Don Main knows about rock music and he knows about pizza. As it turns out, Main may know a thing or two about debtors and bankruptcy as well. Main, a former rocker, is president and co-founder of Puccini’s Smiling Teeth pizza restaurants. It seems he’s hit on a winning business strategy in a cutthroat industry (there are close to 70,000 pizzerias in the U.S.), but he takes nothing for granted. In an interview with the Indianapolis Business Journal j(Oct. 20-26), Main remarked “There’s always the risk that hard-pressed customers will stop coming in, or come in less often”. Of course, Main’s seeing the same economic statistics I report on in my bankruptcy blogs, so he knows every business can feel the pinch.

IBJ adds (and here’s the part that relates to my work), “When he wants to raise his blood pressure, Main contemplates how the use of credit cards has expanded during his years in the business, a sign customers could be overextending themselves.” In Main’s early days as a restauranteur, he notes, fewer than 20% of his customers used credit. Today, it’s 85%!

As a Bloomington bankruptcy attorney (Main’s restaurants there are called Bucetto’s Smiling Teeth in Bloomington’s where one of my four main bankruptcy law offices is located), I realize Main’s observation is “spot on”. One early warning sign of consumers’ deteriorating financial status is the use of plastic to pay for everyday goods and services such as food and gasoline. (See Will You Have Debit Or Credit With Your Fries?)

On the other hand, after more than twenty years’ experience helping post-bankruptcy clients get their finances back on track, I know total abstinence from eating out or other small luxury spending may be too strict a diet to stay on very long. Pizza may fall in that “cut yourself a little slack” spending category. Business analysts say, in fact, that pizzerias tend to be recession-proof, as restaurants go. “In troubled times, people trade down and pizza becomes more popular”, says Steve Delaney, a former Noble Romans entrepreneur also quoted in IBJ.

In order to keep bringing the most up-to-date advice to my bankruptcy clients in Bloomington, I’ll keep on tracking credit card statistics while Bob Main evidently does the same, tracking how much pizza by-the-swipe he sells.