2020 was mostly certainly an unexpected year – hardships, challenges, and uncertainty in business. Though pizzeria’s have fared far better than the overall restaurant industry, nearly 70 percent of pizzerias experienced a closure of some sort during the past year, with 60 percent reporting a decrease in sales. But in amongst all the struggle, one self-styled pizza critic has been somewhat of a shining light for the industry. Davey Pageviews himself…David Portnoy.
Known for many things to many people, David Portnoy, in more recent years, has become best known as a pizza connoisseur. After what started off as a debate Portnoy had with a co-worker “Big Cat” Dan Katz, Portnoy has made it his personal mission to review as many brands and varieties of pizza across the country as possible. No one could have predicted what happened next. Portnoy, with his unapologetic character, enthusiasm and comical charm in toe, filmed reviews that quickly took on a life of their own.
Since 2018, Portnoy has eaten the wares of nearly 500+ pizzerias and counting. As a result, he has literally hundreds of video reviews which accumulated millions of views online. His “One Bite with Davey Pageviews” series has become so popular that he frequently welcomes guest stars, such as Jon Hamm, Seth Meyers, Scott Van Pelt, Paris Hilton, Bill Hader, Tyson Fury – the list goes on – to help him review pizza.
His reviews all follow a similar format – Portnoy purchases a whole pizza, takes it outside the eatery, and then takes a bite of the pizza. Eager viewers are treated to Portnoy’s entertaining commentary heightened by the atmosphere on the street and antics of the general public around him as they await his verdict. At the end Portnoy rates the pizza assigning it somewhere between one and 10. Unbeknownst to Portnoy, his idea and actions that originally begun life as an offhand office remark, inadvertently caused an avalanche of attention to the pizzerias he reviewed. Get a review score close to, or above an 8…you may just run out of dough. Anything close to a 9 or above, you just might need to hire more staff.
Aside from one bad encounter – which has now been righted, high score or not, it seems Portnoy’s reviews can result in a pretty substantial uptick in business for those he visits. Pizzerias’ have reported customers lining the block and “been sold out every day for a week” after Portnoy’s review going live. The popularity of Portnoy among his growing fan base is such means, that wherever Portnoy goes, so do they.
Through his reviews Portnoy has generated momentum to move the needle for a business – something that was a nice to have pre-Covid, has now become all the more meaningful and impactful.
Barstool Sports Fund – Big supporter of the little guy
Since the Covid-19 pandemic hit in the spring, Portnoy has had to slow down in his mission to rate all the pizzerias in the US (– although to get his fix of pizza every single day for lunch he begun including frozen pizzas!).
Irrespective of fresh or frozen, Portnoy recognizes the influence his One Bite series reviews have on a business. Due to Covid Portnoy was alarmed by shutdown orders created by the pandemic and the significant impact they had on small business owners. So much so, in December he created “The Barstool Fund” – contributed $500,000 of his own money – in an effort to support struggling small businesses and to bring about positive changes. Tom Brady, Aaron Rodgers, Guy Fieri and Kid Rock are among some of the celebrities who’ve contributed to the successful small business-boosting effort. To date has raised over a whopping $36 million – with continued growth by the day.
Impact on the Industry as a Whole
Love him or hate him, there’s a lot more to Portnoy than just eating pizza. Whether you have the opportunity or not to visit any of the places he reviews, his One Bite series currently provides us, the viewer with a pleasant distraction, a sort of escapism from the current sea of gloom around us. For businesses, on the other hand, Portnoy’s presence is bit more substantial.
Just like when Robert Parker, the famous wine critic, drove new interest and business in wines when he started scoring them out of 100, Portnoy is driving new interest in independent pizzerias. There is no question that the pandemic has helped large pizza corporations and hurt the independents. Portnoy champions the independent and the “old school.” In the eyes of his growing audience, the humble cheese pizza now has all the nuances of a fine wine. Pizza makers are now elevated to artisans. And the impact of his reviews automatically come with an increase in exposure and subsequently an increase in profits.
You say Davey hasn’t visited your restaurant? No worries. It’s time to talk about the App. The One Bite App is also a boon for the industry as it lets users in on the review game. In places far off the beaten track, new customers are reviewing pizzas and posting reviews. Portnoy frequently references the App and is openly curious to see of his judgment matches the judgment of the crowd.
As with any rating system, there are winners and losers. The losers may not like Portnoy and his particular tastes (e.g., thin and crispy vs. Neapolitan). But that is missing the point. Portnoy’s review ecosystem is putting small businesses back on the map. It’s free advertising and it drives revenue. And it may be the most important development in the battle between the chains and the independents.