Blogs for 2014

Is Our Pizza “Expensive”?

We get a lot of reviews on Yelp and TripAdvisor (among others), and I’m always intrigued to see comments about the price of our pizza. While some reviewers say our prices are good, so many of them lament how expensive our pizza is. Rather than respond to any individual review, I’ll use our blog to explain why our pizza is priced the way it is.

At Pizzeria Caldera, we strive to provide great food, in a comfortable atmosphere, with the best service possible, at a reasonable price. We feel we’ve balanced that pretty well here in Jackson Hole.  My first question to anyone who says our prices are high is always, “High compared to what?” Dominoes? Pizza Hut? If you compare Pizzeria Caldera prices to any other comparable pizzeria or small restaurant in a similar market—or even in our market—I think you’ll find our prices to be equal to or less than our competitors. (I was recently in Sonoma, CA and ate at a very similar pizzeria, and their prices were about 5% – 8% higher than ours. I would say it’s fair to compare Sonoma Valley and Jackson Hole.)

Keep in mind that we are essentially an island in the mountains. Nothing is produced here and everything needs to be trucked in and out, so not only is food expensive to get here, garbage and recycling (which we do a lot of) is also expensive to get out of here. We strive to serve the best pizza, which means quality ingredients: fresh vegetables, meats and cheeses that are prepped daily to make quality Napolitana pizza from scratch. Rent is high close to the square and our landlord is no exception when it comes to squeezing every penny out of us they can. It is also very expensive to live in Teton County, Wyoming, which makes the labor pool very small and competition for that labor fierce, and requires us to pay a premium for employees. The $10.10 federal minimum wage controversy means nothing here because our market requires us to pay even our dishwashers more than that. Finally, ours is a small restaurant, which means we can’t do the volume of a place with more seats, which is a limitation on revenue.

Menu prices are not just made up numbers. We spend a lot of time running all our numbers, examining food costs for each menu item and balancing that against all the other costs associated with running a restaurant (That napkin or box you didn’t pay for? Those cost money too.) and looking at comparable restaurants here and in other markets before we finalize on a price or change prices. This is a business and we make all our decisions based on the realities of business. That is something many people simply don’t grasp when they make comments about prices being too high (and other suggestions like, “You should serve wings” or “You should deliver”).

In my opinion, food is too cheap in this country and we’ve gotten used to it taking a much smaller amount of our income than it did 30 – 50 years ago. If we paid for the actual cost of the food we eat, from subsidized big agriculture to the medical costs required to treat the diseases caused by too large portions of processed and genetically modified foods consumed by too many Americans, food — real food, from grocery stores to restaurants — would cost much more than most Americans are used to paying for it. And as resources such as water and arable land become scarce, prices will rise. I predict in the not-too-distant future a 12-inch pepperoni pizza for $13 will be remembered as a real bargain.

So before you complain that our pizza is overpriced, give a little thought to where you are and what goes into putting that pizza in front of you. If you do, you may just come to realize that what you’re getting is actually a bargain.