Every fourth Thursday, Pagliacci’s food team gets together to test new ideas. There are no bad ideas. We expect to miss the mark. The goal is to fail better. “Most new pizzas don’t go anywhere,” says John, Pagliacci’s Senior Director of Training and Development. But every so often, dreamy pizza ideas make it into the real world.
The group, led by John, has a core of key Pagliacci employees ranging from crew members to managers to owners. The kitchen at our Pike store functions as the test kitchen. It’s rare that any pizza ever gets green-lighted after a single meeting. Usually, tasting yields feedback, which then leads to endless tweaking. Over the next month, team members revise and test again in their stores. The following month the group comes together again to sample the new renditions, and the process repeats until the idea gets dropped or approved.
New pizza ideas often start with excellent local products—like peaches. The idea struck when John was playing pick-up basketball with a produce guy, who in-between buckets happened to mention the stellar crop of Eastern Washington peaches. Just two weeks earlier, John had been served a grilled pork chop with peaches and arugula that he hadn’t been able to forget. Bam! John brought the idea to the food team. Over a savory meeting, a dozen well-seasoned palates sampled several variations on the theme. Quizzical frowns soon turned to affirmative nods, and eventually our Peachza Primo was born.
Other ideas originate from customer contests. After the last contest, our Food Team sifted through hundreds of promising entries. They baked and tasted more than a dozen of the most tempting pies, including pizzas with kimchi and bulgogi, Southwestern-inspired pizzas, Thai pizzas, and one featuring cantaloupe. Choosing a winner wasn’t easy—many were deserving—but there could be only one. It came down to a Beet Harissa pizza and the Salumi Meatball. Ultimately, the Italian-inspired pizza got the most votes.
Then there are modifications. Striving to continually improve, we solicit feedback from regular customers and our stores after every run of a seasonal pizza. Sometimes this leads to tweaks and more testing and tasting, rinse, repeat. We keep going until we feel like we’ve got something that makes us proud.
It’s a tough job—eating all that pizza—but we’re grateful that a few brave and creative individuals step up month after month to take one for the team.