Canadian Pizza Magazine

The Pizza Chef: Everything is marketing

By Diana Cline   

Features Business and Operations Marketing marketing

Photo: © fizkes / Adobe Stock

The greatest challenge for any independent pizzeria is getting the word out, also known as marketing. We think that as long as we make a great pizza and provide friendly service customers will come back again and again. And tell their friends, families, and co-workers.  

I like to believe that there’s truth to this. But that’s not a marketing plan. That’s more of a company mission statement. A marketing plan consists of new customer acquisition, lost customer reactivation, social media and customer retention strategies, to name a few. The vast majority of independent and chain pizzeria owners don’t have a clue about how to attract a customer in the first place and know even less about how to keep them coming back.

We put all the responsibility on the customer to come back to see us. Most independents will copy the chains and send out glossy flyers with coupons in hopes that sales will follow. The best-case scenario for unaddressed ad mail is a three to four per cent response rate with 96-97 per cent waste. That’s not exactly what I’d call an efficient sales strategy rather it’s more like a lot of wasted money. Nowadays companies will run Facebook and Instagram ads, targeting their ideal customers by key data such as age, income and physical proximity to their establishments. Some time ago, a mentor of mine said to me, “It’s not your customers’ job to remember you. Rather, it’s your job to make sure your customers don’t forget about you.”  

To this day, it’s still wise advice. We all live busy lives, and customers have lots of options when choosing where to eat and where to spend their money. Why should they choose you over any of those choices? That’s the big-money question: why are you special and what can you offer your customers that other pizzerias can’t or are unwilling to? The answer is your unique selling proposition or USP. If you are unable to answer that question, then your customer really has no compelling reason to spend their money at your establishment over another. After all, if you as the owner don’t know what sets you apart, then why should they?


Give them all the reasons to visit you. Do you make your dough on site and prepare everything fresh? If so, it’s important to let your customers know that, especially if your competition is mostly large chains that prepare very little product on site. Do you offer a gluten-free, vegetarian or vegan option on your menu? Are you open for lunch or late night? Do you offer catering? Do you have a take-and-bake option? Is your chicken whole muscle while others are using chopped and formed chicken? Do you make and blend your marinara yourself while your competition uses sauce from a can? Do you use 100 per cent dairy cheese while the other guy uses imitation cheese? Is your mozzarella low fat?  

Everything inside your store is a potential marketing strategy. Even simple things such as having a uniform for your staff and maintaining a spotless restaurant are marketing strategies. Your level of customer service is vitally important as well. Do you treat each and every customer as you would like to be treated? Better yet, do your staff? All it takes is one bad employee to sabotage your business and cost you thousands of dollars in future sales. How you handle complaints is another marketing strategy. Mistakes happen, and just one upset customer who isn’t well taken care of can easily tell hundreds or thousands of others about it through social media and damage a stellar reputation. You really need to think of everything as marketing if you want to be successful in this business. New customer acquisition strategies and lost customer campaigns are important, but customer retention can make or break you. It costs eight to10 times more to attract a new customer than it does to reactivate a lost customer, and in comparison, very little to keep your existing customers coming back again and again. 

Marketing isn’t just one or two or three different things: marketing is everything you and your staff do in your shop and how you interact with each customer. It’s a daily effort that you must continually put energy into if you want to thrive in this industry. As long as you give your customers valid and compelling reasons to continue to order from you and make things right if someone does drop the ball, then you’re certain to stay on the winning side.  

Diana Cline is an award-winning pizza chef, a partner with Diana’s Cucina & Lounge in Winnipeg. In addition to creating award-winning recipes, Diana is a consultant to other pizzeria owner/operators in menu development, creating operational systems and marketing to help operators grow their business strategically. Contact her at

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