By Ed Zimmerman
As a kid I looked at the mid-August calendar with dread: summer was almost over! School would start soon!
By now, summer has almost ended. As an adult with a middle-schooler I say, “YYIIPPE, school is almost back in session!” It might be an upsetting fact of life for your kids and mine, but it can be a good thing for pizzeria operators – yes, even – especially! – for the larger chains who may not have explored this specific community marketing initiative.
So, how can the back to school era build revenue for pizza businesses? The most powerful way is via ways that reach into the classroom, to keep your brand front-of-mind, and acquire new customers. Here are a few ideas designed to achieve that end:
The classic way to connect with schools is through sports teams. Sponsor the football, baseball or soccer team and provide team jerseys and after-parties. Since this is classic technique used by community-oriented chains like Pizza Patron, it also means it is over-used and likely competitive with other pizzerias in town.
The opportunity: Get creative and back the chess or computer team. What about the cheerleaders? This is a big sport these days, which gets less attention than its on-the-field counterparts. Use new technologies, like Twitter to report the scoreboard for parents stuck at work. For example, “Lions 32 Giants 28 third period, 18 minutes to go in the game. The pizza party follows at Joey’s Pizza, 123 Main St.” (Only 107 characters! Twitter allows 140)
Schools desperately need money for books, pencils and art supplies; many teachers dig into their own pockets for these items.
The opportunity: Have your pr people and regional managers spearhead efforts to connect with local school district administrators to brainstorm specific supply needs, and a program, like “Buy a Gift Certificate to buy our class a new World Map!” Teachers can coordinate so that when a family purchases a $25 meal certificate for $15 or $20, the additional $5-10 is donated to the class. This will create 20-30 families coming to your restaurant for ordering or delivery; many will be new customers.
Every pizza operator has seen school lunch programs with lots of volume and little profit, but also with great resulting PR. That’s good, but what if the profit were part of the package too?
The opportunity: Many schools focus on better nutrition, through natural, organic, gluten-free or veggie options. Chains would be wise to look into creating a separate menu offer for “healthier alternatives for children,” with increased margins for such items, to play off the theme that parents are reminded of when school starts.
Additionally, consider developing a relationship with the cafeteria administration, which could turn into catering sales for the faculty or evening events, where price may be less sensitive. Use your online order system and e-mail campaign to promote.
The point is, there are many creative ways for pizzerias to generate goodwill and profits by forming a relationship with schools, which is often overlooked at the large chain level. As success grows, you increase the number of classes, teams, events etc. Your concept will be going good and doing well at the same time.
Ed Zimmerman is a pizza industry veteran and President of Pizza.com, the number No. 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.