With Adversity Comes Clarity
Pizza places come and go all the time. You have to be consistent in quality and service. Or, you will be making a lot of dough, but not much money.
Chip Shubert, chief executive officer of Chesapeake-based Chanello’s Pizza, found himself taking a close, hard look at his operation in 2008 when, like the rest of the industry, Chanello’s took a sharp downturn.
“It caused us to be more introspective about who we really wanted to be, where we wanted to go and how were we going to grow,” explains Chip. “We know, that if we are not growing, we are dying. We had to figure this out and make some changes. "Should we cut costs? Compete on price? What do we do?"
He and his wife Juliet opened their first Chanello’s Pizza in 1987 at Hampton Roads, just steps from the Norfolk Naval Base. They were dedicated to quality ingredients and armed with a 60-year-old family recipe that requires the dough and the sauce to be made fresh, in the kitchen, the same way, every day.
To this day, you can find Chip or Juliet in one of the Chanello’s kitchens, checking the walk-in, overseeing the vegetable prep, testing the dough and tasting the sauce.
>“We decided we absolutely could not sacrifice on product quality, that’s who we are and what sets us apart,” remembers Chip.
When times got tough, Chip and Juliet decided to differentiate and grow Chanello’s by being better: “We doubled down on advertising and quality, tightened operations, became more involved in our communities and served pizza at a fair price.”
Pizza is an overdeveloped market niche. Chip understood that trying to compete head-to-head with the buying power of the big brands would be a losing proposition. So he decided that building the Chanello’s brand was the best approach. “It took about two years to bail out of that downturn, but it allowed us to truly define our brand, and serve a pizza that we can really be proud of.”
Critical to the success of the Chanello’s brand is their commitment to “giving back” to the communities they serve. Chanello’s maintains a monthly budget dedicated to charities that focus on military, kids and education. Since the start, teams of Chanello’s staff attend every Naval homecoming to share free pizza with families and cheer their return home. On weekends, Chanello’s is often open late until 3:00 a.m., but that doesn’t keep a proud crew from showing up for an 8 a.m. Naval homecoming event.
“We are our community. It’s a real source of pride that’s woven into our culture at Chanello’s,” Chip says. “Organizational culture is not a switch we can flip; and we can’t take it for granted. We cultivate it, develop it and nurture it constantly. It also means we have to stay true to our identity in every store, and with every team member.”
The business is now thriving as a take-out and delivery operation. Chanello’s Pizza just opened their 32nd location in the western branch of Chesapeake, on the outskirts of a developing area. Now a known quality leader with loyal fans across the region, the new location is already doing great business.
“The pizza business is tough,” Chip adds. “Pizza places come and go all the time. You have to be consistent in quality and service. Or, you will be making a lot of dough, but not much money.”