Every pizza display case tells a story. The strategist knew that very well. From the signage to the slicers to the arrangement of the Parmesan and red pepper flake shakers, no visual cue could be left to chance, especially for this client: a 20-unit New York style pizza chain headquartered in San Diego. The CEO was very proud of the organic nature of his restaurants’ interiors, and the lack of “chaininess” to them.
Six different pizzas now rested on burnished metal stands, intermittently punctuated with an assortment of calzones, stromboli, salads, and beverages. It had taken three weeks of recipe testing to bake pizzas this good. For every perfect, client-ready pizza, there were at least six that missed the mark—crusts that weren’t crispy, mozzarella that didn’t stretch, pepperoni that curled when cast in the oven, pockmarking the pie with tiny buckets of grease. (I was a beneficiary of the process. An arsenal of failed recipe prototypes was accumulating in my freezer.)
The strategist carefully removed a stack of miniature chalkboards from her desk. On each one, she inscribed the name of a different pie: The Triboro (meat lover’s). The Whitestone (white pie). The Bronx (everything but the kitchen sink). New York’s exalted status in the pizza universe was essential to this client’s identity, so much that the client had even implemented a reverse osmosis system in the dough-making process to replicate the pH balance of New York water.
When the set up was complete, the strategist called over the head of the agency to evaluate her work.