Serving up a slice of economic hope in tough times

As many businesses in our neighbourhood struggle during these tough economic times, they may find hope in the success of others.

The Observer earlier reported on one local business owner who was concerned for the future of his pizza shop, as it might be thought people will try to cut costs by eating in.
But another pizza shop owner, Syed Ahmed, can attest to the fact that Scarborough residents are still eating pizza.

Ahmed, 59, now spends as much as 16 hours a day at the Double Double Pizza and Chicken franchise he owns and runs with his wife at Port Union and Kingston Rd.
He bemoans the negativity in the media which he says depresses people.

“This is the time to encourage people,” Ahmed says.
“Tell them how to survive.”

He took on the once struggling location five years ago just after applying for unemployment.

Even with a bachelor’s degree in commerce, he was told by employers he was either underqualified or overqualified.
He says he believed that good service could turn business around.

“Once you satisfy your customer, you’ll see the response you get,” says Ahmed.

A boost in his business occurred when he created his culturally inspired “Hot ‘n Spicy” pizza. He saved costs by doing his own marketing, and reaching out to ethnic radio stations.

By promising customers they will love his pizza, Ahmed has been able to establish clientele.

“Ninety-nine per cent of the time they’re always back and they get it again,” says Ahmed.

Ahmed has also faced gradual increases in cost when packages of product are delivered to the shop. He believes a mistake is made in the food industry when shrinking profits don’t compensate for a higher cost of material.

“There’s no coordination,” said Ahmed, “When you take the price, you should update your price.”

His demeanour toward each customer and toward his employees has helped him build relationships which have let him maintain a successful business.

“There’s no such thing as a one-man show,” says Ahmed. “I take care of them, and they take care of me.”

Plaques of awards line a wall of Double Double Pizza, ranging from Most Organized to Most Creative Marketing. Ahmed’s dare-to-be-different attitude is what makes him and his pizza stand out.

“If you don’t have confidence in yourself, forget it,” he says.
“We’re going to get through these tough times. It’ll be fine. It’s happened before. We have to.”