On July 31, Gatti's Pizza restaurants in Austin, Texas, offered guests one free 12-inch, three-topping gluten-free pizza. The promotion was created to introduce consumers to the chain's new gluten-free offering
"We wanted to find a way to drive trial of our new gluten-free pizza and thought what better way than to let our guests sample it for free," said Gatti's CEO Richard Snead.
The promotion yielded a record-setting day for the company: Gatti's restaurants in Austin answered more than 28,000 phone calls, and gave away more than $50,000 worth of gluten-free pizza to customers lining up for a taste.
The company announced it had used 17 times more gluten-free crust on that day than it typically goes through in an entire week.
"Austin's response was overwhelming. We received a ton of thank you messages on our website for doing this," Snead said.
In the afternoon, additional pizzas had to be sent to units around the Austin area that had run out of gluten-free offerings and, at 7 p.m., all Gatti's were officially out.
Gatti's kept its Facebook fans informed on its social media channels throughout the day.
At around 2 p.m., the company posted: "Thank you for all of the excitement regarding our FREE Gluten Free Pizza today. We had an overwhelming response to this offer!!! We have run out of Gluten FREE crusts today. Please accept our apologies for any inconvenience and we appreciate all the support from our Austin fans."
About a half hour later, the company updated its fans: "Good News! We've talked to our distributor and we have a limited supply of more Gluten Free Crust on the way. We'll let you know as soon as it's been delivered."
Gatti's gluten-free crust is made in Austin in a 100-percent gluten-free facility by Smart Flour Foods, whose blend includes tapioca, amaranth and teff flours. The crust does not contain any wheat, rye, barley, or oats and also is free of casein, egg, soy, rice and nuts.
"Wow, what a day," Snead said. "We are very proud to provide this great product to a market that is so responsive to this."
Gatti's includes more than 140 stores. There are 16 Gatti's Pizza locations in the Austin market, all of which feature the gluten-free crust.
Gatti's Pizza worked with Smart Flour Foods and members of the Gluten Intolerance Group of Central and South Texas to develop specific procedures to protect against cross contamination with glutens, beginning with a mandatory training program that each employee must undergo before they can take an order for or prepare a gluten free pizza.
More information about the steps Gatti's Pizza takes to prevent cross-contamination is available at GattisPizzaAustin.com, under the "Gluten Free" tab.
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Alicia Kelso has been a professional journalist for 15 years. Her work with QSRweb.com and PizzaMarketplace.com has been featured in publications around the world, including Good Morning America, Voice of Russia radio, Consumerist.com and Franchise Asia magazine.