My Italian brother-in-law runs a pizzeria, and two other successful restaurants, in the seaside town of Rimini (the Romans called it Ariminum.)
Which is to be found on Italy’s Adriatic coast, about two thirds of the way up the Italian ‘leg’, just about where the curve starts around towards the east, next stop Venice, then eventually on to Trieste.
Whereas my wife and I own a language school, a hundred kilometres or so inland from him, straight up the famous Roman road, the Via Emilia, at Bologna (which Romans called Bononia.) At least we don’t have to march, or ride in an ox cart.
Pizza dough is made with flour, yeast, water, salt and time, topped with cheap stuff bought from bulk suppliers, and baked in a hot oven at the cost of a few euro cents of electricity or wood. The biggest expense in the process is the pizzaiolo’s salary, which is typically fairly high, this being because these specialised pizza chefs work anti-social hours in hot temperatures, and because pizza doesn’t get made without them.
The margin on a pizza (normally counted as the difference between the sale price and the cost of producing it) is huge. If it costs €1 to make and sells for €7, the margin is an impressionante €6, or 600%!
And of course, you guys will have beer with your pizza? (NEVER drink wine with pizza.) That comes in barrels and again, costs my brother in law a mere fraction of what you’ll pay him for it. (Beer is more profitable to sell than wine, too.)
Insomma, assuming you can get a steady stream of clients, running a pizzeria in the picturesque center of a formerly Roman, now Italian, town is a licence to print money!
As is, arguably, running a language school in Italy (or so people assume.) Do the maths – if you can squeeze ten people into a classroom, and each one pays (say) €12.50 per hour, your hourly gross revenues are €125, your teacher and reception worker total maybe €25, and you’re laughing all the way to the bank with a 400% markup!
People don’t NEED to take lessons to learn how to eat pizza, or to drink beer.
Though when it comes to drinking beer, I can tell you from personal experience that years of practice result in you being able to drink significantly more of it. Experience counts! Though it’s true, I never had to pay for a beer-drinking course.
Better still, people can eat pizza, drink beer, and so contribute to paying off my brother-in-law’s enormous mortgage, EVERY TIME they’re hungry or thirsty.
A reasonable percentage of Rimini families might, for example, splash their cash at Hasta Luego on a weekly business: there’s space for the kiddies to run around, mom needs a break from preparing family meals, and dad’s more than happy to pull out his plastic in exchange for a break from feeling bad about not doing more to help at home.
Repeat business = a predictable river of cash!
Running language courses might SEEM equally profitable, but sadly there are several fatal flaws in the business model. I definitely should have been a pizzaiolo…
For instance, the more effective the lessons are, the fewer of them your customers will eventually require, because they will have reached their goals sooner. Bummer.
E poi, while everyone needs to eat, and usually every day, that’s unfortunately not true of learning Italian (or another language), which is a very niche pursuit by comparison.
Worse, taking Italian lessons, however useful, however much fun, however reasonably-priced can only be done with time that people might prefer to spend on their other priorities.
Wouldn’t you rather be watching rubbish TV series, or drinking beer, or eating pizza with friends and family? Of course you would!
I’ll look to see if there are any pizzaiolo courses starting soon in my city (yes, there are!)
The conclusion is that it’s much, much harder to convince someone to spend hundreds of €€, and perhaps a similar number of hours, learning a foreign language than it is to fill them and their family full of pizza and beer while swiping their credit card for what for many people would regard as a trivial amount for an evening meal.
On the other hand…
Learn a language, even imperfectly, even just a level or so, and what you’ve paid for might stay with you for your entire life, perhaps transforming it in the process. I assume you already know that, or you wouldn’t be reading this.
Neither will you need reminding that learning Italian is much harder and more time-consuming than stuffing your face.
You might not be very good at it.
You might be wasting your time.
It’s probably expensive.
And you could spend that time/money on pizza and beer.
There! I convinced you not to bother!
But if you don’t try, you won’t know, will you?
N.b. Monday sees the beginning of our FREE TRIAL LESSON offer. Sign up for a 30-minute Italian lesson, online, with one of our friendly native-speaker teachers. The normal cost of one lesson, bought separately, is £20 (the price of a pizza and a couple of beers – multi lesson packs cost less per lesson.)
But this coming week it’ll be on us!
Bet the pizzeria isn’t giving anything away…
A lunedì, allora.
Thursday’s FREE bulletin of ‘easy’ Italian news is here.