In April of last year, I saw that there was to be a new kosher pizza restaurant in Kew Gardens. This was exciting to me because one of the last places my family enjoyed visiting had changed kosher certification and I was advised that it was less reliable than the one from which they had previously used. There was much fanfare and there were regular lines when it first opened. Now — only nine months later — the store is completely empty and locked, shuttered and closed without any hint of a warning that they were going to do it. What happened? I believe I can detail a few of the problems that led to the decline and eventual shut down of Shalom Pizza Palace.
Let us start with the hours of operation. There was a sign that had set hours of operation, but this did not always mean that the restaurant would be open during those hours. Indeed, sometimes the restaurant would be open past its stated hours, and sometimes it would be closed during a time when they should have been open.
Next, the prices — they started off with one set of prices and the prices seemed to shift quite a bit during the life of the restaurant. At one point, ten dollars would get you a plain pie. Suddenly that same pie was sixteen dollars.
The signing was, to put it mildly, awful. Most of it was handwritten and not by someone who was even remotely mediocre in writing letters on a poster. Moreover, there were numerous spelling and grammar mistakes — not only on the signs themselves but on the menus that came professionally printed. I brought this to the attention of an employee and he said that the owner’s first language was not English. Neither was mine. If you can pay someone to print your posters, you can pay someone to proofread them before printing them.
The recipes — the simple recipe for a plain pizza was never the same. You would go in one day and the crust would have one texture, and then the next day it was like eating from an entirely different restaurant. A friend of mine when asked by an employee what she thought of the pizza they had shot back — which recipe are you referring to? This week’s or last week’s? Today’s recipe or yesterday’s recipe? She was blunt, but to the point. Keep your recipe consistent — and good!
Social media? They never heard of it, clearly — there was no online presence for the restaurant and a simple Google search for the restaurant brought up nearly no results other than a blank Facebook page with nearly no likes (not surprising considering they had no content) and nothing else — no menu pages, no press, nothing! In 2013 and 2014, people use social media more than ever to find business. If I do a Google search for “Kosher pizza Kew Gardens”, and you own a kosher pizza restaurant in Kew Gardens, your restaurant should be somewhere on top — not places in nearby Kew Gardens Hills!
Ingredients? They ran out regularly! I had multiple people complain to me that they went in, cash in hand, ready to buy pizza — and were told that they were OUT OF CHEESE. Let me rewrite that for you. A PIZZA PLACE RAN OUT OF CHEESE. They said they were waiting for stock from their supplier. NO. When you see your supply is low and you aren’t expecting your supplier until the next day, you send the delivery person down the street to the kosher supermarket and get more. It is completely unacceptable as a retail business to be out of stock of the one thing people associate with your business. It’s in the name — PIZZA PALACE.
Really, there were numerous factors that led to the shutting of Shalom, and I tried in vain to stop it from happening — I gave quite a bit of advice to the owner including printing their window signs bilingually (Russian and English) to attract a Russian yet not necessarily kosher observant audience. I just hope the next kosher pizza place in Kew Gardens will take heed and not destroy their own business by ignoring a few seemingly obvious good practices.