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I Like Pizza More Than Coffee

by Josh Lindstrom on

I may actually like pizza more than coffee. 

On one hand, it's not hard to believe. Pizza has a huge following and people - at least those residing in the USA love it. 

On the other hand, you may think my allegiance has been taken over by cheese and gluten.

But, hear me out.

My palette is more accepting of varying standards of pizza. I have no shame in saying that I’m just fine with having “cardboard” pizza. I will also sit down and talk about the great pizza I have had in my limited travels and paint a picture of what my “ideal” pizzeria looks like.

However, when it comes to coffee, there is a limit to what I will drink.

If I go out to a greasy spoon diner, I will have a subpar cup of coffee. Actually, if anyone makes me a cup I will drink it and greatly appreciate it. But just as I go into my local gas station and pay $15 dollars for a Lotzza Motzza, (yes, $15 dollars - don’t get me started), I will not walk into my local gas station to get a cup of coffee on the regular. Instead, I choose to not have coffee.

***

There is an Italian eatery in St. Paul that I went to once pre-covid. I have spoken about and recommended it to folks since then, but I have only been there once.

This eatery also just launched a frozen food line recently, and much to my delight, our local coop carries their products.

I’m giving you hints here to see if you may have already guessed the name.

Enter Mucci’s Italian, on Randolph Ave in the West 7th neighborhood. My one visit there was great. It’s a super tiny space and it’s filled with people, smells, and tastes that make you feel right at home.

***

Last week, while I was scrolling Instagram, I came across a clip of a fella talking about food costs. To be frank, I was just instantly intrigued by this fella’s voice, or maybe it was the way he was communicating. Whatever! It grabbed my attention. So I let my attention wander and I went and found where the clip was from.

In my wanderings, I learned that the clip came from the Niver Niver Land podcast hosted by Tim Niver, an acclaimed restaurateur based in St. Paul, MN.

Tim is the man behind Mucci’s as well as Saint Dinette (have not been to yet) and Mucci’s Frozen Food (which I gladly purchase at my local coop. The frozen pizza is hands down better than my Lottza Mozza and it’s cheaper too! What the hell is going on?) 

The full podcast episode is a rant of Tim giving his thoughts on a few different issues that relate to his restaurant businesses. I deeply appreciate his thoughtfulness throughout the episode, but I realized his beliefs around credit card fees stirred something within me.

Tim believes that card users should absorb credit card fees associated with purchases. Why should a business owner be paying a fee for a convenience that the customer primarily benefits from?

As I listened, I was reminded that I absolutely hate and disagree with having to pay a fee to use my card at a restaurant.

I say this and realize there are a lot of tensions at play for me around the subject. Even though I don’t think people should live in constant credit card debt, I believe credit card companies are a part of the economy. They are here to stay for the foreseeable future. It disgusts me how much money credit card companies probably make, but I love my credit card rewards.

Yet despite all of that, I get rubbed when I look at the bottom of my receipt at establishments and it says something along the lines of, “We impose a surcharge on credit cards that is not greater than our cost of acceptance.”

When I have calculated the fee restaurants charge in the past, it’s usually pushing 4%. I doubt most businesses are really being charged that much to process a credit card. With some, but not much, research, it seems like I’m paying MORE than the fee the business is being charged to to process my card. On average, credit card processing fees typically range from 1.5% to 3% of the transaction amount. That discrepancy, even if small, really gets me because it feels like a dishonest statement.

***

The Government Accountability Office says that 82% of US adults have a credit card. Of that 82%, 61% carry credit card debt.

We use Square as our POS and they do our credit card processing as well.  Last year 89% of all the payments that were accepted were made using credit cards.

Based on the fact that more than half of credit card users carry debt, I assume that our sales would drop drastically if we did not accept credit cards.

Therefore, the fees, which amounted to $12,000 in our business last year, feel like a cost of doing business rather than an convenience provided to the consumer.

***

As a business owner I personally want to paint the picture very clearly of what my customers will pay. I want our menu to be short, clear and to the point. If you walk into Fika coffee and order a drink off the menu, I want the price you pay to be the same price that the menu reflects: Taxes are included. There are no fees. There isn’t even a charge if you want to substitute an alternative milk (there are only fees if you add more of a product like espresso, flavors, etc.) I believe that being clear about what one will pay creates an enjoyable experience.

That is why, to this day, in our cafe we still are not passing those fees along. 

***

I would love to hear your thoughts and comments. Who do you think should absorb credit card fees? Is it something you think much about or that impacts your experience?

***

Tim Niver, if you read this, I would love to share a coffee or a meal with you!

As for the rest of you, go listen to Niver Niver Land and get a pizza at Mucci’s.


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