and found that the prices were about the same as a couple of other places we’d recently visited and enjoyed.  They operate under the ‘new’ model where you pay by the ounce, so you get as much yogurt as you want, put as many toppings on as you want, and pay at the register based on the weight.

The Groupon was for a $40 gift card that you would pay $20 for, effectively giving you a 50% discount.  Even though we hadn’t been to this particular establishment, we took a chance.

When we went in for the first time, it wasn’t awful but it wasn’t spectacular.  The first thing that I noticed was that it was very small.  They basically sublet a small space within a grocery store, so this was by far the smallest frozen yogurt place I’d been into.  They had three machines, each that dispensed two flavors, or that you could swirl together by dispensing from the middle lever.

The yogurt was good.  The limited selection bugged me a little bit (as did the fact that they didn’t have crushed peanut butter cups as a topping that first time) but for the price, I was happy.

Both my wife and I became fans of them on Facebook, and a few days after we first went in, we saw a post that basically said that they were now serving nine flavors.  I didn’t think anything about this until the next time we were about to go in, when I wondered, just how did they offer nine flavors.  This didn’t make sense for two reasons:

  1. Most yogurt machines at these places have two bins per machine.
  2. This place was so limited on space I couldn’t see where they’d put another machine in without either re-configuring the space or having yogurt machines all over the store.

My question was answered when I went in and saw that things were just as they were.  They didn’t add any machines at all.  So how did they go from six flavors to nine?

mb-lightbulb201308They simply provided a ‘name’ to each of the ‘blended’ flavors on each machine, and I’ve noticed that they slightly modified what flavors go into each machine.

The first time we were there, they had chocolate and vanilla in the same machine.  The second time we went they had vanilla and blueberry in one machine, and the third flavor, which was just blending these together, was ‘Blueberry a la mode’.  They moved the chocolate over to a different machine, and when they added White Chocolate Mouse, they were able to combine these into ‘Chocolate Snow Storm’ as the third flavor.

I loved it.

They weren’t lying and they never actually presented it as we’re serving more flavors.  But, since they were using social media as an outlet, it allowed them to list nine flavors instead of six all while serving the same stuff they were before.

Think outside the box

How many of us are in the business of marketing ourselves?  The answer is that we all are.  Every time you apply for a job, or even go to your current one, you’re marketing yourself in a way.

Every time you meet someone new, whether it be a blind date, a new co-worker, a new boss, or anyone that you may interact with again in the future, you’re marketing yourself in some way.

This can be applied anywhere

Keep this in mind, and also think about the frozen yogurt place when you try to differentiate yourself in some way.  You don’t have to re-invent yourself. You don’t have to change everything.  Heck, as they showed, you may not need to really change anything except how you present yourself.

Think about this from a clothing perspective.  Do you need a brand new outfit, top to bottom, to stand out?  It would probably work, but maybe you just need one thing to make yourself different.  A new shirt.  A new tie.  A new scarf.  It can be simple yet it can add that extra ‘flavor’.

The yogurt place didn’t jump to the top of my favorites list as a result of their clever marketing shift, but they did win a little more appreciation on that second visit.

Oh, and the fact that they had crumbled peanut butter cups on that visit certainly helped, too!

Copyright 2014 Original content authorized only to appear on Money Beagle. Please subscribe via RSS, follow me on Twitter, Facebook, or receive e-mail updates. Thank you for reading.