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Pizza for all seasons: From the Editor


September 18, 2019
By Colleen Cross

It’s pumpkin season! Whether it’s pumpkin pie, pumpkin spice lattés or pumpkin spice muffins, I love the change of season and the traditional foods associated with fall.

In fact, I measure my year in apple pies and squash (fall); turkey, cranberry stuffing and Irish cream (winter); asparagus anything (spring); and strawberries, corn, blueberries and peaches (in that order) in summer.

I am a sucker for those specials that happen like clockwork year from year to year. The anticipation motivates me and the repetition every year comforts me. So, like many other people, you may find me at a certain rotisserie chicken restaurant’s Festive Special in November or 2-Can-Dine special in January (a great way to bolster post-holiday sales but Friday nights are insane); and rolling up my rims in March to win a treat that, much like small lottery ticket wins, will keep me coming back for more.

These tantalizing specials work. Even when we know we’re being manipulated, we can’t help but be drawn in.

The ultimate example of seasonal offer success story has got to be Starbucks’ Pumpkin Spice Latte limited-time offer, which debuted in August 2014 and this year was available starting on Aug. 27. About one-quarter of buyers who bought a PSL at Starbucks in 2018 had purchased the coffee drink in 2017 and one-third of buyers in 2017 had bought the drink in 2016, according to a report from NPD Group that examines restaurant limited-time offers (LTOs). Year over year, they build brand awareness and work on customers’ subconscious cravings.

Tradition and urgency motivate people, the report suggests. “A well-executed limited-time offer can boost sales and serve as a competitive edge for restaurant operators and help foodservice manufacturers test new products and concepts,” says David Portalatin, NPD food industry advisor and author of Eating Patterns in America.

With that in mind, here is a sampling of pizza calendar ideas:

  • January: New Year’s Eve pizza, Fuel-My-Workout Pizza
  • February: Groundhog Day, Valentine’s heart-shaped, dessert or two-can-share pizza, Super Bowl-sized pies, Family Day pizzas.
  • April: Pizza Rustica (Easter pizza), April Fool’s marketing (tricky but pays off when executed well).
  • May: May the Fourth (Star Wars celebration), a break for Mom with Mother’s Day (it’s KFC’s biggest single day for sales, why not yours).
  • July: Canada Day, the Olympics.
  • August: Too Hot to Cook.
  • October: Halloween Pizza, pizza and panzerotti featuring root vegetables.
  • December: Christmas pizza! “Christmas pizza” is a well-searched phrase on the internet so why not give customers something to get excited about?

Don’t feel limited to ingredients and topping combinations – the shape, size and theme of a pizza can make it special as well. Any special occasion will work – local parades, solar eclipses, Royal visits. Be alert to ideas and let your customers be your guide.

So, grab a calendar or subscribe to an email notification service such as National Day Calendar. Plot your own menu calendar, choose strategic dates and make time to experiment in the kitchen. Better yet, delegate this task to one of your team (see “Sharing the load”)!

Best of the fall season to you. See you at the Summit!