Your Pie leverages popular promotion to improve operations
Your Pie began celebrating "Pi Day," March 14 — in honor of the 3.14 math constant — five years ago by offering pizzas for $3.14.
The company's promotion has steadily grown every year since, but this year's event surpassed "steady."
On March 14, 18-unit Your Pie turned in its busiest day ever, with 14,000 pizzas sold, 10,000 customers served and more than 3,500 pounds of cheese consumed. According to founder Drew French, this represented a 52-percent increase from Pi Day 2013, and a 300-percent increase from a typical business day.
Aside from the addition of three new units, the campaign's success was mostly driven by marketing efforts.
"As we've grown more units, we've put more marketing support behind Pi Day. We're getting more sophisticated with our marketing. This year's Pi Day just ended, but we're already starting to plan for next year," French said.
Much of that marketing comes from Your Pie's social media channels. The company's strongest presence is on Facebook, and it is building up its Twitter account and jumping into Instagram as well.
"When we first started this campaign five years ago, social media didn't really exist like it does now. We did some radio and a little print that first year. As social media became more of an option, we were able to spread the word better and now use that more than anything. It's been our best form because of our customer base," French said.
Your Pie got its start in Athens, Ga. — a college town. It continues to have a heavy college following, as well as moms, French said. The brand's social media strategy will mainly depend on the preferences of these two groups.
"We don't have a formula because social media is ever evolving and we've had to evolve as well. As different social media comes about, we'll adjust our strategy," he said.
More than social media
Although Your Pie's sweet spot is in social media, it also uses other channels to connect with its customers, including email, texting and traditional media.
"We try to give them enough options to reach out to us and let us know what they want," French said. "Being involved in the community is also big — doing events that are highly localized and giving back to the community."
The latter strategy is the reason Your Pie tied its popular Pi Day promotion into a "customer appreciation day."
"Everyone gets excited about Pi and Pi Day. It's our busiest day of the year and I think it's more because it's our way of giving back to our customers. It makes it fun," French said.
Customers aren't the only beneficiaries of the event. French said one of the reasons this year's Pi Day was so successful is because stores that have participated before know what to expect and are better because of it.
"We learn a lot about ourselves on Pi Day. We put a lot of pressure on our staff to handle a 300-percent increase of what they're used to and, for a one-day shot, they're not necessarily geared up for that, so they have to adjust their operations," he said. "Each year we push ourselves and learn enough to get a little better."
To prepare for the day, each Your Pie adds a few staff members and stocks up on pizzas and some ancillary items. Soda, pizza, wine and gelato sales also go up on this day, French said. Once every restaurant is stocked and staffed, it's full speed ahead.
"You can tell people all day about what to expect for this type of day, but until you actually go through it, you can't really share best practices on how to execute it. Stores that have done it in past knew what to expect to a degree," French said. "New stores that have never done it, they get an eye-opening experience. That's why it's an appreciation day for our customers, but for us, it's an opportunity to learn and get better."
Alicia Kelso / Alicia has been a professional journalist for 15 years. Her work with FastCasual.com, QSRweb.com and PizzaMarketplace.com has been featured in publications around the world, including NPR, Good Morning America, Voice of Russia radio, Consumerist.com and Franchise Asia magazine.