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Pizza sales are traditionally off a bit in the summer: school is out, families are away and the grill, not pizza is the focus when family and friends meet. Now is the time to turn on the marketing and drive consumers to your door, phone, or online ordering with cool menu items, fresh promotions and plenty to drink.
What can you do to entice over-heated consumers and drive sales? Job #1 is recognizing why sales lag, it is hot. This summer has seen record heat in the Northeast and Midwest. When sweat is dripping from your brow, hot, heavy food is not top of mind; cool and light menu choices win the heart and stomach. Here are some ideas to cool down customers and heat up sales:
Focus on Cool
Pizza menus should feature some authentic Italian cool temperature foods, Italy can be very hot in the summer, and so traditional menus include cold offerings. Mediterranean menus feature, antipasto, stuffed grape leaves and olives. More modern approaches include hummus and pita platters. The tapas movement from Spain encourages “small plates” with both hot and cold foods. All of these items work for dine-in as well as carry out / delivery. The key to success is promotion. Customers must know you offer these cooler, lighter items. On the operations side, the great news is that you already have most of these ingredients in your kitchen.
Salads are always on target for cooler choices and traditional options include Caesar and chopped salads. Most casual theme restaurants feature popular entrée salads topped with chicken as core offers so you can capture these sales with little education, and some simple promotions.
Mirror the BBQ Menu
If the grill is truly on the mind of consumers, give them what they crave. Two items that mirror their desires are Cheeseburger Pizza and BBQ Chicken Pizza. Nearly every pizzeria has the second since California Pizza Kitchen popularized the sweeter, lighter product. The Cheeseburger Pizza is a bit more unusual but is easy to explain. Aggressively promote using counter cards, door hangers and your website. Imagine a graphic showing a grill in a circle with a line through it with the phrase “Don’t Grill Tonight, have BBQ with Us”.
No, not like wine bars, but cross promotions. Independent pizza operators could learn by a careful examination of the “bundled” deals offered by the big chains. Sure, everyone sees the $10 pizza deals on the headlines, but the bigger, and frankly, better story are the promotions like two toppings and two 20 oz. sodas for a bundled price. Consider the wisdom. A large pizza with a 2-liter drink, offers one person the chance to get what they really want while the other person compromises. Two toppings and two individual bottles gives two people exactly what want. This goes beyond price and value to something deeper, satisfaction. This contentment drives brand choice in the future as well as returned customers. I recently reviewed beverage sales data. It is clear that the chains outsell independents in sales / unit. Chain consumers are not thirstier than consumers at independent locations; they just see better, more compelling offers. Clever use of beverages in your promotions will increase sales during these remaining hot sluggish days of summer.
Wishing you success in pizza -- Ed
Ed Zimmerman is a pizza industry veteran and President of Pizza.com, the number 1 web portal that connects consumers to pizzerias. 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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