Macau Matters | A Tale of Several Pizzas

Richard Whitfield

When teaching, I am a firm believer in starting with the “big picture” and only then looking into various details. For learning to be meaningful and relevant to students they need to understand the context so they can see why putting the effort into learning the details can be worthwhile.

In a recent Semester I spend significant time explaining to my hospitality management students that in market economies businesses need to continually improve to survive in the long run. There are always competitors offering comparable products/services and as soon as one gets “better” it will take market share from the others and thus ensure its success. Moreover, businesses can only get “better” in one of two ways: (1) improve the quality of their products or services or (2) reduce their operating costs (so they can reduce their prices and still remain profitable). Customers want value – the best product/service they can get at a reasonable price.

As a post-graduate student in the 1980’s writing up my PhD thesis I worked 7-day, 100-hr weeks for more months than I like to remember. One saving grace from this period in my life was going to the original La Porchetta Pizzaria in Rathdowne Street Carlton to get my Sunday lunch – a medium Capricciosa  pizza. This was in a time “before Pizza Hut” when Italian restaurants had their own individual recipes, and while they may have had the same names, the pizzas from two restaurants were night and day different, and only the best survived!

Then Pizza Hut, and more recently Domino’s, came into the market offering an acceptable standardized pizza in a clean standardized restaurant at a good price, with home delivery and they took over and sent many “mom and pop” restaurants out of business. Interestingly, when I visit home now I often go to a nearby La Porchetta franchise restaurant which is, in fact, a remodeled Pizza hut, and the pizzas are almost as good as I remember (at least through my rose colored glasses)!

In recent times, I have seen the rise of “artisanal” pizzas with all manner of quirks in Mebourne – salad and all sorts of stuff on pizza bread that celebrates fresh ingredients and the individual chef and his/her interests. Again, only the best survive, and while I am sympathetic to old dinosaurs that cannot adapt to new situations the best you can do is to ensure that they have a reasonable retirement – King Canute and nobody else can hold back the tide.

I am seeing this same progression unfolding in Macau. I can remember when one of the Toscano restaurants was the only place to get pizza in Macau, and then we got several Pizza Huts that have been acceptable stand-bys for many years. But we are now starting to see some new restaurants offering exceptional pizzas at reasonable prices – I recently had a very good one in the new MGM in Cotai, for example. It will be interesting to see who ends up being the dinosaur.

Looking over this article I seem to have used quite a few brand names – nobody paid me anything to name their businesses (but if they would like to give me free pizzas, I will be happy to be, slightly, corrupted). I actually see no problem in naming names – we all know them and it adds “color” to the text and ideas being presented. There is a long history of brand names entering the vernacular – I could hoover up a slice of pizza right now!

Categories Opinion