The Art of Order Taking

“The knowledge of courtesy is a very necessary study; like grace and beauty, it breeds mutual liking” -Montaigne

In between fantasizing about my weekly pizza excursion and photographing it, I’ve got to order it.  While I wish I could skip right to the pizza-eating part, first I’ve got to pick up the phone, express my vision to the pizza guy and get the logistics figured out.

Though I love pizza, I tend to have mixed feelings placing my order.

Of course, there’s an inherent joy in pitching my weekly plan to another person willing to listen, especially someone who will play a roll in executing it.

And, having a person on the line makes it easier to articulate complex orders and confirm any important questions that may arise (How thin is the thin-crust? Do you cut your pizza’s in triangles or squares?).  

But, there’s the chance that interaction feels like a necessary evil—a social exchange so poor that it’s hard to find pleasure afterward.

I’m talking about the times when nothing is confirmed or heard properly and we aren’t even upsold extra cheese (come on, basics!).  Sometimes the communication is so bad our pizza-night lands in a pickle as we end up with incorrect items, missing toppings and no sides of sauce.

With the prevalence of online ordering, we don’t need to worry about these situations as much anymore, but technical difficulties and peak order periods that cause shops to unplug are still ordinary, meaning we’re faced with picking up the phone and calling in our orders old-school.

When handling information as delicate as someone’s pizza order, it’s evident the employees manning the phones have a great responsibily and must have the utmost attention to detail.  They set the tone for the entire experience—their demeanor, pace, and politeness in that initial contact is crucial.

When I want fuss-free ordering I turn to a spot where the front line employees excel and a great customer service experience is almost guaranteed.

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Rosati’s West in Madison. 

When it comes to phone order taking, I consider Rosasti’s West on Mineral Point Road to be masters (at least in my experience, in which there are many).  They are kind, competent, concise and pleasantly nail the interaction every single time.   They repeat everything back to you and will take on most requests.

Beyond killer customer service, you also get the option of “super-thin crust” if you’re in the “know”.  Perhaps the greatest pizza hack of all-time besides “extra-cheese”; all you have to do is ask and they’ll gladly give your crust an extra spin through the dough rolling machine.

Any place that has the option of “super-thin” is good in my book, so I usually go with super-thin, extra cheese and maybe some pepperoni or green olives.  Some nights if I’m feeling frisky I may even venture further into the menu and throw myself a little “Chicago Thanksgiving” complete with an Italian beef sandwich, Chicago style hotdog, and maybe even a calzone.

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Calzone (Yes, there is an inch of melty cheese in there)

A botched interaction is more expensive than you might think.

The pain-free ordering at Rosati’s greatly increases my to desire to eat there, so I return to them regularly.

On the other hand, a pain-filled ordering experience can haunt me for months and causes me to pause, consider my choices, no matter how good a spots grub might be—I just don’t want to deal with shenanigans when it’s pizza time.

These days with so many options at our fingertips it’s easier than ever for customers to fall in and out of love with a restaurant based simply on their service and it’s harder than ever to regain that trust and loyalty.  One wrong order, miscommunication or argument and that customer could be gone for good and that could mean losing out on big bucks for the restaurant.

In Seth Godin’s book, This is Marketing he urges businesses to consider the “lifetime value” of a customer when interacting with them.  It takes massive amounts of time, money and energy to earn the business of new customers, so when you’ve got them it’s critical to treat them well, woo them and hopefully retain their business to make good on your investment.

One customer can add up to thousands of dollars in sales over the course of a lifetime of repeat orders.  So, there’s no time to mess around with anything less than stellar service.

What pizza taught me:

A pleasant encounter can make our day, especially if there’s pizza afterward.  Considerate and concise communication is something to strive for—a worthy pursuit that will undoubtedly yield more than well-executed pizza orders.

What I’m eating: Rosati’s “super-thin crust” green olive, extra cheese

What I’m reading: This is Marketing: You Can’t Be Seen Until You Learn To See –Seth Godin

Patience Has Its Rewards

“Patience is bitter, but its fruit is sweet” -Jean-Jacques Rousseau

Last week in the dark lit delivery room of my first child, I came face-to-face with my oldest adversary.  My foe hijacked the clock, stalled it and taunted me with threats of making it go even slower. It was 36 hours since Tess’s labor induction began and my threshold for waiting wavered.  Could I prevail against my biggest weakness impatience?

I used to think waiting for the oven preheat to 425° was a true test of my self-restraint. Now, with a baby plopped on my lap, I realize I have absolutely no patience at all (especially if pizza is involved), but I have a feeling, if harnessed, patience may become one of my strongest allies.

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Celebratory Salvatore’s Tomato Pies.

I was blessed with my son Ellis at 2:28am Wednesday morning after an excruciatingly long labor process that started Monday night! By Wednesday evening all of our well-exerted effort (Tess is the true hero of the story) was rewarded; we celebrated in true Luther fashion with a pizza party in our hospital birth suite.  My brother Jeff and Jaime had the brilliant idea of welcoming Ellis into this world with Salvatore’s Tomato Pies, the notorious Madison area pizza joint.

With locations in Sun Prairie and Downtown Madison, Sal’s pride themselves on using all locally sourced fresh ingredients and have a reputation for being the best artisan pizza in the area. The website describes their rise to fame in Sun Prairie “They quickly built a reputation for crafting pizza like no other…  Using old world techniques of slow fermenting dough from locally derived wheat, locally made cheeses and Wisconsin-raised meats.”

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The tomato pies have a distinct structure that is a family legacy and according to the website has been passed down many generations.  The pizza is basically built in reverse.  It starts with whole milk mozzarella, olive oil, romano and is then drizzled with tomato “red sauce” and sprinkled with basil.

The crust has an excellent char on the bottom and with the sauce on top, its vibrancy really shines through.  The pepperoni is thicker-cut and when baked up turns into crispy little cups that hold a little grease at the bottom. The tomato pies are equal parts simple, elegant and rustic.

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pepperoni grease cups.

Waiting.

The birth of Ellis was one of the most magical experiences of my life, but there was a ton of waiting around and much of that time was extremely boring.  Although I was restless in the hospital, I realized I should be embracing those seemingly boring moments and appreciating them. I will surely look back on these days as being some of the best times of my life.  Dirty diapers, Doctors appointments and long sleepless nights are on the way, why not try to enjoy them?

There will always be times in our lives when we have to “kill time”; if we handle these moments with a constructive mindset they won’t feel like such a waste. Waiting isn’t so bad if we use our time wisely.

Conquering impatience:

  1. Keep busy.  Read a book, take a walk, write a blog about pizza.  At one point I was meditating in the birth suite bathroom and practicing Spanish via Duolingo as I paced the halls.
  2. Make it fun.  We can make a game out of whatever boring situation we’re in.  We can bring some humor and even make some pleasant lasting memories.
  3. Get Stoic and view it as an opportunity for growth.  We can look at a dull moment as a training of our will, something that will strengthen our resolve for the future.

What pizza taught me:

Patience is most definitely a virtue and is not always so easy to access.  By embracing and overcoming the restlessness and agitation that comes with impatience we’ll prevail. All my downtime at the hospital last week was well worth the wait as I ended up the best reward of all; pizza and a healthy son.

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What I’m eating: Salvatore’s Tomato Pies, pepperoni and half cheese, half veggie

What I’m reading: Learned Optimism -Martin Seligman