Everyone is running promotions, discounts, coupons and group-buying programs, all in search of the consumer whose only point of reference today is how much off, right? Not right; in fact, if you spend all your time and energy chasing the discount customer you will forget your more important regular customers.
The buzz about discounts, group deals etc., assumes that the reason people visit your restaurant is the price of the food. Do you really think that YOUR customers come to you for the lowest price? I am willing to bet that the answer is no.
The purpose of discounts or deals is to drive first-time customers with the idea that they will become regular customers; the truth is that most coupon shoppers are only loyal to the next deal.
Why do YOUR customers choose you over the competition? The answer is convenience, product quality, friendly service, cleanliness and VALUE! Value is not price. Value is the PERCEIVED worth for the transaction fee. Build a better experience, price it fairly, and you will win new customers without a discount.
Competing in the coupon game is a losing strategy for the independent pizzeria operator. Playing the coupon game makes your restaurant look like another discount chain. For those consumers who shop price, your price will never be low enough to get and hold their interest. Your strategy should be to pull through quality profitable repeat business.
One of our best online order customers consistently reports that discounts applied in the transaction are less than 1 percent. They have found customers who like their product, service and the convenience of online shopping, not a discount.
Your key to success is to differentiate your shop from the big chains and the other independents in your local market. Here are some ways to build value for your core customers:
Offer choices - toppings, crust thickness and sauces.
Quality - pick a quality level and stick to it. Do not change your sauce, cheese etc., each week based on price.
Service - Whether dine-in, delivery or telephone, reward your employees for even the slightest example of good service; this will pay huge dividends.
Cleanliness - focus on your bathrooms, floors, tables your menu boards. The No. 1 reason people do not return to restaurants is lack of cleanliness.
Ease of Use - make your entire processes customer friendly and focused. Treat people well, price them fairly and they will come back for more.
Lastly, when YOU go to a restaurant, is "price" YOUR main reason for going? Examine what drives your choice and then give that to your customers. The attention put on price assumes you do not trust your key customers to make proper value decisions and that you don't trust yourself to turn out consistent quality with good service. You can be successful every day and build a solid business without giving it away at a discount price.
Ed Zimmerman is a pizza industry veteran and President of The Food Connector. His almost four decades of foodservice experience includes food manufacturing and distribution leadership, food industry technology, marketing services and restaurant and grocery operations management.