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I took a break from my usual every two-week blog to observe the scene. This time of year SME's (Subject Matter Experts) predict trends based on their view of the market. I have read quite a few and did my own survey. Last year at this time, I made four predictions and I am pleased to say I was 100 percent correct about everything, so I'll try again.

It's All About Mobile

Pizza operators are at a crossroads in terms of reaching consumers. The success of the iPhone and Android are complete. Consumers are hooked on apps and web browsing via smartphones. If you do not have your menu online and available for these devices, you had better get to it. Throw in tablets (I just got an iPad) and the circle is complete.

For Pizza's core consumers, college students, young families and groups watching sports, they live this way. If you personally don't use these devices to order food, it doesn't matter, your customers do. It doesn't matter if you agree or understand, it's like using electricity, you don't have to understand wave particle theory, just flick the switch and the lights come on. Just enable your customer to use mobile devices and watch the orders flood in.

As to cost, it's a non-issue. Most services are subscription based monthly fees. You can capture the cost by re-allocating current market spend. In order words, stop spending money on old school stuff like marriage mail. Shift to email marketing and online ordering now. If you are not willing, my advice is to not sign any long-term leases, you have a year or two left, before your competition takes enough of your business to put you under.

Yes, I sell online ordering so I am biased, but not blinded. Mobile is the new black, as in mobile puts your pizzeria in the black. Go Mobile or Go Home.

Farm-to-Fork

This trend, also known as loca-vorism, is here to stay. Food safety, energy efficiency, support local farmers, it is all wrapped up in local foods. You don't have to go hog-wild, some amount of local produce or cheese is readily available. It is not a 100 percent-or-nothing club. Buy your regular mozzarella and top with an ounce of local farmstead cheddar. This will cost you 5 cents more and give you a marketing edge. Forget price per pound, and think price "they" are willing to pay for local.

Additionally, you should source and market menu names with the word artisanal, heirloom or sustainable, as these signals ring true with students and boomers.

Next Ethic Trend – Peruvian

Peruvian flavors are distinct and delicious. Nothing fancy, a little chicken with spice on a white sauce. Add garlic, sliced potatoes, hot peppers and fresh corn. The name, Peruvian Pizza sounds good and tastes great – winner. All hail Machu Picchu.

Food Trucks

Love 'em or hate 'em, they are hot. Pizzerias already deliver, a simple way into the market is to fill hot bags with pre-made pizza and go where people congregate. Tweet your arrival and sell slices. Turn your delivery drivers loose, sell them pizza at a wholesale rate and let them be entrepreneurs.

That's my list for 2012; no doubt 100 percent correct again. I hope you have a prosperous New Year.

Wishing you success in pizza – Ed

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Ed Zimmerman
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.
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