Slices of opportunity
Pizzas are a popular dining choice for parties given their size and how easily they can be shared amongst a large group of people.
However, the cravings can also hit an individual when they are alone. This person would require an unusually big appetite to finish an entire pizza.
Sadly, this was the case for many Singaporeans three years ago. It prompted Chiang Zhan Xiang, founder of Pezzo, to come up with the idea for the unique pizza outlet.
“We saw a gap in the market and realised that there was a great demand for pizza by the slice,” he shares.
Despite the many big players in Singapore, including Pizza Hut and Domino’s, Chiang was determined to venture into the industry with a fresh concept.
At these kiosk-format outlets, customers are given the opportunity to purchase pizza by the slice. There is no need to worry about what to do with a full pan serving.
They are also free to choose their own toppings and how much of each are used.
Seizing this opportunity, Pezzo set off to provide slices to the masses.
Tapping on rare talent pools
Despite having nearly 200 staff under the Pezzo wing, Chiang says the lack of manpower has been a pressing issue.
Since its foundation, the company has had a rough time recruiting locals in particular. The tightening of the foreign labour restrictions added further weight to the talent crunch.
To overcome this issue, Chiang looked into flexible working arrangements.
“Leveraging on the part-time talent pool is the way forward,” he explains.
“There is a big pool of students and housewives who are seeking part-time employment opportunities to earn some extra income during their free time.
“To cater to this pool of potential ‘pezzorians’, we redesigned our job timing to provide greater flexibility to meet their needs and availability.”
However, Chiang later realised that bringing in the younger generation to meet labour needs was not necessarily the best move.
This was because the majority of them did not perceive the food and beverage sector as a long-term career opportunity.
Pezzo’s recruitment strategies have since diverted to target the older workforce more predominantly.
Although there were initial doubts about this demographic’s ability to perform, the strategy has proven to be a turning point.
Frequent training sessions and guidance were offered as part of a larger effort to polish these recruits’ skills in the respective departments.
“They have proven themselves to be equally capable and committed,” Chiang shares.
Since it first started in late 2012, the firm has grown to have 26 branches in Singapore, 44 in Malaysia and one in China.
Upon setting foot in each of these countries, there were two key challenges faced.
One of them was the search for talents, which was still underlined as a concern even across borders.
Although there were already kiosk operators in Malaysia and China, Pezzo’s products and its operational methods were entirely new.
“It was extremely difficult to find talents with the same skillsets and expertise we hope to get,” Chiang says.
Using the same principal as when Pezzo first started in Singapore, Chiang aimed to develop fresh unskilled applicants into trained specialists.
The firm puts a strong emphasis on training and mentoring sessions to mould staff into the best workers they can be.
Cultural diversity was another challenge faced.
Working with people of different cultural backgrounds was difficult due to the gaps in working style and methods of communication.
To minimise the impact of this, Pezzo focused on creating an inclusive work environment where everyone remains free to express themselves and share ideas.
“Our leaders are also reminded to value and respect the contributions of their teams, and provide coaching and mentoring whenever possible,” Chiang says.
Treating employees right
Employee engagement is strongly valued at Pezzo.
Every year, a Pezzorian Engagement Survey is conducted so the business can understand its employees’ engagement levels.
It aims to provide insights into any engagement gaps and to pave the way for managers to develop improved action plans.
The firm also holds HR meetings with outlet supervisors to understand their issues and address any concerns.
“This initiative provides the opportunity for them to voice out and for us to hear from them directly, allowing better communication and transparency,” Chiang explains.
The first Friday of March is set aside for “Pezzo’s Appreciation Day” every year.
“We marked this day to remember and show our appreciation to Pezzorians for their dedication and hard work,” he says.
The management team writes a personal ‘thank you’ note to Pezzorians and these are given out with a small token of appreciation, which can range from a surprise lunch to gifts of perfume.
Pezzo further places a strong focus on employees’ career progression.
Regular meetings are held by managers to understand and plan out the development path of each of their staff.
One particular employee that benefitted from this system was the previous administration manager in Singapore. She was looking to take on an entirely different role and was trained as a franchise manager last year.
In addition to frequent discussions, she was given mentorship and support from the Head of Franchise as well as Pezzo’s directors.
Both employees and the management team at pizza retail firm Pezzo believe strongly in an open door policy that can help to foster communication.
“We have a flat hierarchy and our leaders try their best to make themselves available whenever their attendance is required,” Chiang Zhan Xiang, Founder of Pezzo, shares.
Employees are also encouraged to approach their managers to discuss development opportunities, as the firm values continuous improvement.
“A certain degree of autonomy is given to our employees as well,” he adds.
“With freedom to explore and propose the best way of getting things done, we foster a greater sense of responsibility and job satisfaction.”