From the Editor’s Desk: January-February 2017
Cheers to pizza
Lately I’ve been watching reruns of Cheers, that beloved 1980s sitcom set in a Boston bar where everybody knows everybody else’s name and business.
When the hapless Norm bellies up to the bar, greeted enthusiastically by all patrons, he feels at home, accepted and downright excited to be at his neighbourhood watering hole. Here he can watch the game, pick up fascinating factoids from his pal Cliff and weigh in on informal polls about Sam and Diane’s on-again-off-again romance.
There is a reason the show lasted 11 years even as characters came and went. TV viewers craved a place where they could sit, unjudged, in the company of friends and escape their daily worries for a half-hour every week.
Being involved in the pizza industry, I can’t help but think of the neighbourhood pizzeria and wonder if a widespread longing for that kind of special community spot lies behind its popularity and figures into its future.
At Cheers, the drink (and food) on offer is clearly secondary to the atmosphere. However, at pizzerias, both delicious food and a fun dining experience form two sides of what can be a profitable coin.
A report from NPD Group called “Experiential Purchasing and the New Retail” pinpoints one motivation behind consumers’ preferences: “Since the financial crisis of 2008, consumers have been driven to make purchases ‘count.’ People today take less pride in having stuff, and they take more pride in doing stuff…particularly stuff that can be done with friends and family and shared through social media.”
Pizzerias in Canada are great at drawing in customers through events both regular and special, as you’ll learn when you read in this issue Julie Fitz-Gerald’s feature, “Pizza gathering place,” and Giorgio Taverniti’s column on providing a haven for sports fans.
Many pizzerias participate in bigger events. They support charities. They band together for yearly events that get the public excited about the high quality and variety of pizza available in their communities: the Pizza Fest Artisan Pizza & Craft Beer festival in Vaughan, Ont. in July, YYC Pizza Week in Calgary in September, the Pizza Pigout for kids’ sports charities and Pizza Week in Montreal’s Little Italy, both in October. A calendar of pizza events is slowly emerging across Canada to help raise the profile of pizza.
I think you can do even more and I challenge you to find a new way to celebrate pizza at, or through, your restaurant. That doesn’t have to be a huge undertaking. With two cravings at work – one for comfort and one for adventure – getting people interested can be as simple as personalizing your pizza boxes or as elaborate as holding a tasting event featuring your newest signature pizza (perhaps one made at the Canadian Pizza Show).
How about waging a friendly competition with a neighbourhood pizzeria, as Cheers did with Gary’s Olde Towne Tavern?
Encourage people to share their pizza experiences on social media. The Internet is constantly coming up with ways to do this. Have you heard of the recent Mannequin Challenge? (Google it!) You can do something similar or invite customers to share videos of themselves enjoying your pizza.
Whether you create a home base, cozy and familiar, or a fun centre of experimentation, use your personal touch to make eating out at your pizzeria a one-of-a-kind experience that will keep customers coming in from the cold this winter and through your doors year round.
Here’s to your neighbourhood pizza spot!