Pizza Patron offering free pizzas for Spanish-speaking guests

On June 5 from 5-8 p.m., Pizza Patron will host its "Pizza Por Favor" event at restaurants nationwide. During that time, every customer who orders in Spanish will receive a free large pepperoni pizza, which is the company's top-selling product.

Free pizzas are limited to one per customer while supplies last.

According to a press release, Pizza Por Favor is the first of three 2012 campaigns the company has planned to celebrate the brand's Hispanic focus and recognize the positive changes immigrants have made in communities throughout America.

"Free product promotions have been around for a long time, but I've never heard of any company rewarding guests for speaking Spanish," said Andrew Gamm, brand director for Pizza Patron. "For us, Pizza Por Favor makes great business sense -- it is an opportunity for us to strengthen the relationship we have with our core customer."

Collateral materials for the promotion feature the word "pizza" spelled with a "c" resulting in text that reads "Picza Por Favor" (pronounced "Peek-za"). Company officials say many of Pizza Patron's corporate staff members pronounce "pizza" this way, or Pepsi as "Pecsi."

"Nearly half of our corporate staff says picza instead of pizza," says Gamm. "And when we dug a little deeper, we soon realized that a good number of our Hispanic customers also say picza. We thought it would be fun to incorporate that cultural component into the campaign."

Campaign sparks controversy

As with Pizza Patron's launch of the Pizza Por Pesos program in 2007, this latest campaign is not without controversy.

Shortly after the Pizza Por Pesos program was introduced, Pizza Patron store operators received death threats and hate mail.

According to USA Today, Peter Thomas, chairman of the Conservative Caucus, said the campaign "seems to punish people who can't speak Spanish," something he says he resents.

Gamm said Pizza Patron's customer base, however, is 70 percent Spanish-speaking, and the company is trying to make its bond with that community stronger.

Lisa Navarrete, spokeswoman for the advocacy group National Council of La Raza, said any controversy surrounding the latest Pizza Patron campaign is "silly:" "It doesn't preclude anybody. Anybody can say 'por favor,'" she said.

Pizza Patron is headquartered in Dallas with 104 locations in seven states and more than 80 under development.

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