Hometown Classic vs. Growing Franchise

Cottage Inn wins school lunch bid, threatens to take more business

-Tyler Valentine

For many years now, Classic Pizza has been a household pizza, so to speak, for most homes in Dexter. Everywhere you went, it was being served. Could this be the end of Classic’s reign in Dexter?

The 2016-17 school year has brought many changes and one of the most notable changes is the pizza being served.

For those who haven’t yet noticed, every school from Bates and Cornerstone to the high school has made the switch from Classic Pizza to Cottage Inn on pizza days. Smaller changes have also taken place in regard to lunch at the high school. A new froyo machine with toppings has been added to the DHS lunch options.

During the summer of 2016, Cottage Inn outbid Classic Pizza for the school lunch contract. A recent survey shows that high school students don’t mind the change and actually prefer Cottage Inn pizza for lunch.

“Cottage Inn is cheesier and it tastes more fresh,” said sophomore Autumn Edwards, who voted for Cottage Inn in the survey. “And, the pizzas are bigger.”

The switch will cause changes at both Classic Pizza and Cottage Inn. Within the last five months, Classic Pizza has lost business from Little League concessions, who switched over to Cottage Inn, Dexter Youth Football on Sundays, and now the school lunches. However, Classic Pizza is still served at Friday night football games and nearly every other high school sporting event, which is no big deal because “business is business” according to Classic Pizza owner Ralph Schlaff.

The stores are vastly different from one another. Cottage Inn is more updated with technology and new, efficient ways to make food, while Classic Pizza makes pizzas the same way they’ve been making them for more than 25 years.

“Not much has changed during the day; [it’s] a little bit of a slower lunch with us not having to get the pizzas to the schools, but other than that things aren’t much different,” Schlaff said.

According to Schlaff, Classic has considered delivering to other schools for lunch, but he said that other schools are just too far away.

Cottage Inn is fairly new to the pizza scene in Dexter, but that hasn’t stopped the growing franchise from rapidly expanding its business.

Though Cottage Inn is thriving in town, school lunches are a different kind of rush to handle. They have to make and deliver 200 pizzas to the schools everyday, which is a challenge even for an efficiently-run restaurant such as Cottage Inn.

Some people think Cottage Inn may have bitten off more than it can chew by adding 200 pizzas a day and on top of the already-thriving lunch buffet.

“I’m glad I’m not working during lunchtime; topping 200 pizzas doesn’t sound fun,” said Kyle Gilbert, a DHS senior and Cottage Inn employee. “But I know it is good for business.”

There is still a bright future for Classic Pizza. They have their sights set on returning to the DHS cafeteria in 2017.

“Next year we are going to work things out and enter a new bid and hopefully take back the school lunches,” Classic Pizza owner Ralph Schlaff said.

Also, Classic is celebrating 25 years of sponsorship by donating 10 percent of every Wednesday’s sales during the month of October to the Dexter Athletic Booster Club.

The future is also looking bright for Cottage Inn. Within the last year, the franchise has branched out to Texas and Florida. Cottage Inn is also planning on expanding to both North and South Carolina, as well as China.

Who knows, maybe a few years down the road there will be countrywide franchise that got its footing in our area.