Canadian Pizza Magazine

Features Business and Operations Marketing
the pizza chef: Beat the barbecue with a scratch and win


May 13, 2011
By Diana Coutu

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Every summer is a challenge for pizzeria owners. The nice weather
coupled with holidays typically finds our regular customers away from
their usual habits. Barbecue season can wreak havoc on our sales as many
enjoy being outdoors and cooking with fire.

Every summer is a challenge for pizzeria owners. The nice weather coupled with holidays typically finds our regular customers away from their usual habits. Barbecue season can wreak havoc on our sales as many enjoy being outdoors and cooking with fire. It’s important to have a promotion that will keep your customers interested in coming back. One of my favourite marketing campaigns that always bumps up sales is what we call our Charlie Roo Birthday Scratch & Win promotion. 

My husband and I have a chocolate miniature pinscher named Charlie Roo, who is well known among our clientele because he makes a regular appearance in our monthly newsletter and also at our customer appreciation events. You could say he’s become our unofficial store mascot. Because he was born in August, every August we have a birthday scratch-and-win promotion in his honour. These cards are designed and printed by a scratch-off company and, at our request, have a picture of Charlie Roo wearing a Hawaiian shirt and sunglasses. The picture does a great job of grabbing attention. It’s not every day that you see a little dog wearing a Hawaiian shirt and sunglasses!

We give the customer a Charlie Roo Birthday Scratch & Win card with every order in July with specific instructions to bring it back unscratched beginning in August. This is when it’s important to have scripting for your staff. What I mean by scripting is that you should provide your staff with the words to say as they hand out the birthday scratch cards; otherwise, they’re likely to botch the explanation and confuse the customer. “Every card is a winner,” my staff say. “The catch is that it’s not valid before August 1 and that it must be presented unscratched to one of our delivery drivers or in-store staff. Good luck . . . and no scratching!” 

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The cards list five prizes that might be underneath the silver button. Our five prizes are a free two-litre pop, a $5, $10 or $25 voucher towards their order, and a grand prize of $200 in gift certificates to our pizzeria. You can choose any prizes that you’d like to give away for your pizzeria, but keep in mind that the majority of our prizes are the $5 voucher, with a smaller percentage of the bigger prizes. We have a small number of qualifiers for the grand prize because if we only had one winning card for the grand prize it would be a shame if the winning birthday card never came back. 

Of course, there are always a few people who will scratch off the silver button immediately after my staff member has explained the promotion and handed them the card. In those cases we tear up the scratched card, hand them another card and calmly explain the promotion again, asking them not to scratch this card and to put it in a safe place until the following month. Almost all my regulars enjoy this promotion and new customers like to play along, especially when they know their good behaviour will be rewarded. 

The exciting part begins in August when the cards become valid, provided they are presented unscratched to my staff. My customers have had one or more of these birthday cards in their homes or vehicles since July and by this time they really want to know what prize is underneath that silver button. Especially when they’ve been told that they’re holding a winning card. We’ve been running this promotion every year for four years and it has consistently helped to increase our sales every August over the previous year. Once you understand the dynamics of this promotion, it’s easy to adapt it to other similar slow-season busters. Perhaps one of the biggest lessons to keep in mind is that it’s not up to your customers to remember your pizzeria, rather it’s up to you to make sure that your customers do not forget your pizzeria.


Diana Coutu is a two-time Canadian Pizza magazine chef of the year champion, an internationally recognized gourmet pizzaiolo, the co-owner of Diana’s Gourmet Pizzeria in Winnipeg, Man., and a member of the board of directors for the CRFA. 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 businesses effectively and strategically. She is available for consulting on a limited basis; for more information contact her at Diana@dianasgourmetpizzeria.ca.


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