Nov. 3, 2008
While the Thanksgiving holiday may be a good time for pizzeria operators, it may not be a good time to offer discounts.
Thanksgiving Eve ranks among the top five busiest holidays for pizzerias according to the 2007 Pizza Marketplace Pizza Industry Study. Because most operators can count on built-in business, they're striving to make it as profitable as possible.
"I do not run any big promotions that Wednesday since it is already such a big day," said Scott Anthony, owner of Fox's Pizza Den in Punxsutawney, Pa. "Why give it away?"
Pizzeria sales can increase by 50 percent or more on Thanksgiving Eve compared with a typical Wednesday. Last year, sales at Domino's were projected to increase by 68 percent on Thanksgiving Eve. The company anticipated delivering more than 1.1 million pizzas as cooks around the country rested up for their big day in the kitchen on Thursday.
"It's one of those nights we highlight on the calendar and prepare for," said Domino's Pizza chairman and CEO David Brandon prior to Thanksgiving 2007. "Our stores stock up on fresh food. We increase our staffing levels, sometimes doubling them, to ensure we can meet the needs of hungry customers across the country."
The top chains boosted their marketing efforts in the days leading up to the holiday. Pizza Hut introduced a new pizza in the days prior to Thanksgiving, while Papa John's offered a giveaway tied to their sponsorship of the Papajohns.com Bowl football game held in Birmingham, Ala. None of the chains offered significant discounting, however.
Anthony tries to maintain the momentum by tying his marketing efforts in with the first day of deer hunting season, he said, which in his area starts the Monday after Thanksgiving and brings a lot of hungry hunters into his restaurant.
"This not only gives my next week a major kick but fulfills a customer need when they are tired of turkey and are busy with holiday activities," he said.
Frugal marketing can fatten profits
Even without the discounts, there are plenty of ways in which pizzeria operators can promote their businesses for the Thanksgiving holiday. Focusing on things happening in the local community can be a good source for ideas.
"Align with a local food rescue organization to donate surplus product at the end of the day," said Julie Gross Gelfand, director of public relations with Rockville Centre, N.Y.-based Harrison Leifer DiMarco Public Relations.
"Publicize the partnership in advance of Thanksgiving with store signage and in your ads," she said. "This will not only incentivize customers and build community goodwill, it will also create additional publicity opportunities for the donating pizzeria, which is likely to receive coverage in the charity partner's newsletter, Web site or other communications."
Gelfand also suggest branding different pizza combos to give them "personalities" tied to local community leaders to help drive customer interest. That technique may also end up as a story in the local newspaper, providing further publicity.
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Shel Horowitz, author of Grassroots Marketing: Getting Noticed in a Noisy World and several other books on frugal marketing, suggests a similar technique.
"If I were a pizza shop owner, I'd do a sit-down Thanksgiving dinner with turkey pizzas, plus cranberry sauce and stuffing," Horowitz said. "Make a media event out of it and maybe even provide catering to a homeless shelter as a gift."
And of course, marketing experts said, it doesn't hurt to incorporate high-profit items into the plan.
"By including higher priced items like a small turkey or creating pizzas with turkey strips on them, operators can easily charge a great deal extra for these unique seasonal items," said DeAnne Merey, president of New York-based D M Public Relations. "Profits are enhanced, while sales are driven up as people will easily include more of these items in their holiday celebrations without creating excuses that these items are not sufficiently â€˜Thanksgiving.'"