Canadian Pizza Magazine

Marketing do’s and don’ts: Canadian Pizza Show

By Doug Picklyk for Canadian Pizza   

Features Business and Operations Marketing annex canadian pizza show diana cline hilary drago lesley greenberg marketing marketing week sandi stoyan tony sabherwal

Mississauga, Ont. – Engaging in your community, capitalizing on social media and marketing to millennials were all topics of discussion during a well-attended educational panel held at this year’s Canadian Pizza Show. The overriding message: get out there and be authentic.

Providing a mid-day break for the Chef of the Year competitors and judges, the marketing panel session focused on the best practices for promoting your pizzeria business.

Moderated by editor Colleen Cross, the panellists included business owners, a marketing co-ordinator and a marketing consultant from Winnipeg, Mississauga and Toronto.

Every panel member agreed with Sandi Stoyan, owner of Mickey’s Pizza in Mississauga, Ont., when she said, “The most important customer is the one in front of you right now.”


The pizzeria business is a service industry and there is no stronger marketing than word of mouth, so making positive impressions on every customer that walks into your business should be priority number 1, Stoyan said.

But when it comes to attracting new customers and drawing repeat business, approaches were varied. Hilary Drago, marketing co-ordinator with Pizzeria Libretto in Toronto, emphasized the importance of participating in community events. Libretto takes part in weekly farmers markets and Drago said she is proud to hear people say, “You guys are everywhere.” When people in your neighbourhood recognize your company’s name and associate it with being active in the community, that’s a positive, she emphasized.

Tony Sabherwal, owner of the Magic Oven pizza chain in Toronto, also believes in attending community events, but he’s learned that if you’re giving something away (samples, for instance) you should attach something to it so you’re getting some return on your giveaway.

Several panellists encouraged operators to maintain a strong online presence, including an active social media channel. Stoyan has held a successful Tweet-up event in the past, and she shares regular updates on Facebook. “Social media works for us,” she said, noting that it attracts people from far and wide.

Sabherwal tempered the attraction of social media channels for driving business. He relayed a lesson learned from an event promoted on Magic Oven’s Facebook page. At the time they had some 800 likes on their page, they received 80 confirmations for their event through Facebook and only eight showed up.

At Diana’s Cucina & Lounge in Winnipeg, owner Diana Cline maintains a close relationship with her customers through regular mailed newsletters. “Our newsletter that we mail with our customers’ name on it brings in $1.50 for every $1 we spend,” she said. When Canada Post was threatening to strike, Cline encouraged customers to sign up for the online newsletter, but she knows the mailed version is much more personal and people actually anticipate getting their regular update. One online tactic Cline is strongly opposed to is the “group buy” discount type of offer. In her experience, these attract only one-time discount shoppers, not repeat customers.

In the social media world, Instagram is huge with Pizzeria Libretto’s demographic. The company has over 16,000 followers who receive notice of a pizza feature before lunchtime daily.

“People buy with their eyes,” noted Lesley Greenberg, vice-president and partner in CCS Creative in Toronto, a marketing agency for the foodservice industry. “When using Instagram it’s important to have beautiful photos of your food.”

Greenberg also insisted companies need to be unique and tell stories on their websites. “Everyone has a story of how they got into the pizza business. Share yours,” she said, “Your story has to come from the heart, and it will resonate with customers.”

Telling your story, or attaching a story or meaning to your food, is important for millennials, said Drago, a millennial herself. She noted that while this burgeoning demographic is adventurous with food, sharing interesting, clear and concise stories about your business or the food itself strikes a chord with this crowd, which includes both single customers and those with young families.

Cline agrees with the importance of telling your story: “People like to do business with people they know and trust,” she said. She also encourages using photos of yourself and others in your business. “People like to see the whites of your eyes.”

One final tip for this digital age: Magic Oven does a Google search of the company name weekly to find online comments and look for any trends. It’s critical to accentuate the positive and nip anything negative in the bud, Sabherwal said.

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