Canadian Pizza Magazine

The Pizza Chef: April-May 2016

Diana Cline   

Features Business and Operations Marketing

Your most overlooked asset

When I opened my first pizzeria over 18 years ago, my then partner and I thought that people would crawl naked over broken glass to do business with us. We thought that our dedication to making a great pizza and delivering it with friendly service was all we needed to succeed. We thought that our logo was so phenomenal that it would instantly create a bond with everyone who lived within a five-kilometre radius of the store.

These are common mistakes with new pizzeria owners; I still see them all too often when I do consulting.

“You need to do marketing,” everyone would say, but exactly what kind of marketing is another topic altogether. Veteran pizzeria owners have all had the experience of a marketing rep from a radio station, the Pennysaver, a community wall calendar, a shared mailing piece and now online deal providers like Groupon calling their place of business and offering a great deal on a program. There are several problems with most of these options:

  1. You can’t effectively track it, so how do you know if it’s really working?  
  2. The space available is so tiny that you need to use a six-point font.
  3. Typically you must commit to several weeks or months for each campaign, which often adds up to thousands of dollars.
  4. The slick marketing rep will suggest you offer a buy-one-get-one in order to get people to respond. This always backfires on you. The reality is that you don’t have that kind of margin to work with and what you’re really doing is devaluing your product and service.  
  5. The deal provider company promises you loads of qualified, high-end customers. As with number 4, this always backfires on you. These customers are coming in for the deal, and the next day they’re on to the next one.

This kind of marketing often leads to bankruptcy. Most pizzeria operators I talk to have a great interest in marketing; however, they are the first to admit that they lack the time, resources and know-how to do it effectively. This awareness typically stops them before they even get started. They’ve also had one or several of the experiences above and are skeptical about the true cost and the return on investment.


This month I hope to help those of you who know it’s important to market your pizzeria but are a little stumped on getting things going.  

The key is one of those things that is right in front of your eyes but invisible to most pizzeria owners. Your customer database is the most overlooked asset in growing your sales and business.  

First, let’s review a few important points:

  1. It’s not up to your customer to remember your pizzeria; it’s up to you to remind your customer about your pizzeria.
  2. Existing customers are often the most overlooked asset; they are 10 times more likely to order from you than someone who has never ordered from you before.
  3. Numbers 1 and 2 are key elements to your success.

I don’t recall the day that I finally “got it,” but ever since that day I changed the way I do marketing, for the better. I began using direct mail and direct response marketing. That, simply said, is a campaign that goes directly to your intended target, for instance, a postcard that’s addressed to your customer and mailed through Canada Post. Direct response is a term that simply means there is an offer with an expiration date on the piece by which you can measure the response of the campaign. For instance, if you sent out 50 postcards and 35 were redeemed, that’s a 70 per cent response rate. Instead of spending an average of five to eight cents a flyer to mail out to tens of thousands of households at a time, I’ll spend 60 cents on a postcard that goes directly to our existing customer. Or I’ll spend just over a dollar to send out a printed newsletter directly to our existing customer. I can track how much each piece brings in for sales, and then calculate the return on investment.

Many independent pizzeria owners see marketing solely as an expense, which it definitely can be if you’re not doing it right. But if you follow the advice above, and make your most overlooked asset work for you, then you will see that every dollar you spend comes back into your bank account with more dollar friends.

Years ago I used to personally send out every mail piece – thank-you letters, birthday postcards – sometimes handwritten with the help of my staff but mostly done on the office computer. Although the process was tedious, the response rate made it impossible to stop. Unlike all the other forms of marketing, this one switch in my approach actually showed me the money. •

Diana Cline is a two-time Canadian Pizza magazine chef of the year champion, internationally recognized gourmet pizzaiolo, owner of Diana’s Cucina & Lounge in Winnipeg and a director for the CRFA [now Restaurants Canada] from 2009-2013. In addition to creating award-winning recipes, Diana is also a consultant to other pizzeria owner/operators in menu development, creating systems to run a pizzeria on autopilot, along with marketing and positioning to help operators grow their business effectively and strategically. She is available for consulting on a limited basis. For more information, contact her at

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