SERVICE: Super Bowl, Valentine's and Mardi Gras present many promotional opportunities

Feb. 15, 2004

Paul Paz is a "career waiter" turned hospitality consultant, trainer and speaker. He is the author of "Service At Its Best: Waiter Waitress Training—A Guide to Becoming a Successful Server" (Prentice-Hall), and operates the hospitality information Web site

Super Bowl Sunday is but the first of several celebrated mid-winter events that make for great pizza marketing opportunities. The key to attracting a crowd for those celebrations is developing your ideas now, and not at the last minute.

As it affects your service/sales staff, I recommend you involve them in the planning. Not only do they know your restaurant and your customers' desires as well or better than anyone, they're likely

Paul C. Paz

to offer a lot of valuable and creative ideas you might never consider on your own.

Additionally, if your suppliers don't automatically offer ideas for clever marketing campaigns, ask them. It's a strong bet that they have lots of them on hand ready to go.

Promotion, promotion

Even before you roll out the store banners or spend money on advertising these events, begin promoting via word-of-mouth. Your staff engages your customers each day, so instruct them to spread the word well ahead of time. I'd encourage your wait staff to tell the customers to "ask for me when you come back in." Developing those call guests not only strengthens the customer relationship, it makes for even better tips on return visits.

I'd like to offer some promotional ideas you can try in your own pizzeria:

Super Bowl Sunday

Have your service staff talk up the benefit of "pre-game" ordering—and take those orders right now! You'll never get a better chance to get them to commit to an order than when they're already in the restaurant.

Use a computer and copy machine to create a special Super Bowl party menu you can post in table tents or hand to customers while they're waiting for their food to come to the table. Consider making it an order form they can fill out right there.

If you offer delivery, have every driver promote your Super Bowl menu at the door.

And remember, Super Bowl is an multi-hour snacking event. So offer loads of deals on side orders such as wings, breadsticks pizza rolls and poppers.

Valentine's Day

In any sit-down pizzeria, Valentine's Day presents a special opportunity for a memorable meal. Try these tableside tactics to deliver more than your customers expect:

* Present those little Valentine's candies or cards that children exchange at school with the guest check.

* Photo opportunities: Bring that new digital camera you got for the holidays and offer to take customers' pictures and e-mail them to them. Getting those e-mail address is a good way to build a client list for current or future e-commerce promotions.

* Feature "two-for" dishes and beverages that romantic couples can share (a surf-and-turf, half-and-half combo pizza with half-shrimp and half-beef or beverages served in large glasses with two straws, etc.). Have fun and create your own Valentine's Day names for your special menu, too.

Mardi Gras

Mardi Gras is synonymous with party time, even outside of New Orleans. Given the colorful nature of this annual celebration, operators have a terrific opportunity to think outside the box and make the experience festive and memorable.

* Encourage the Mardi Gras theme of "excess" and offer those pre-Lent no-no's like those "Fat-Tuesday" onions rings or the "King's Cake" (cheesecake) for dessert. Make up your own Mardi Gras-themed names and titles to blend with your menu selections.

* Run a special pizza made with spicy Cajun or Creole seasonings, crawfish and andouille sausage. Run specials on New Orleans beers, such as those made by Dixie and Abita breweries (Sell a "Pizza-laya and Pint-alaya" bundled special). Premix for Hurricane cocktails—or make your own Mardi Gras Punch (alcoholic and nonalcoholic)—is widely available.

* Present traditional Mardi Gras beads, doubloons, cups and trinkets upon the customer's arrival or when presenting their checks. Have delivery drivers give them away at the customers' doors.

* Decorate in the traditional Mardi Gras colors of purple, green and gold. (These colors were chosen by Rex, the King of Carnival in 1872. Purple represents justice; green stands for faith; and gold stands for power.)

It's traditional for Mardi Gras parade watchers to yell, "Throw me something, mister!" in order to get those riding on the floats to toss them beads, doubloons, cups and trinkets. Put that salutation on your guest checks with a rubber stamp. Program your POS system to print it on receipts to promote upcoming special celebrations during the first part of 2004.

Server's Tip for the Month: My good friend, Lauri Lang, said her success in creating a true service experience comes from making her customers feel good for having dined at her restaurant and in her station. Simple, genuine smiles, friendly eye contact and a sincere "Hello" or "Goodbye" go a long way in helping customers remember where they dined and which server they'll request when they return.

In the meantime, Make It Fun... Make It Easy... Make Some Money!

More advice from Paul Paz ...

* SERVICE: Boost beverage sales with these simple table-side tactics.
* SERVICE: Whether the holidays are happy depends on your attitude
* SERVICE: It takes a desire to please the customer to deliver exceptional service
* SERVICE: Schedule flexibility is a benefit -- not an entitlement -- of this industry
* SERVICE: Promote the pizza industry as a career choice
* SERVICE: Cheaters never prosper, especially in restaurants
* SERVICE: Say hello or they'll say goodbye
* SERVICE: Treat coworkers as courteously as customers
* SERVICE: What's There to Smile About?

Topics: Marketing , Service

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