The Millionaire Next Door
Chapter 13

Copyright© 2020 by Lazlo Zalezac

Dan removed the tenth pizza from the oven and put it over on the counter. With well practiced moves, he cut it into eight slices. He slipped the pizza into the box and closed the box. As he did it, he said, “That wasn’t so bad. It’s definitely a lot easier than cooking short order.”

“It looked to me like you had it all under control,” remarked the cooking instructor as he looked around the kitchen. All of the cooking areas that Dan had used were clean. He had noticed that Dan cleaned as he worked, which was always a very good habit to get into. The utensils had been washed while the first ten pizzas were cooking. He had been impressed with the competent manner in which Dan had moved around the kitchen. It was obvious that he had some experience cooking in a professional setting.

Dan looked over at the cardboard box in which he had put the containers with toppings. Everything was in place. He double checked to make sure that the kitchen area was clean. He went over and turned off the oven from which he had removed the last pizza. He looked around to see if he had forgotten anything. The cooking utensils weren’t his, so he didn’t have to worry about them.

“Thanks. This was the first time I’ve ever made so many pizzas at once. I appreciate you letting me use the ovens,” Dan said. He had learned a few things from this experience. The first thing was that while the set up time was long, it didn’t take long to actually get the pizzas prepared. He had the preparation time for a pizza down to under a minute. It was particularly nice to use the dough roller that automatically rolled out the pizza into the proper shape.

The instructor said, “I would have had to cook a pizza myself tonight, so you saved me the trouble. It was fun watching you work.”

Dan had discovered that the college had classes in cooking, and possessed a restaurant quality kitchen with large ovens. He had asked to use the kitchen and the instructor had agreed on the condition that Dan cook a pizza for him. Looking over at the instructor of the cooking class, he said, “There’s one last pizza cooking for you. It will be done when the timer goes off. I made it square like you wanted. I hope you enjoy it.”

“I’ll be handing out samples to the class tonight. They’ll be trying to make their own pizzas,” the instructor said. He always prepared a sample of the dish the students were cooking before class. That would give the students a chance to see what it was supposed to look and taste like.

“I hope they like it,” Dan said.

“The slice you gave me was outstanding. I hope your pizzeria is a success,” the instructor replied. He had taken a slice of the first plain cheese pizza Dan had taken out of the oven.

“Thanks,” Dan said.

“I’ve got some experience in the restaurant business. If you ever want to talk about it look me up,” the man said handing Dan one of his cards.

Dan accepted the card and said, “I’ll be calling you.”

“Great,” the instructor said. He watched Dan put the small cardboard box on top of the stack of ten pizza boxes and carried them off. When Dan left, the instructor said, “I think he has a pretty good shot at success.”

Richard was setting out the soft drinks and paper plates when Dan arrived in the classroom carrying the ten pizzas. As he placed the pizza boxes on the teacher’s table, he said, “Hello, Mr. Harrison. I’m surprised to see you. What are you doing here, tonight?”

“I’ve told you to call me Richard,” he answered with a smile. He said, “I came here to help Nancy.”

Not believing that answer for a minute, Dan asked, “Is that the only reason you came?”

“Well, I did want to try some of your pizza,” Richard admitted making his way over to where Dan was standing. The aroma of hot pizza filled the air and it was making him hungry.

“Where’s Professor Harrison?” Dan asked surprised that she wasn’t there with her husband.

Richard answered, “She’s checking her mailbox at the office. She’ll be here any minute now.”

George and Ann entered the room and smelled the pizza. George said, “I take it that you brought in some pizzas.”

“That’s right,” Dan answered.

Ann went over and opened the top box. She smiled and said, “This one has everything on it.”

“I made four plain cheese pizzas, three with pepperoni, two with everything, and one with sausage,” Dan said.

Ann asked, “Can we have one now?”

“I think we should wait for everyone else. I’d hate for us to run out of pizza before everyone has a chance to get a slice,” Dan answered.

“Dude, you brought ten of them,” George said eying the stack of boxes.

“I know. I probably should have made twelve,” Dan said. He looked over at George and patted the man’s rather substantial belly. He said, “I forgot that you could probably eat one all by yourself.”

George looked down at his belly and then broke out laughing. Used to getting ugly comments about his size, he realized that Dan wasn’t being mean. Shaking his head, he said, “These had better be pretty good pizzas considering how much you’ve been bragging about them.”

“They are,” Dan said.

Others in the class arrived and gathered near the table. Professor Harrison arrived at the door, but the guide dog stopped just inside the room. It paused trying to make sense out of the milling crowd around the desk. She announced her presence by saying, “I take it by the smell that the pizzas have arrived.”

“That’s right,” Dan said.

“Let’s get to our seats for a few minutes and then we’ll start on the pizza,” she said. She listened to the sounds of people heading to their seats. Once she was certain that the area around the table was clear she made her way to the front of the room. Upon reaching the table, she said, “Now, I’m sure that some of you might not be aware that Dan Parker is planning on opening a pizzeria. He has been auditing this class to learn how to do the bookkeeping for his business. I asked him earlier in the semester to bring in samples of his pizzas so that he could get some feedback from future customers. How many pizzas did you bring?”

“I brought ten,” Dan answered.

“Excellent. If you would be so kind as to come up here and serve up your pizzas to everyone, we’ll get started,” Professor Harrison said.

Dan went up to the front of the room and turned to her. He asked, “What kind of pizza would you like? I have plain cheese, sausage, pepperoni, and fully loaded pizzas.”

“I’ll take plain cheese,” she answered.

He put a slice of plain cheese pizza on a plate. He held it out for Professor Harrison and said, “Here’s a slice for you.”

She reached out a hand and he put the plate in her hand. Smiling she said, “Thank you, Mr. Parker.”

Dan turned around and found that the first one in line was Richard Harrison. Grinning he asked, “And for you?”

“One with everything,” Richard answered.

As Dan handed him a plate with a slice of pizza, Professor Harrison said, “Oh, this is good.”

Dan grinned and handed out slices of pizza. By the time the last person had been served, people had already come up for a second slice of pizza. Ann said, “I was only going to eat one slice, but that’s a good pizza.”

Smiling, Dan said, “Do you know what I like about pizza?”

“What?” Ann asked.

“You have to eat it with a smile. You can’t eat it with a frown,” Dan answered with a wink.

Ann laughed and said, “I never thought about it that way.”

When George reached the head of the line, he patted his stomach and said, “I think you’re right. I could eat a whole pizza.”

Dan got to eat one slice of pizza before all ten boxes were empty. Professor Harrison stepped up to the front of the room and said, “Tonight is supposed to be a review before the final next week. Towards that end, I’d like to work through a real world problem. Dan, I’d like to use tonight’s little meal and your bookkeeping project as the basis of our review. Is that okay with you?”

“Yes, Ma’am,” Dan answered.

For the next half hour, they worked through the costs of the putting together the meal. Dan was fortunate in that he still had the receipts for his purchases in the box. Richard provided numbers for the labor, rent and utilities. He also gave an estimated payment on a start-up loan. Together the class put the data into the appropriate parts of the program. There was a spirited discussion about each entry.

The class was very interested in the review. They had a real product, real receipts, and real decisions to make, based on their work. He had a very low profit margin based on the prices that he had paid, the estimated hourly wages, and the estimated overhead. Dan was a little stunned when he saw that the ingredients came to a little more than thirty percent of his sales price. That was well above the percentages that he had found on the web.

The discussion turned to what actions Dan could do to improve his profit margins. A few minutes before the class was over, Dan said, “All of the costs that we’ve been discussing are the basic day to day operating costs of the company. However, there are some costs associated with decorating the store for holidays, employee bonuses, advertising, wastage, and supplies for keeping the store clean. Before we start calculating profit margins, don’t we need to take those costs into account as well?”

Professor Harrison nodded her head and said, “Yes, we do.”

Richard said, “You can assume that the decorations for the holidays were included in the start-up loan. However, the bonuses, advertising, wastage, and supplies are part of the general costs of doing business.”

Looking at the image being projected on the screen, Ann sat back and asked, “How does anyone make any money this way?”

Professor Harrison said, “Normally one would do an analysis to determine what level of sales is needed in order to break even. I would estimate that he probably requires about thirteen thousand a month in sales to break even. From that point on, his profit margin will increase since the fixed operating costs are covered.”

“That’s a lot of pizzas,” George said.

Shaking his head, Dan said, “I need to do an average of four hundred and thirty dollars of sales a day to reach thirteen thousand in monthly sales. Based on ten dollars for a large pizza, that works out to be forty-three large pizzas a day. If I expand the menu, I can introduce some items that provide a higher profit margin than pizza. Pastas are fairly inexpensive to produce and can sell at a good price. Sandwiches can have a pretty good profit margin as well. Don’t forget that there are soft drinks, iced tea, and coffee, which have considerable markups.”

Richard listened to Dan discuss the nuts and bolts of running a pizza shop. From the way he was talking, one could imagine that he was describing a fully operational business. He was impressed and felt that Dan wouldn’t have any difficulties getting a business loan. He made a note to discuss arranging for start-up capital with Dan during their next meeting. There were a lot of ways by which Dan could float loans with his suppliers. He wondered how good Dan’s credit rating was.

Sue sat down at the table while Dan was eating during his break. She asked, “How did it go in class? Did they like your pizzas?”

“It went well. They ate every slice,” Dan answered with a smile.

“That’s good. So are you really going to open up your pizzeria?” Sue asked with a slightly worried look on her face.

“Yes, I will,” Dan answered.

“You’ll be leaving us then,” she said looking sad.

“Not for a year. I’ve still got a lot to do before I’m ready to open my own business,” Dan said.

Sue brightened up a little on hearing that. She said, “I thought you were going to leave us before then.”

“No, I still have to identify all of the equipment that I need. I haven’t even started thinking about my advertising artwork,” Dan said.

“Artwork?” Sue asked looking over at him.

“Yes. I want to have my boxes printed with Parker’s Perfect Pizza on them and a picture of some kind. I’d like to use the same picture for my brochures and newspaper ads,” Dan answered.

Sue was silent for several minutes while Dan ate his lunch. Finally, she said, “I’m a pretty good artist. I used to do that for a living, but I stopped. Maybe I could do the artwork for you.”

“That would be great,” Dan said. He wasn’t sure what kind of pictures she would produce, but it wouldn’t hurt to have her try.

Sue nodded her head and then said, “I had better get back to my tables.”

Rob sat down at the table after Sue left. For almost five years he had watched her working around the restaurant. He said, “You know, I never thought I would see her smile.”

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