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pizza on fire: The bust-up of Blockbuster


October 25, 2011
By Tom Stankiewicz

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One of the bigger recent news stories of the fall is the closure of all
Blockbuster stores in Canada. This development doesn’t come as a total
surprise. We have been witnessing the slow decline of in-store movie
rentals for a while. We live in a digital world where almost everything
is now tied to the Internet. The convenience of renting movies online
simply became the next best thing and there is no turning back.

One of the bigger recent news stories of the fall is the closure of all Blockbuster stores in Canada. This development doesn’t come as a total surprise. We have been witnessing the slow decline of in-store movie rentals for a while. We live in a digital world where almost everything is now tied to the Internet. The convenience of renting movies online simply became the next best thing and there is no turning back.

blockbuster2 

The closure of a video giant like Blockbuster will probably affect our pizza businesses in some ways. Bondi’s has a Blockbuster store for a neighbour and I am anxious to see how their demise will play out for my pizzeria. Gone will be the days of “let’s pick up a pizza and a movie.” It will sound more like: “Let’s have pizza delivered and search the Internet for a good movie.” There is nothing wrong with that as long as our phone lines (or online ordering systems, naturally) stay busy. 

Many pizzeria stores are in close proximity to a video rental store. I have always felt this gives customers a good excuse to pick up their pizza rather than have it delivered. A lot of the pick-up traffic is driven by the video store. It’s quite possible that my pick-up volume will decrease when the video store is no longer there. But that is not necessarily the case because there are many pizzerias out there that have a huge number of loyal customers and no connection to the video store at all.

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My guess is that we will need a few months to know exactly how this will affect the pizza sales. Those of us who thought that a video rental store formed the basis of our high pick-up volume will be able to determine if that was in fact the case. Many times we just assume that another operation’s location is closely correlated with our pizza sales. However, we don’t know the true numbers until that business closes its doors. It’s true that a fair number of our customers would pick up their pizza order with a DVD in hand. But the opposite could be true as well. That is, that they would rent a movie because they ordered a pizza nearby. For those who worry about Blockbuster’s closure, I would say, wait a bit before you make decisions you might regret later. After all, people don’t eat pizza only when they rent a movie.

For some of us, this could be a perfect opportunity to spend some time revamping our advertising campaigns. Do all of us use the Internet as a marketing tool? Are we reaching all of our potential clients if we don’t use the Internet? Whether we like it or not, the Internet is here to stay. It is up to us as business owners to decide how we can use it to our advantage. Some ideas that I have come across are sending monthly specials to your customers via e-mail and posting your specials and promotions on your website. Most customers are more than happy to receive a personalized e-mail about upcoming promotions because, in their eyes, it means that you value their business. It means that you took the time to make them feel like a special customer, and not just another pizza order on the line. It’s this kind of extra attention that will make them less likely to switch to a competitor. 

As pizzeria owners we need to concentrate on how to market and sell our product so our customers don’t walk away. I believe that if you provide great value for the money they pay, then they will keep coming back for more. I’m sure all of us have clients who come from the other end of the city, simply because they love our pizza. They don’t care what other businesses are near you because they have a craving for your pizza. On a busy night, if you have to tell them that there is a minimum wait of 45 minutes for pickup and they happily answer, “OK,” then you know your pizza is one of the best out there.

My advice to all pizzeria owners out there is not to fear the constant change, but to stay on top of it. You need to educate yourself about what’s working well for others and what business initiatives have failed. The Internet might not sound at first like a great fit for a pizzeria business, but in the end if that’s what makes your customers happy, then youw need to figure out a way to stay connected with them. It might be as simple as creating a website for your pizzeria store. One of the main advantages of the Internet is convenience and, for sure, more customers are demanding that ordering a pizza become convenient too.


Tom Stankiewicz has been in the pizza business for more than 15 years. He has been the proprietor of Bondi’s Pizza in London, Ont., since 2000 and is president of the Canadian Pizza Team.


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