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Tips to take away from the inaugural Canadian Pizza Business Forum


Inspiring and informative were two buzzwords attendees used to describe the first-ever Canadian Pizza Business Forum.

Inspiring and informative were two buzzwords attendees used to describe the first-ever Canadian Pizza Business Forum. Held June 26 at the Waterloo Inn Conference Hotel in Waterloo, Ont., the forum was a perfect opportunity for independent pizzeria owners to refresh their minds with new business practices and rekindle their love for what they do.

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The members of the afternoon panel (l-r Marina Rondinelli, Joe Leroux and Tom Stankiewicz) shared tried-and-true ways to outcompete the big chains.


 

Delegates of the show took in a fantastic day of listening to and interacting with presenters, including Diana Coutu, of Diana’s Gourmet Pizzeria in Winnipeg, and Scott Anthony of Fox’s Pizza Den in Punxsutawney, Penn. Best practices for outcompeting the big chains was the topic for the afternoon’s speaker panel, which included Marina Rondinelli, former owner of Rondo’s Pizza Plus in Bright’s Grove, Ont., Joe Leroux, owner of Amadio’s Pizza in Mississauga, Ont., and Tom Stankiewicz, owner of Bondi’s Pizza in London, Ont. Jeff Cling of Fuller Landau Chartered Accountants & Business Advisors in Toronto rounded off the afternoon with a session on financial planning. In between speakers, the trade show floor was alive with conversation and networking among delegates and representatives from 18 companies.

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The day would not have been possible without the generous support of our sponsors: Pizza Master distributed by Alfa Food Service (platinum), Stanislaus Food Products (gold), Saputo Foodservice (silver) and Dairy Farmers of Canada/Santa Lucia (bronze). Many thanks to XLT Ovens for sponsoring breakfast and coffee breaks, and Moretti Forni/Faema Canada for sponsoring the buffet lunch, with ingredients donated by Stanislaus Food Products and Saputo Foodservice. More thanks to all exhibitors, speakers and attendees.

Top 10 tips of the day
Create a USP
One of Diana Coutu’s low-cost marketing tips was to create a unique selling proposition, or a USP. “Your USP is not a slogan, it’s specifically what makes you different, what makes you better,” she said. Your USP should be something that sets you apart from your competition, like Coutu’s: “Great-tasting, award-winning gourmet pizzas, delivered with exceptional service, guaranteed, or your money back.” Write several attributes of your business on index cards and devise a statement that incorporates all that are unique and important to your business.

Advertise a money-back guarantee
Coutu described the money-back guarantee tactic as something that “gives you brownie points for breathing.” If you give customers a reason to come and try your pizza with nothing to lose, they’re more likely to come and try your pies for the first time. “And besides,” she noted, “most of you, for honest mistakes, would offer to remake the pizza or refund the money – you would do what it takes to make it right.” Advertising and promoting this gives emphasis on your dedication to customer service.

Use a direct-mail campaign
You already know where your customers live, so why not contact them directly? Instead of sending out flyers, Coutu advised using a direct-mail campaign, sending letters to your customers with monthly specials, newsletters or referral programs. “Use the power of your database,” she said.

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Diana Coutu on the podium at the Canadian Pizza Business Forum.


 

Jazz up your business cards
One of Scott Anthony’s sure-fire ways to build more media and community relationships is to make business cards more effective. He advises adding a photo of yourself, which gives a face to the company. Add a “Compliments of the house” line to the back of your card, and when interacting with members of your community, fill it in with whatever you choose, like free breadsticks.

Engage with your customers
This a key strategy for all members of your staff, including yourself, Anthony noted. When customers have a positive experience at your establishment, they will share it with their friends or family and become regular customers. “Most of them aren’t coming back because of indifference. Training your staff on these little tips and getting them to interact are good ways to keep your customers coming back.”

Become involved in the community
The afternoon panel discussion featured three independent pizzeria owners with great strategies on keeping up with your competitors. If there’s room in the budget, Marina Rondinelli, former owner of Rondo’s Pizza Plus, advises supporting local sports teams and events with sponsorships, “It’s a good way to get your name out there, and the shirts last forever,” Rondinelli said.

Keep a current POS system
Joe Leroux, owner of Amadio’s Pizza in Mississauga, Ont., has used a POS system since 2005 to take orders, keep track of food costs and keep a customer database. It saves him time and money. “Using a pen and paper to take an order would take me two to three minutes,” he said. “I can take an order and ask how the family is in 15 to 20 seconds with a POS.”

Stand out in a crowd of independents
Like many of the delegates, Bondi’s Pizza owner Tom Stankiewicz found it hard to stick out in the saturated market. He took over an existing business in London, Ont., but changed the product from the typical cheesy Italian pizza to gourmet pizzas. He revamped the look of the restaurant, moving from an old location to a brand new location. Bondi’s Pizza created a buzz when one of his regular customers, who worked with a local arena/concert venue, ordered pizza for big-name artists like the Black Eyed Peas and Deep Purple when the bands were visiting London on tour.

Look for fraud red flags
Jeff Cling, valuations manager at Fuller Landau, suggested proactive steps against fraud. “Make sure you screen your employees and have a good sense of who you are hiring,” he said. Have two people count the cash float the end of each evening. Monitor the sequence of your cheques and ensure all cheques have two signatures. Keep up with your financial statements and track disbursements. These are tasks that may sometimes get overlooked for the sake of saving time, but they are important to keeping your business accounts safe.

Keep a backup/recovery and disaster plan
Should anything ever happen to you or your business, backing up your files and maintaining a disaster plan is key. “If something catastrophic happens, how will you make sure you can get back to business as quickly as possible?” Cling asked delegates. Keep your database of staff, supplier, customer and insurance information in a secure cloud storage system that can be accessed from outside sources. Don’t overlook simple things like keeping flashlights and first aid kits available and stocked. “You don’t want any downtime where you’ll be losing sales or opportunities to make money.”

If you haven’t already implemented some of these tactics, start incorporating them into your marketing and business plans. Watch for more exclusive video tips from our speakers on www.canadianpizzamag.com.


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