Canadian Pizza Magazine

Marketing Insights: Recession proofed

Michelle Brisebois   

Features Business and Operations Marketing

Recession proofed

Gosh I hate it when my
grandmother’s right. She warned me once that every party came with a
morning after, which kind of makes it hard to enjoy the good times.

Gosh I hate it when my grandmother’s right. She warned me once that every party came with a morning after, which kind of makes it hard to enjoy the good times.

It’s pretty safe to say that the last few years economically have been … shall we say, one heck of a kegger? Historically low unemployment, coupled with low interest rates, have made us all feel as snug as a bug in a designer rug.

That is until recently.


Cool the economy a titch, throw in escalating fuel costs and add a dash of rising food prices and you’ve got yourself a nice little consumer squeeze. If consumer discretionary income dries up then that’s bad news for the restaurant industry – right? After all, dinners out are among the first things to get cut when the going gets tough.

Not necessarily, if you’re talking about pizza. As the New York Times reported recently, “no other food delivers this much taste and nutritional value for the money.”

Pizza traditionally has boasted a relatively low food cost of about 30 per cent. Of course, your mileage may vary depending on what kind of toppings and production practices you have.

The restaurant industry is definitely feeling the pinch of higher ingredient costs and many are absorbing these costs rather than attempting to pass them on to their customers. This is the time to look for those menu items that deliver a “win/win” for you and your customers. You benefit from a low food cost by serving pizza and a family of four can share one pie and have dinner out without re-mortgaging the house.

Thin crusts will use less flour and appeal to calorie-conscious customers. Sprinkle smaller amounts of artisan cheeses on top as opposed to the traditional gooey layer of mozzarella cheese. Of course, pizza is traditionally the item of choice for “ordering in” when a family is cocooning at home rather than gallivanting on the town.

And cocooning is about to get a lot more popular.

Discretionary income is what’s left to spend after the necessary bills are taken care of. As consumers are forced to pay more at the gas pumps, grocery stores and for energy-related utilities – there will be less to spend on entertainment.

As gasoline becomes more expensive, people will think twice before they venture out. South of the border, The Atlanta Journal Constitution released results of a survey in March 2008 indicating that 52 per cent of readers said the cost of gas has caused them to limit their driving, while 11 per cent had actually purchased a more fuel-efficient car.

A similar Canadian survey in April 2008 by MSN Finance asked at what fuel price (ranging from $1.25 to $2.00 per litre) would Canadians change their lifestyle. Of the 4,700 respondents, 56 per cent said they already had.

The pearl of wisdom for your business in this trend lies in your ability to let the consumers who live within a 2-5 kilometre radius know where you are and what you offer.

Don’t assume they know about you because they drive past you every day and you’ve been there for years. Neighbourhoods tend to have approximately a 20 per cent turnover per year so there are new faces you’ve not seen and old customers who’ve disappeared. They’ll especially like to know if you deliver.

When you advertise, mention that pizza is “great value for a fun night of entertaining at home.”  This type of messaging will be quite timely.

If you have the space, consider in-store seminars or events. Come up with some wild menu items and hold a “pizza tasting.” Promote it ahead of time and allow customers to sign up. Let them try different items and to make notes on what they liked. It could turn out to be quite a neat little “date night” for couples who are into good food. This will give them a fun night out and give you a chance to make a sales pitch.

Try charging a small fee if you include a speaker or even some wines to pair with it.

Make sure you promote your pricing unapologetically. It’s easier for consumers to budget when they can clearly see what they’re being asked to spend.

Promote your hours of operation and point out that customers can call ahead from work to then pick up their food on the way home. The research also shows that consumers will be planning their trips more carefully to combine as many errands as possible in one journey in an effort to conserve gas.

Consumers are definitely waking up with a bit of a fiscal hangover from the party. In between the doomsday headlines is a very positive message for quick-serve and casual restaurants. People will defer buying the new car, big screen TV or trip to Disney World. In its place they will be looking for the “small indulgence” and they’ll want to get it close to home.

Michelle Brisebois is a marketing professional with experience in the food, pharmaceutical and financial services industries. She specializes in brand strategies. Michelle can be reached at .

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