As I was driving home one day I passed the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee campus. And there, to my amazement, on the east side of the street was a new pizza parlor. I was shocked, stunned and realized that I have to raise my voice about this situation. The fact that it replaced a cheese restaurant wasn’t the cause of my reaction. There are too many pizza parlors and as a concerned community of consumers we have to do something about it.
Let me share why I think there are too many pizza parlors.
Duplication. This should be obvious. I mean, how many pizza parlors do we need? There is another pizza parlor just across the street that has been there for many years and makes really good pizza. Then there is another pizza parlor on Downer, not a mile away – the rebirth of the venerable Pizza Man. Then, go to North Ave and there are a host of other pizza parlors. If you want pizza, you can get pizza. Did we really need another pizza parlor near UWM? We need diversity of eats, not the same stuff over and over again. This is simply unnecessary duplication.
Resources are stretched too thin. This is true in any number of ways. First, I doubt that each of these parlors near UWM had the resources they needed to open, which means they had to ask for loans from banks. How many pizza parlor loans do banks have available? If they keep making these loans to these small pizza parlors, what will happen when the big pizza parlor with the best pizza in the world comes along? There won’t be a loan available anymore because too many small ones have been given out.
We also have to realize that the pockets of the hungry students aren't deep. Think back to the days when you were at college. Could you afford to buy enough pizza to keep as many as 4 parlors open?
Then there’s the issue of staff. There simply are not enough good pizza makers available to staff all of these pizza parlors adequately. Heck knows that if you have a bad cook, you have bad pizza. And servers. Where are all the servers going to come from? It isn’t fair to the banks that have made the loans to do a bad job with making and serving the pizza. In the end, it means the waste of a good loan.
Size and scope. Yes, there are many hungry young people living and studying in the UWM area. But the only way to have a meaningful impact on all that hunger is to have big pizza parlors. Pizza parlors that can make and serve pizza in large numbers and quickly. The small, artisan type pizza parlors take too long to prepare and serve pizzas to have an impact on that hungry horde of students. A pizza parlor that can seat only 8 tables cannot hope to have any real impact.
And only the big pizza parlors can afford to track the results of their pizza making, recording how many students have come to buy pizza, and are they returning to buy more pizza? This is a real indicator that the loan the bank made is having a positive impact. If they are eating pizza, their hunger is satisfied. If they come back and eat more pizza, they are not hungry for another day. Chalk up a positive outcome! The small pizza parlors don't track these things. They ask no questions about the customers and so have no information about them that can be used to measure impact.
So here is what I propose. Merger. The small pizza parlors should come together to become one large pizza parlor. Then they'll have the size and scope to truly serve a hungry neighborhood around the university. They will be able to spread their resources to reduce the number of cooks and replace them with delivery people who can take the food directly to the hungry students. There can be a restaurant that seats hundreds if not thousands of people.
The savings and efficiencies are easy to predict and exciting to think about. We would need to pay for only one oven, instead of several. We can buy tomato sauce and mozzarella cheese in bulk!
If any of this sounds familiar, it’s because it is. If any of this sounds foolish, it’s because it is. These are the same foolish arguments that are leveled at the nonprofit sector. There are too many nonprofits, the argument goes. Only large nonprofits can have an impact, so the small ones should merge and become big. There are not enough resources to go around, stretching the donors’ resources too thin. Why is that? Why can we let for-profit organizations try and succeed (or not) but feel we have to control the nonprofit population? At NPC, we've heard on occation that it's our job to make sure there are fewer nonprofits by promoting merger rather then encouraging the creation of new ones. I don't know - I'm not convinced that's our role. I do not want to be the one who said "No" to the great big idea.
So, see? Nonprofits are like pizza parlors. Let the market decide.