Canadian Pizza Magazine

the pizza chef: Setting up a Foursquare special

By Diana Coutu   

Features Business and Operations Marketing

Millions of Foursquare users sign in every day to find friends and explore new businesses in their area.

Millions of Foursquare users sign in every day to find friends and explore new businesses in their area. Are you one of them? You should be, because users are also checking out new restaurants and clicking on “nearby places” to see which businesses are listed.

Foursquare is all about rewarding its visitors. It’s another way you can market your pizzeria at no cost to you, other than the discount you give to your guest. More than 250,000 small and large businesses have signed up on Foursquare’s free Internet platform for businesses; many of these have offered specials.

In addition to driving business through specials, Foursquare’s free Merchant Platform allows you access to its Venue Stats dashboard, where you can track your customer foot traffic over time.


The beauty of a Foursquare special – aside from rewarding your customers and getting them back through the door – is that users often check out the “specials nearby” menu when they first open the app. If they’re within a few kilometres of your pizzeria and you’re offering a special, you’ll show up in that menu. It’s an excellent free way to gain exposure, and the platform is flexible and intuitive.

To sign up, go to Click on “merchants,” then click “get started claiming venue” to set up your restaurant. Once you’ve claimed your venue, go under “manager tools” and click on “campaigns” to create a special.

There are now seven types of specials available on Foursquare; below you’ll find an explanation of each special, along with some tips to help you get started. Specials are divided into two types – five that reward new customers and two that offer incentives to existing customers who return to your business.

Swarm special: You can specify the number of people who need to be checked in to unlock an offer. For example, an ice cream store can give away a free scoop of ice cream when 10 people are checked in at once. You can set a limit for how frequently this special can be unlocked so that you don’t give away too much product.

Friends special: This deal offers a reward for friends who check in together. You can specify how many friends need to be there and what they receive for checking in.

Flash special: This gives the first X number of people to come at X time a reward. Flash specials are a great way to give customers an incentive to stop by during your slow hours.

Newbie special: Guests who check in to your pizzeria for the first time can claim a newbie special – maybe a 10 per cent off discount or a free appetizer. Offering even a small reward for a user’s first check-in is a great way to start a relationship with a new customer.

Check-in special: The check-in special offers a reward for every single check-in. You can offer a free pop or a discount on a purchase.

Loyalty special: The loyalty special is an offering for every so many check-ins – you determine the interval – to motivate guests to return regularly and cash in on their visits.

Mayor special: The mayor is the person who has checked in to your pizzeria the most. In theory, he or she is your most loyal customer. As such, the mayor deserves a prize, whether it’s a discount, a free T-shirt or a meal on the house. Mayors tend to be proud and protective of their mayorship, so you can offer something whenever a new mayor earns the crown. You can also offer a daily reward to the mayor.

To set up a special, select one of the options and determine the conditions that will have to be met in order for customers to unlock the deal.

Once you click “next step,” you can write the text of the offer. In the “offer description” field, you have 200 characters to outline your special. Keep it short and simple. Your text will populate in real time on the iPhone to the right so you can see what it will look like on someone’s smartphone.

When you’ve finished with your description, click “next step.” In the field labelled “fine print,” type any restrictions or disclaimers for the special (for example, not valid with any other offer). If you want to target your slow times, you can restrict a special so it can only be redeemed on Monday or Tuesday, or from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Be specific.

When you’re happy with what you’ve got, click “create special.”

When you’re done creating your special, Foursquare provides a link to a downloadable flyer that explains to your employees how Foursquare specials work. The most important thing for employees to know is that an unlocked special appears in colour; a yet-to-be-unlocked special is black and white.

Foursquare is just one more tool floating around in the sea of technology that’s free and easy to use.

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

Print this page


Stories continue below