Pizza Ranch leverages mission, menu to differentiate itself

If you take a look at Pizza Ranch's limited-time offerings throughout the years, one theme clearly emerges: Seasonality.

The Iowa-based pizza chain's most recent rollout features Hawaiian-themed flavors, for example, while in the heart of the winter, it launched a spicier sweet chili pizza.

Cody Pierce, Pizza Ranch's vice president of Marketing, took the time to discuss with PizzaMarketplace why focusing on "seasonality" is important, what menu offerings are now on trend and why the company had to take a step back and look at its "brand definition effort."

PizzaMarketplace: Why does Pizza Ranch make it a point to focus on 'seasonality' when it rolls out and markets its LTOs?

Cody Pierce: We do use seasonality because it gives us the best opportunity to have the best product on the buffets. You want the best product that's going to taste the best. Flavors change throughout the year so we make an effort to match what we're offering to that time of the year. It's always been part of our strategy and our platform.

PizzaMarketplace: What are some menu trends you're seeing now in the pizza space?

CP: The ability to launch exciting flavors is on trend. Consumers are now more exploratory, especially within the last three years. We're seeing more international flavors pop up, Asian is big, chipotle is big. Spicier is big right now, something like habanero. We're also seeing more of a demand for freshly made items and for a breakfast solution.

Not as much on the menu, but another macrotrend we're seeing is more intimate and conversational dining spaces.

PizzaMarketplace: Pizza Ranch launched its gluten-free pizza in 2011. How has that platform been received?

CP: It's been great. We just required our franchisees to add it this year and that came directly from guest demand. It's also very good for brand consistency to have it across the system.

PizzaMarketplace: Pizza Ranch also recently launched a coffee platform as part of a greater philanthropic effort (Ethiopia Reads). How is that going?

CP: It's great, we just completed two schools (in Ethiopia) and they're going to be open for students in the fall. Something like this helps us live out our mission to the world and our guests have really taken fondly to it.

We don't do these programs just to have something to do. It's just who we are as a brand. Our mission is to positively impact people and we put our money where our mouth is.

Last year, we took a step back and looked at our brand definition effort. We knew we had a strong vision and mission, but we found out from our guests that they didn't really know what that was, so we've tried to focus a lot more on that. Pizza is a hard space to compete in and this is a big differentiator for us.

Check out Pierce discussing the latest menu trends:

Read more about food and beverage trends.

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