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Creating the Perfect Pizza Experience Perfect Pizza's Tashia Robinson shares the elements-consistency, customer service, and community- that make her franchise a success.

By Emily Washcovick

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Perfect Pizza
Behind the Review host and Yelp's Small Business Expert, Emily Washcovick, shares a look at this week's episode of the podcast.

Whether you're in Naples, New York, or Napa Valley, you're likely to find at least one pizza place per neighborhood because everyone loves pizza. There's something magical in the combination of dough, sauce, and toppings that makes mouths water.

Because of that popularity, standing out amongst the competition can be difficult for a new restaurateur diving into the pizza business, unless you're the only option on the block, like Perfect Pizza in San Diego.

Owner Latashia Robinson knew her neighborhood was a food desert, and its residents lacked high-quality, affordable, nutritious food options suitable for feeding large families. Rather than keep complaining about it, she decided to take action and fill up the hole, literally, by moving her business into the site of a pizza place that had recently gone out of business. Latashia wasn't going to make the same mistakes as the previous business.

"We came in, took over the previous pizza store, and from day one, everyone was just so thankful that we were there and that we had consistency. The prior pizza restaurant, from what we're told, there was no consistency. Some days they didn't even have pizza."

She knew she couldn't just make average pizzas and fill up the food desert. She had to make healthy options for her customers, and make them affordable—two things missing from the neighborhood.

"And thus, I came up with—what's the number one consumed food? It's pizza. So there we go. And you can get salad. You can get vegan food. You can get cauliflower crust. Gluten free. Healthy choices are there. I want our communities to be healthy."

She conquered the first rule of opening a small business by finding a hole in the market and filling it with quality products and services. But that wasn't enough for Latashia. Brought up on the idea that the customer is always right, she set out to create a welcoming environment for her consumers and her staff, and it shows in the reviews on Yelp.

Reviewer Jennifer C. picked up on that as soon as she stopped into Perfect Pizza to get dinner for her kids. "I feel like when you find a new location for something that you've always loved—as in the form of pizza for me—it's always great to have a company or a business location that has a team that welcomes you in like they're your family. So it's always good that it's just part of the family being served some delicious food, and the connection that they had there was so great with us and my kids."

Now that she has a culinary hit on her hands, Latashia is looking beyond her own success and helping others build their own businesses by franchising. This way, she continues to fill food deserts in communities and lift other small business owners up at the same time.

"In becoming a franchisor, I took that concept and said, Okay, well, I have a pizza restaurant now, how can I go further? How can I help other people? How can I create jobs? How can I create income for other people? What if I franchise? That opens the door for other women in particular so that you can create your own lifestyle and change your life."

When business owners care about the community and the quality of their products, it shows, and it builds a loyal customer base that expands by word-of-mouth and positive reviews. That makes them an essential part of the community, and customers recognize that.

"I feel that mom-and-pop locations are the main quintessential parts of communities," said Jennifer C. "People grow with them. They expand with them. They cry with them, obviously when we lose them. Mom and pops are the heart of the community, in my opinion… but mom and pops are, you know, mom and pops. They care for you. They take care of you. They become your family."

Fill in the gaps you find with the right product and the best service, and the success will follow, along with hard work and some key takeaways from this episode:

  • Understand your demographics in your neighborhood, and make sure your products fill a need
  • Stand out from the crowded business landscape by offering excellent customer service
  • Make a solid business plan, execute it, and don't give up
  • Build relationships with the community through philanthropic activity—whether it's money, time, or goods donated

Listen to the episode below to hear directly from Latashia and Jennifer, and subscribe to Behind the Review for more from new business owners and reviewers every Thursday.

Emily Washcovick

Small Business Expert at Yelp

As Yelp’s Small Business Expert, Emily is meticulously focused on helping local business owners succeed and grow. Her expertise lies in customer engagement, reputation management, and all things digital marketing. Through speaking engagements and thought leadership, Emily shares industry insights that entrepreneurs in any business category can leverage for the growth and well-being of their businesses. She is also the host of Behind the Review, a podcast from Yelp and Entrepreneur Media, where each episode features conversations with a business owner and a reviewer about the story and lessons behind their interactions.

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