Making dough with Diane: Five simple tips to great visual merchandising

Diane Chiasson
February 26, 2009
By
p25_tomatoes
No one used to talk about the importance of food merchandising, especially in the pizza business. Pizza sells itself was the motto. Over the years, merchandising has slowly crept into the food service lingo and is now considered a must for any type of operation.

Visual food merchandising is an art and a science, covering every aspect of a restaurant including design, layout, merchandising, display, menu and product development, signage, lighting and customer service. The goal is to bring your products to life using visually appealing food displays that evoke feelings of freshness, quality, vibrant colours and quantity. All these aspects must come together to create an environment to attract customers into your store and keep them coming back for more.

By combining the use of colours, textures, lighting and composition with descriptive signs and point-of-sale (POS) materials, you can get your customers to buy more impulsively, therefore increasing sales. It’s time to apply the theories of retail merchandising to your pizza business. Here are five simple steps to get you started.

1. Clean, clean, clean to make a good first impression
First and foremost, you have to make sure that your store, storefront, parking lot, and entryways are clean. Nothing turns people away faster, especially in the food service industry, than a dirty-looking operation.

Customers will probably look through your window to see what’s inside before they walk through your door. Make sure you create a view from your front window that conveys an inviting setting through a well-lit, fresh environment. Your menus should be clean, wiped free of greasy fingerprints and up to date with the most current specials and prices. If you post your menu outside your operation, make sure it is placed in a clearly visible glass panel, and offer mini paper menus for potential customers to pick up as well.

2. Display your food to sell it
It seems pretty straightforward to display the pizzas you want to sell, but consider using the ingredients you put in or on your pizzas as display items to add eye appeal and vibrancy to your food. Display fresh and abundant ingredients wherever space is available to create excitement.

Cartons of bright red, fresh tomatoes can be displayed to let customers know that your pizza sauce is made from scratch. If one of your selling features is organic pizza crusts, use large sacks of flour imprinted with the word organic to boldly show your customers what you offer.

Place large bins of colourful red, orange, yellow and green peppers; strings of garlic, whole eggplants and zucchini; large jars of olives; big wheels or wedges of cheese; and whole slabs of salami, pepperoni or prosciutto around your counter. Vary the height and depth of your displays by using risers, boxes and pedestals.

Feature a fresh “pizza of the day” from a highly visible angle, and surround it with products that have a wide range of colours, contrasts and textures. Ensure that everything is fresh and clean, and change your displays regularly.

3. Free samples and staff knowledge drive sales
Offer free samples so potential customers have the opportunity to taste what you sell before they have a chance to turn around and walk out. There’s no better way to get customers to buy something than by getting them to try it. You should offer free samples of something different every day at different time periods. One product sample should be offered at a time.

Make sure your employees know your food and menu items inside and out, including the origins of all your produce and ingredients, so that they will be able to answer any questions about any of your products and be able to offer extra product insight to your customers. This knowledge will go a long way toward driving your sales.

4. Proper signage informs customers and reinforces your brand
Signage and POS materials are some the simplest and most cost effective ways of getting your message across. The information you post offers your customers an extra layer of service. They might not have to wait to make personal contact with a store employee to have their question answered, or find what they want to know but are too shy or busy to ask.

All of your signage and point-of-sale materials should be consistent in size, layout and font, and should complement your store’s image and brand. Everything in your store should have continuity that flows right down to the use of graphics and colour scheme.

Use signs to tell your customers a story behind your products, or the special ingredients you use to make your pizzas, or perhaps the unique way in which your pizza was prepared. Always make sure that every item is priced correctly so that there are no surprises when it is time to pay the bill.

5. Highlight your sweet spots with good lighting
People are very sensitive to the colour and appearance of their food and their surroundings. Use a combination of natural light, and different types of lighting such as spotlights, to direct your customer’s eyes towards certain food areas and highlight your signature items. If you have an open kitchen concept in your operation, most of your lights should be directed at the kitchen to create a centre stage, since it is the main attraction.


Diane Chiasson, FCSI, president of Chiasson Consultants Inc., has been helping food service, hospitality and retail operators increase sales for over 25 years. She provides innovative food and retail merchandising programs, interior design, marketing and promotional campaigns, and much more. Contact her at 416-926-1338, toll-free at1-888-926-6655 or chiasson@chiasson
consultants.com, or visit www.chiassonconsultants.com.

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