Success Stories

Brown Dog Pizza

In the Colorado mountain town of Telluride, Brown Dog Pizza has developed a strong following among year round locals and seasonal tourists alike.

First and foremost, owners Jeff Smokevich and Dan Lynch insist on buying only consistently superior ingredients and on coaching their team to prepare everything on the menu, from pizza and pasta to sandwiches and salads, exactly the same way every time. And, of course, team members are also regularly encouraged to make each guest feel special.

Beyond consistently superior food and service, one powerful way Jeff and Dan help their place stand out from the crowd is by using their printed menu to focus guest interest on a memorably unique house specialty not otherwise available locally. So in addition to offering traditional round pizzas, their menu dedicates an entirely separate page to describing their house specialty, the square “Detroit style” pizza Jeff grew up with in Michigan. In addition to identifying individual square pie versions, the page explains what makes this type of pizza special, including its history and the characteristic ingredients which make it authentic.

Dedicating a separate menu page to introducing a house specialty is smart. It ensures that customers recognize that the owners take special, personal pride in this particular item. It also constantly reminds servers and other employees that “Everything is good on the menu, but THIS is what we are known for!”

Especially important in this fiercely independent town, Jeff and Dan also share their personal stories in their restaurant and on their website to reinforce their quality dedication and the fact that their place is locally owned and operated.

Editor’s note: Unless your personal story is written where customers can read it, most probably don’t really know it. Briefly sharing it in your menu or framed on the wall reinforces with guests where you came from, “what you stand for,” and why you are so passionate about your business!

To further emphasize “localness” on their menu, Jeff and Dan have included some “insider” references that only locals would understand. For example, their cheesesteak sandwich is simply known as the “YX” because state license plates issued in their county once began with those two letters.

The beer list also offers a powerful opportunity to emphasize local connections and focus. For example, while it does eventually mention nationally available options, the top 95% of their list promotes premium, locally produced microbrews and Colorado towns of origin.

Not only does this appeal to the “local” pride of year round residents, many out of towners are also eager to experience local “flavor.” Beyond emphasizing a “drink local” message, offering more premium craft beers on tap has also boosted beverage profitability, since craft beer fans expect to pay premium prices for premium flavor.

Earning quality recognition from respected sources can also boost a restaurant’s “street credibility” with regulars and newcomers alike. So for example, after honing his skills, Jeff began competing against other quality oriented independents from around the world in pizza making contests both nationally at Pizza Expo and in Italy. Simply mentioning that Jeff’s pan pizzas have earned top honors in respected quality contests lends additional credibility to the restaurant’s quality claims and attracts additional word of mouth!

Helping customers recognize how your restaurant stands out from the competition is important. But as Jeff and Dan know, consistently superior food and service is what really brings customers back for more!