Three ways to rescue summer sales

By Ed Zimmerman

Pizza sales traditionally dip in the summer: School is out, families are away and the grill is the focus when family and friends meet.

Now is the time to turn up the marketing heat and drive consumers to your door, phone, or online ordering with cool menu items, fresh promotions and plenty to drink.

What can you do to entice consumers and drive sales? Job  No. 1 is recognizing why sales lag. It is hot. This summer has seen record heat in the Northeast and Midwest. When sweat is dripping from your brow, hot, heavy food is not top-of-mind. Rather, cool and light menu choices win hearts and stomachs. Here are some ideas to cool down customers and heat up sales:

Focus on Cool

Pizza menus should feature some authentic Italian “cool temperature” foods. Italy can be very hot in the summer, so traditional menus include cold offerings. Mediterranean menus feature antipasto, stuffed grape leaves and olives. More modern approaches include hummus and pita platters. The tapas movement from Spain encourages “small plates” with both hot and cold foods. All of these items work for dine-in as well as carryout and delivery in the states. As do, of course, salads.

The key to success is promotions. Customers must know you offer these cooler, lighter items. On the operations side, the great news is that you already have most of these ingredients in your kitchen.

Have your own barbecue

If the grill is truly on the mind of consumers, give them what they crave. Two items that mirror their desires are cheeseburger pizza and BBQ chicken pizza. Nearly every pizzeria has the latter since California Pizza Kitchen popularized the sweeter-sauced, lighter product. The Cheeseburger Pizza is a bit more unusual but enticing to customers. Aggressively promote both using counter cards, door hangers and your website. Imagine a graphic showing a grill in a circle with a line through it with the phrase “Don’t Grill Tonight, have BBQ with us."

Bundle with beverages

Independent pizza operators could learn by a careful examination of the “bundled” deals offered by the big chains. Sure, everyone sees the $10 pizza deals on the headlines, but the better-for-our business story is the promotion like two toppings and two 20 oz. sodas for a bundled price.

Consider the wisdom. A large pizza with a 2-liter drink offers one person the chance to get what they really want while the other person compromises. Two toppings and two individual bottles gives two people exactly what want. This goes beyond price and value to something deeper – satisfaction. This contentment translates to sales and loyalty. Don’t believe me? I recently reviewed beverage sales data. It is clear that the chains outsell independents in sales per unit in this arena. Chain consumers are not thirstier than consumers at independent locations; they just see more compelling offers. Clever uses of beverages in your promotions will increase sales during these remaining hot sluggish days of summer.

Wishing you success in pizza -- Ed

Ed Zimmerman is a pizza industry veteran and President of Pizza.com, the number 1 web portal that connects consumers to pizzerias. His almost four decades of foodservice experience includes food manufacturing and distribution leadership, food industry technology & marketing services and restaurant and grocery operations management.

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