Lessons From Ziggy’s Pizza: Say What You Mean.Posted: February 9, 2011
In my previous Ziggy’s Pizza post, I introduced you to the owner of the restaurant where I got my first job. Though Ziggy and his restaurant are gone, the lessons I learned from him stay with me.
Today we’ll discuss the second communication lesson I learned from “The Owner”.
We rejoin this tale of my youth a few weeks into my pizza making career, I was still sixteen years old. Ziggy stopped by the restaurant, lingered a bit, then pulled me aside when an order came in. “I’m going to show you how to make a pizza” he said, “get me a pizza crust.”
That’s Not Funny
The pizza crust at Ziggy’s was pre-made and par-cooked. It arrived in boxes and kept refrigerated. We’d grab the crusts off the shelf, put stuff on them and slide them in the oven as the orders came in. There really was not an art to it.
Sometimes I’d toss the crusts in the air like I was spinning crusts out of fresh dough. Management didn’t think it was as funny as I did.
When Ziggy came to me and said “get me a pizza crust” I got one out and placed it on the preparation table with reverence. I knew that $2.35 an hour he was paying me gave him the right to decide what was funny.
Pizza crust tossing was not funny. It was time for me to learn from the man.
That’s The Way, Uh Huh, Uh Huh…
My pizza making seminar with The Master began. Ziggy showed me how to put pizza sauce on the crust, then he uttered the line I saw him use unsuccessfully with one teen-aged pizza chef after another:
“I like to make a pizza the way I like it. I put on the amount of cheese I like.”
To young me, that meant I too should make pizzas that I would like. I like my pizza with lots of cheese. From then on, I piled cheese on pizza…the way I like it. Then one day Ziggy stopped by and saw me make a pizza with about one cow’s worth of mozzarella. He clutched his chest and croaked out “who taught you to make pizza that way?”
“You did, sir.”
A second demonstration made it clear that I should make pizza not the way I liked it, but the way the owner of the shop liked it. Mozzarella was money. Pizza was to be made with only the required amount of costly cheesiness.
Say What You Mean To Say
Subtlety did not work for Ziggy. During my time working at his restaurant, I saw him use the “I like to make a pizza the way I like…” line with a number of new pizza makers. Time after time, the result was pizza going out the door laden with excessive cheesy goodness.
So what I learned from Ziggy, though it wasn’t what he was teaching me is: When you need people to do something specific, be specific about what you want them to do. I supervise people and can be subtle, but I know from my time with Ziggy that I’ve got to make a point to be direct sometimes.
Sometimes I need other people to make pizza the way I like it.
This is part two of a three-part series, click here for the last serving of Ziggy’s Pizza.