The Pizza Insider: February 2015

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Thursday, February 26, 2015

Smarter Ways to Use Your Pizza Box

Credit: Christopher King/Melville House Publishing (Viva la Pizza!)

      Are you currently using your pizza boxes to promote your pizzeria? Don't underestimate the power of these advertising gems!

      Below I've shared a few tips from my upcoming article about box top promotions scheduled to appear in the April 2015 edition of PMQ Pizza Magazine. If you aren't currently a PMQ subscriber, sign up for free here.

      Your pizzeria delivers hundreds of pizza boxes each week to a captive audience. Let’s take a look at five easy ways you can deliver your marketing message at the same time. 

 1. Make it Sharable. Everything is shared on social media nowadays, so why not your pizza box? A plain white box has virtually no chance of being noticed, but what about a box with unusual colors, graphics or a call to action? Scott Wiener, author of Viva la Pizza! The Art of the Pizza Box, says that, on average, 2.5 people see each pizza box, so the more you can get them to keep or share their box, the better. 

2. Make it Informative. With spam-flooded inboxes, your e-newsletters may make more sense on top of your pizza boxes. Pizza Zone in Spring, Texas, has been putting a newsletter called Box Topper News on its boxes for the past two years. Co-owner Debbie Gainor says that the topper, printed in black and white on bright colored paper, changes each month and showcases the Pizza of the Month, news, advertising, what's happening at the store, humor, and coupons. 

 3. Make it Valuable. Everyone wants to save money, so whenever you can include coupons or special offers on your boxes, the better. Some pizzerias even offer the chance to earn a free pizza by clipping a part of the box from each order and saving it until you reach 10 pizzas, according to Wiener. 

4. Make it Photogenic. Ditch the typical red, white and green and opt for a pizza box that makes a statement with cool graphics and interesting colors. 

5. Make it Interactive. Making a pizza box interactive can be as simple as including a box topper with word search and crossword games on top, similar to the children’s placemats you used to get at restaurants when you were a kid. Paul Emm from Box Top Advertising runs a Scan-to-Win $500 Visa gift card contest on co-op box toppers. Once a pizzeria goes through 10,000 toppers, the names and emails of all the opt-in entrants are sent to the pizzeria to aid in future marketing--a great way to build an email database. 

How are you using your box toppers to promote your pizzeria?

Watch for the full story with even more tips in the April issue of PMQ (free subscription here).

Friday, February 20, 2015

Why Integration is So Important to Your Pizzeria

Remember when a pizza order used to involve a slip of paper and a pencil?

The amount of data involved in promoting, securing, and processing an order nowadays is mind blowing. From social media to POS systems to loyalty cards, text messaging and email lists, things can get pretty overwhelming.

You've been taught over the years that you need to use all of the above tactics to bring in--and keep--new customers. However, how many times have you heard the word "integration?"

What's integration?

I had the same question, which is why I went to Dan Bejmuk, co-founder and CEO of DreamBox Creations in Los Angeles, for a quick lesson. "Integration means that all of your systems (email, online ordering, marketing materials, etc.) are aligned to reach every guest."

Bejmuk explained that when you have several systems working independently of one another (i.e., one person running the email, another doing social media, and another creating marketing materials), your message gets diluted and you aren't reaching the same customers each time. "It's important to know as much as possible about each guest," says Bejmuk. "You should be able to easily connect the dots between your POS, online ordering and email database."

Easy ways to start integrating include:
1. Make sure that if you have a POS system, it collects--and stores--customer data.
2. If you offer online ordering, collect and integrate the data into your POS.
3. Have your e-newsletter/loyalty club tied into other marketing systems or your POS.

"Look at the consistent data you have in place already and start from there," says Bejmuk. "Once you're able to connect the dots, you'll start to see the effects of your marketing efforts and be able to justify your expenditures."

According to Bejmuk, your customers can also help integrate themselves into your business when you announce specials such as, "Like us on Facebook and show us your phone when you visit for a discount." You will instantly be able to connect Facebook to a real visit when they come in. Same goes for placing hashtags on the back of menus and following customer activity that way.

Integration not only helps with efficiency, but also allows for more meaningful connections with guests who may patronize your business more than you know.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

The Risks and Rewards of Catering

pizzeria catering
Catering can be a great way to bring in extra revenue, but it doesn’t come without its fair share of risk. When a catering order goes right, everyone is happy, but when it goes wrong, a lot of people will know, potentially threatening your pizzeria’s reputation and future catering orders. 

In order to share valuable operator advice about pizzeria catering with you, I'm pulling information from one of my previously published articles in PMQ Pizza Magazine below....

Pizza is made for sharing, which is why catering, a service defined as providing food for large groups of people, seems like a perfect fit for pizzerias. But to truly excel at catering, pizzeria operators need to go beyond pizza and offer a truly memorable experience for any event, whether it be an important business meeting, wedding, funeral, or other occasion where pizza isn’t always the most appropriate choice. “There needs to be a major paradigm shift between a takeout menu and a catering menu,” says Erle Dardick, CEO of Vancouver, British Columbia-based MonkeyMedia Software and author of Get Catering and Grow Sales! “Pizzeria operators have all the ingredients to do something dynamic with catering, but they need to focus on using the ingredients they have to create a new product specific to platter-based catering.”

What is a Catering Menu?

Think back to the last catered party you attended. Was there pizza there? “Our catering menu is broader than our regular menu,” says Lisa Towne, owner of MaMa Lisa’s Little Italy in Castle Pines, Colorado. “We certainly offer our house favorites such as lasagna and pastas, but we can also provide burger bars, taco bars and breakfast. A broader menu allows you to gain more customers and be accommodating to budgets and dietary needs. We recently catered a group that wanted all gluten free and vegan options. It was challenging, but they were impressed by our creativity.”

Dardick notes that pizzerias are positioned to win big at catering, but the greatest challenge comes in defining the program. “Pizzeria operators need to focus on a subset of products utilizing ingredients already on hand,” says Dardick. “If you are catering a business luncheon, pizza is at the bottom of the list, so tap into other opportunities.”

Catering for Increased Revenue

It’s no secret that catering can bring in a nice side revenue, with many restaurants aiming for around 20% of system sales, according to Dardick. “Catering is so profitable because you already have everything else,” says Dardick. “There are higher incremental sales because there are fewer transactions from fewer people and the cost of production and distribution is much lower.”

Additionally, catering generates revenue during off-season months, slow days of the week, and sometimes, even when the pizzeria is bustling—if you have enough staff on hand. “We can have a normal lunch crowd plus deliver a catering order at the same time,” says Santo Sardo, owner of Sardo's Pizza in Largo, Florida. 

“Catering in Colorado can be a bit seasonal,” says Towne. “Typically, most catering occurs around summer events and holidays, which is a great time to get college help. Catering events can really boost sales in the off-hours and off-seasons.”

Catering has additional marketing benefits as well, according to Kris Moriarty, director of business development for San Diego, California-based Woodstock’s Pizza, with seven locations throughout California. “Catering introduces your product to people who would not otherwise know about you,” says Moriarty. “It provides an additional revenue stream during times that would otherwise be slow.”


In addition to putting your pizzeria’s reputation on the line, there are other difficulties and risks that go into starting a catering offering, including how to keep products fresh and hot during an event, figuring out portion sizes and pricing, how to handle cancellations, and making sure everyone is happy with the final result. “I worry how to keep food hot and fresh for customers,” says Sardo. “It’s difficult getting it there, keeping it hot, and keeping it looking nice.”

“A deposit as well as a written confirmation or short contract from your customer is essential,” says Towne. “Understand that the event could be weather dependent. Know the plan for bad weather and clarify all these details in advance. Timing is essential. Create a timeline and product list two days ahead. When to prep, what can sit for a day, when everything needs to be in the oven, what time you need to load the car, etc. The last hour is always mayhem, regardless, but it gets better with experience.”

“The difficult thing about starting catering is working out zoning for deliveries and getting the staff used to ordering enough food to cover any pop-up orders,” says Moriarty. “In the beginning, you’re not sure how many orders you will get in a week, so it’s a lot of guess work. Once you establish regular clientele, it's easier to order and schedule more accurately.”


For those who take on the risks and succeed, there can be great rewards in the form of increased revenue and positive word-of-mouth advertising for your pizzeria. “During December, we could almost just rely on catering, putting more money in all of the employees pockets at the right time of year,” says Towne. “It can be a fun and cohesive experience for employees and customers. It’s an opportunity to have more of a personal relationship with our customers as we help them plan family events.”

“The greatest rewards are the additional revenue stream, the marketing opportunities and being able to provide more jobs for people,” says Moriarty. “Catering helps control both food and labor costs because you’re able to pre-plan and pre-order. Catering also helps bring in additional revenue without negatively impacting the store operations and is a great way to market and introduce your brand to people who may not know your product.”

“Being a first generation Italian, we enjoy feeding many people at once,” says Sardo. “Most rewarding to me is staying to watch the reaction; to me, it’s like Christmas when you watch your kid’s faces as they open presents.”