OPERATIONS: Pizza-centered school fundraisers pay dividends for all

Aug. 26, 2004

Jim Moran is a pizza and restaurant industry veteran, and an industry consultant and speaker with Restaurant Trainers, Inc.

Schools offer great potential to take your pizza shop's sales to the next level (see related story, "School pays"). I strongly recommend you not let this opportunity slip by.

The problem is, though, many pizza operators believe the only way to take advantage of sales to schools is through a school lunch program. And when those programs aren't available to them, they often give up on marketing to schools in general. (See related article School pays.)

However, the truth is, while the right school lunch program can be a great asset to a pizza company, most other fundraiser and school marketing ideas operators can help clients with are much more profitable, less labor intensive — and provide better PR for the pizza store.

Here's an example of something that worked very well for me when I was an operator: a School Fundraising Night. I've seen multiple adaptations to this, but I'll explain just what I did the

Jim Moran

first time I tried it.

The principal of a high school in my delivery area called for help raising money. The school needed cash for costumes required for the school's fall production of "The Wizard of Oz." Apparently, just renting the duds worn by the Tin Man, Scarecrow and Cowardly Lion cost several hundred dollars — for each character!

Interestingly, I had approached the principal at the beginning of the year about our "Dollar Days" program, a promotion in which customers would call our store and say they were ordering on behalf of a particular school fundraiser. The delivery driver would give those customers a "Pizza Dollar" to turn in to that school's office, and then the school would turn them in to me for a check.

But the high school principal didn't like that idea, because he worried about the dollars getting lost or mismanaged, and when I couldn't sell him on any other ideas, I left my store and home phone numbers with him, and told him that if he ever needed money, I could help him.

And that's the first key to remember about successful school promotions: SCHOOLS ALWAYS NEED MONEY. So I knew that I would hear from him eventually.

When he finally called, I suggested we do a "School Night" promotion. To run this, we simply put an option named "School Night" into our POS computer, just as I would any menu item. Monday night (our store's slowest night) would be designated as that school's night and we would keep track of everyone who called to participate in the fundraiser.

On a Friday prior to the beginning of the fundraiser, every student at that school got a letter explaining the fundraiser to take home and give to their parents. On Monday, the first School Night, the same students were reminded about the fundraiser over the loudspeaker as they left school.

The cost to me for this exposure, by the way, was nothing; I didn't even pay for the copies of the letter.

(This is the part of the story where I conveniently forget the terrible job I did staffing my store on that first School Night and skip right to the promo results.)

The results were better than I expected. Not only did we post four consecutive record Mondays, we posted three record weeks and a record period in sales. To top it off, the local newspaper printed a picture of me handing the cast a check — for more than twice the amount of money they needed. The cast was in full costume and the photo looked great.

In the play's program, the school even threw in a full-page ad, which I never asked for. The night I went to the play, they acknowledged me before the play and then invited me backstage afterwards and gave me a T-shirt signed by the cast.

Still, that wasn't the best part. When I met with the principal the following week, he uttered those magic words, "Is there anything I can do to pay you back?"

Of course, I said, and I asked him to write a letter endorsing my school programs and acknowledging the success of this fundraiser. He asked me to write the letter, volunteered his secretary to retype it on school stationary, and then he signed it.

I took that letter, along with the article in the paper, to all of the schools that — just like this principal's — were not interested fundraisers at the beginning of the year. Not only I was able to get a school night scheduled every night of the week, our store wound up with the highest sales increase in the state that year.

Trust me: This is not some pie-in-the-sky idea. It works if you work it.

But work it wisely. For example, one of my Restaurant Trainers clients called me recently to say he had already booked School Nights for Monday through Thursday, and wanted to know if it was OK to put one on Friday night.

The answer is no! Friday is busy enough already, and you don't want to sacrifice service. I told him to put two schools on Monday night if he had to in order to avoid such a Friday crunch.

Now it's time for me to ask you: Now that kids are going back to school again, what is your plan to get a slice of that business?

Other articles by Jim Moran ...
* OPERATIONS: Pricing and perceived value
* OPERATIONS: In the pizza business, your telephone line is your lifeline
* OPERATIONS: Top five operational trends for 2004
* OPERATIONS: Top five client mistakes of 2003
* OPERATIONS: Protect your investment and people with store safety policies
* OPERATIONS: Take pride in your product
* OPERATIONS: Monaghan's maxim was never to put the cart before the horse
* OPERATIONS: Rule #1 in pizza is, 'The customer is always right'
* OPERATIONS: Doorhanging is for drivers, not for kids
* OPERATIONS: Everyone wins on the 'one per run' delivery system
* OPERATIONS: Cross-training lowers labor cost, boosts morale
* OPERATIONS: The secrets of running low labor

Topics: Operations Management

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