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Gung Ho! Pizza: Ten Points About Ten Pies

Posted by Boyce on 15. Jul 2010

BEIJING, JULY 19 -- Since it opened last Thursday, I have had the two-for-one pizza deal at Gung Ho six times -- twice on site and four times at home -- for a total of ten pies (friends ate the other two). One owner told me he wanted feedback. Here it is, hand-crafted (I typed it myself) and hand-delivered (I pressed "publish"). It includes some rambling about the food and beverage scene and draws on talks with more than a dozen people who have tried Gung Ho pizza: consider that extra cheese.

1. The Pepperoni Test

I am a Buona Pizza fan. Its large pie is substantial, the staff takes my order with a minimum of fuss, and the pie is delivered in about 20 minutes. But the main attraction is pie versatility. It tastes good hot. It tastes good lukewarm. It tastes okay cold. And it is big enough that I have leftovers and these taste good reheated. Best of all, it lasts for days, perhaps even years. They say the sole survivors of a nuclear holocaust will be cockroaches. That's because those critters will have leftover Buona pizza to live on.

In contrast, Gung Ho pepperoni pizza tastes good hot, but the crust -- regular, not whole wheat, is best for this particular pie -- goes into a steady decline within thirty minutes. And because it is smaller, there are no leftovers to reheat.

(Note: Most of my comparisons are to Buona and not to Annie's, a favorite of many, simply because I rarely order from the latter. If anyone has opinions on how Annie's stacks up against Gung Ho, please leave them in the comments section.)

2. Taste: Toppings

Most people said they liked the taste, though several found the toppings meager and one person said he was unhappy he could not add extra items to his pie. In general, I enjoyed these pizzas, though the cooks could take the salt down a few spoonfuls. The substantial and tangy four-cheese pizza is my favorite and I could myself see ordering it, the fresh rocket (the Parmesan cheese and rocket leaves come in separate bags and you apply them yourself), and the smoked pork and mushroom most often. The Camembert and blackcurrant, with its sweet edge, and the smoked salmon, with its cream cheese flavors, are once-in-a-while pies. And the spinach pesto pie, with tofu and cherry tomatoes, is tasty though it elicited the most extreme reaction from people I talked to. (At least it gives vegetarians an option, as do the margherita, fresh rocket, and four cheese pies.)

3. Taste: An aside

Speaking of which, let us say a Chinese-owned operation put tofu on pizza. Many people I know would laugh and say, “Tofu on pizza? Those guys are clueless!” But Gung Ho does it and the pizza is “gourmet”. Hmmm. That's not Gung Ho’s fault: it's a tribute to the owners' marketing savvy and to opening at a time when some people are using, and even more are attracted to, words such as "gourmet", "artisanal" and "hand-[insert word]." I wonder if people keen to try the Camembert and blackcurrant pizza from Gung Ho are calling up Pizza Company and ordering the smoked salmon, crab stick, and mandarin orange segment "flower pizza" that comes with sausages embedded in the crust edge. Or vice versa. I might give it a try.

4. Taste: Crust

If you like thin crust, you will like this pizza. The whole wheat option is good, though the crust rapidly goes from crisp to brittle as it cools.

5. Ingredients

The most attractive feature of these pizzas. Fresh ingredients. Quality ingredients. And it seems this is still a work in progress.  Tuesday night, I saw one owner with some spice-crusted slabs of tuna--I tried a piece and it was delicious--that he says will soon be available as a ten-kuai topping on salads and pastas.

6. Size: The Ksquare Test

That same night, Ksquare visited and said he would be able to eat two or three large Gung Ho pizzas if he were really hungry. And this is a guy who came up a slice short of finishing one large Kro's Nest pizza. Having said that, one person told me he ordered a pair of large pizzas and they were enough for two people, while another said she shared two large with three people and it worked out fine. But on the whole, most people I talked to find the large to be, well, kind of small, and I concur. If a pizza is called large, it should at a minimum feed one person, and that seems almost a best-case scenario.

7. Price

That Camembert and black currant pizza is a fun option when I can get a pair for RMB95. But when the two-for-one deal finishes on July 31, am I willing to spend that much money for one? Not often. On the other hand, there is a niche of customers who do not consider RMB95 to be a big deal. After all, people pay upward of RMB100 for burgers these days.

For me, if I can choose between a large pepperoni delivered from Buona or from Gung Ho, I'll generally go for the former because it is tasty, it is bigger, and I like leftovers. But if I want something different, say a four-cheese, then Gung Ho would be an OK option. The tipping point would be if I also wanted a salad: the one I had from Gung Ho is far superior.

If I am out and can get a large pepperoni for RMB55 or four-cheese for RMB70 at Gung Ho, or, for the same price, walk 100 meters and get a large pie and a pint of Guinness for about the same price during the 5-10 PM happy hour at The Den, then I'm likely to go for the latter.

Where I could see myself happily paying for this pizza is when I've already had a few drinks, say nearby at George's or Fubar, and they have a deal to get pies delivered. If I'm paying RMB50 for a drink, then RMB55 or RMB70 for pizza shared with friends seems fine, though such hunger often arises after midnight, when Gung Ho closes. These pizzas also seem ideal as quality casual food for corporate or other events.

8. Ordering

Some struggles here but it is early days. The first time I called, the staff referred to me by my name (I assume my number was preprogrammed into the system). I went through the usual newbie rigmarole of getting my address inputted. On the second call, they again identified me by name but there was confusion over the address and I had to repeat it several times. During the last two calls, we were like old friends: they referred to by name and asked both times, “Do you still live at the same address?” "Yes, I haven't moved in the last 48 hours!" Anyway, the people taking the orders are friendly, each call gets smoother, and things should continue to improve in coming weeks and months.

9. Delivery

Some friends tell me delivery is super speedy, even less than 20 minutes in a few cases. I live up the street from Gung Ho and it has averaged 30 to 35 minutes. Slower than Buona, but still OK. On one occasion, the delivery man forgot my Coke. He went back for it and gave me an "Opps! Our bad" coupon for a free medium salad. Nice recovery.

10. Marketing

The biggest advantage of Gung Ho. The owners are smart and savvy; they have experience in the fast food sector and plenty of connections in Beijing. They have created a lot of buzz: The New Zealand PM attended the opening, magazine and newspapers have covered the early days, and, magnitudes below that, I'm writing a pretty long post about the place. And they have a timely angle: gourmet. Timely since this is a buzzword in Beijing these days.

After one week in business, they have an operation whereby tasty pizzas made with quality ingredients are delivered relatively quickly but that, given the pie size, might be considered too pricey for some once that two-for-one deal ends on July 31. Even so, there should be enough fans to keep the ovens busy, especially if the menu can be expanded to include a few more "typical" pies -- like a Gung Ho take on the Hawaiian -- at that cheaper price level of RMB55.

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More posts about Gung Ho pizza:

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Some responses to comments I made about Gung Ho pizza on Twitter:

  • Gung Ho finally ordered after 16 attempts [calls]. Friday night obviously pizza night (especially when 2 for 1).
  • I wonder if this Kiwi PM is the same one featured in the famous HBO kiwi documentary 'Flight of the Conchords' ?
  • Tried the peperoni & 4-cheese 2day. Peperoni not bad & will be killer w/some Franks' Red Hot. I really liked the 4-cheese.
  • We've had specials like that [two-for-one] which usually results in a decrease in over-all sales once the special is over.
  • For me that's the big question — will people still go in August [when two-for-one ends]? Haven't heard a convincing answer yet …
  • Agreed, its a decent pie, but with all the choices, I can't see myself paying RMB55 for one of their "larges."



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