Tricky times lead to new ideas at Torby’s Pizza

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November 5, 2012 // UPDATED 6:01 pm - January 1, 2013
By: Ben Johnson & Jeremy Zoss
Ben Johnson & Jeremy Zoss

In the Baker Building at 7th and Marquette, Torby’s Pizza owner Rick Lawless is conducting an experiment on his customers. It’s nothing sinister; in fact, it’s quite the opposite. Lawless is giving away free food, samples of new breakfast pizzas he’s considering adding to the menu.

“We’re doing it more like a skillet,” Lawless said. “The sauce is something we’re working on now. It’s gotta be peppery, it’s gotta have a bite.”

By giving away free samples to customers who come in for lunch, Lawless is gauging customer response to his various recipes for breakfast pizza. If there is enough interest, he plans to start opening at 6 a.m. for breakfast service. For a small independent skyway business like Torby’s, coming up with new ideas is a crucial.

Lawless said the explosion in popularity of food trucks has been hard on his business and others in the skyway. 

“We saw a few of the familiar trucks, and then we saw the deluge,” said Lawless. “I kind of figured we were in for a low skyway traffic summer.”

Lawless stressed that he doesn’t resent the food trucks. He had talks with one food truck operator about sharing Torby’s kitchen, but city regulators wouldn’t allow it. He doesn’t expect that breakfast service will replace the business lost in the skyway slowdown, but he thinks it will be a fun experiment. And fun, said Lawless, is a key part of any restaurant. 

“It’s an entertainment business,” he said. “If it’s not fun for us it’s not fun for customers.”