Business and Operations
From the Editor’s desk: July-August 2014
The forgotten family?
By Laura Aiken
Pizza Hut recently announced it would be going after the millennial
wallet with a more sophisticated pizza, putting the focus on gourmet
rather than deals.
Pizza Hut recently announced it would be going after the millennial wallet with a more sophisticated pizza, putting the focus on gourmet rather than deals. They have figured out the demographic they want a bigger slice of. There also seems to be a lot of talk in the food industry generally about getting the boomer-turned-senior dollar, since these folks make up a pretty sizable part of the population. It could be argued that millennials and the aging population are the most talked about age-based niche groups from a marketer’s perspective. Does this mean other groups are getting overlooked?
For the pizza industry, the families-with-young-children demographic seems a given: kids love pizza, it’s a great meal to share together, and there are many ways to be community-minded that resonate with families, such as supporting and promoting sports or hospital fundraisers. But should fresh pizzerias be so sure that their share of the family purse is secure? Perhaps it is worth taking the time to reflect on whether your menu and service are doing the most they can to attract families – a less-talked-about but vital pizza customer.
Some of the large national pizza and Italian chains have figured out the way to the family heart. In 2012, Today’s Parent magazine named Boston Pizza, Old Spaghetti Factory, East Side Mario’s and Pizza Hut to its list of the five best family restaurants in Canada among nationwide chains. Jack Astor’s was the only one to make the list that wasn’t pizza or Italian-food specific, but they do have pizza on their menu. Dine-in restaurants can do a lot to attract families with crayons, creative and kid-friendly menus, big booths, and kids-eat-free days. They can leverage service and décor to establish reputations as being comfortable places for families with tiny but loud members, picky members and parents who desire a relaxed and welcoming atmosphere.
Pizza chains are doing something right here, and this increases the competition for independents when it comes to this particular demographic. Establishments that offer takeout and delivery only face a greater challenge than their dine-in counterparts in attracting the family dollar and loyalty without all the other factors at their disposal. It takes more than family-sized pizza deals and community involvement (both of which are still very important). But different demographics value different things. Perhaps you could offer a family rewards program or kids club that provides free delivery on some nights or other family-friendly incentives, such as a cross-promotion with another local business that targets kids. While the McDonald’s Happy Meal and its toys are a very famous example of kid catering in the food industry, giving a toy away with the meal won’t necessarily work. It’s important to provide something the family could value. Perhaps it’s a discounted round of mini-golf or a movie as a promotion. The menu and the taste of your pizza are the best vehicles to get the kid vote, but you may need other incentives to get a family to try out an independent over a large chain with an already-established family-friendly reputation. As an independent, your prices may be higher, and it will be that much more important to add value to the order and be seen in your community.
Not everyone is your customer, but the families-with-young-kids group is a big customer of pizzas. Today’s kids are also eating more sophisticated foods as their parents’ palates expand. So it’s not pizza competing against pizza, but against Asian and other ethnic fare as well. It may be time to ask yourself: am I getting my share of the pie?