Once upon a time, Pizzeria Beddia was a hidden gem in Philadelphia’s Fishtown neighborhood. But then, Philadelphia Magazine named its pizza the best in the city. And soon after that, Bon Appétit called it the best in the country.
The word got out and everything started to change.
“I mean, there were like 500 people walking through the door, and we had 40 pizzas,” says Joe Beddia.
That’s right, Beddia’s only makes 40 pizzas a day. Joe Beddia makes the pizzas and runs the business with the help of just one other employee, who takes orders and runs the register. Joe does the rest, like ordering the ingredients from local farms, going to the bank, meeting with an accountant and paying taxes.
Beddia works four days a week, Wednesday to Saturday, and focuses mainly on making those 40 perfect pizzas, one at a time.
“There have been days where I have pushed myself to 45 or 50,” he says, “but it’s just physically, mentally exhausting.”
For Beddia, making the pizzas is meditative. He becomes extremely focused on each task, especially working with the dough. He says he had lost his way before having the idea for a pizzeria. He had worked as a brewer for years, and he had liked how making beer was both tangible and creative, but was looking for a different outlet.
And then, he discovered pizza.
He developed his pizza making technique over a few years — traveling across the country to learn the craft. Then in 2013, Beddia got lucky when the price fell on a space he had been eyeing. He says he got a great deal on the lease. A deal so good that he could afford to pay the rent by selling 40 pizzas at about $25 each, four days a week.
So far, the number 40 has been good to him.
“As far as, you know, the business side goes, is a number where it’s positive. I’ve never really made any money, now I feel like I am making some money,” Beddia says.
At this point you’re maybe thinking, “OK, the pizzas sound great, clearly people think it’s worth it, but is this actually a good business model? And has he considered expanding?”
“In situations like Joe’s situation, the objective is different,” says Raffi Amit, professor of entrepreneurship and management at the Wharton School. “For him, the satisfaction of creating those pizzas, which may be a form of art, is the main objective. The money is the means to an end.”
Amit says for a small business to thrive, it needs two things: a sound business and a satisfied owner. Ultimately, he says, do what you love, do it well and the market may well find you.
As for the supply and demand question in regards to Pizzeria Beddia, Amit says, “Perhaps just look at the line and say, ‘Oh, maybe if I charged $5 more per pizza that would be acceptable by the market!’”
Beddia says he has no plans to change his business model for now. It’s profitable enough, and it makes him happy. For him, the reason for his success comes down to doing things the right, maybe even the conventional way.
“Really, just do your research,” Beddia says, “and just get out there and see it all, and then you can bring that back to your current situation.”
Just don’t try to show up to Pizzeria Beddia late and order a pizza.
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