Canadian Pizza Magazine

Features Business and Operations Marketing
the pizza chef: Turnkey marketing


November 30, 2009
By Diana Coutu

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When my husband and I opened our pizzeria more than 12 years ago, we 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 see it all too often when I do consulting. Not only were we mistaken, but it was a bit of an ego bruiser to finally wake up one day and realize that only our mothers were impressed and that, truthfully, no one else cared.

When my husband and I opened our pizzeria more than 12 years ago, we 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 see it all too often when I do consulting. Not only were we mistaken, but it was a bit of an ego bruiser to finally wake up one day and realize that only our mothers were impressed and that, truthfully, no one else cared.

“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 representative from a radio station, or penny saver, community wall calendar, and even a shared mailing piece come into your place of business and offer you a great deal on their program.

There are several problems with most of these options: Firstly, you can’t effectively track it, so how do you know if it’s really working? Secondly, the space available is so tiny that you need to use a six-point font. And typically you must commit to several weeks or months for each campaign, which often adds up to thousands of dollars.

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The sales rep will suggest you advertise an offer like a buy-one-get-one-free in order to get people to respond, but 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. You’re saying it’s not worth the full price to potential new customers.

This is the kind of marketing that 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, which 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 who are a little stumped on getting things going.

First, let’s review important points that are key elements to your success: It’s not up to your customer to remember you and your restaurant. It’s up to you to remind your customer about your pizzeria. And secondly, an existing customer is often the most overlooked asset. They are 10 times more likely to order from you than someone who has never ordered from you before.

I don’t recall the day that my husband and I finally “got it”, but I do know that ever since that day we changed the way we market our pizzeria for the better. We began using direct mail and direct response marketing. That, simply said, is a campaign that goes directly to your intended target. For instance, it’s a postcard that’s addressed to your customer and mailed through Canada Post. Direct response is a term that simply means that there is an offer with an expiration date on the piece by which you can measure the response of the campaign. For example, if you sent out 50 postcards and 35 were redeemed that’s a 70 per cent response rate. Instead of spending an average of three to five cents a flyer to mail out to tens of thousands of households at a time, we’ll spend 60 cents on a postcard that goes directly to our existing customer.

Years ago I used to send out every mail piece; whether it was a thank-you letter or a birthday postcard, sometimes hand written with the help of my staff, and mostly done on the computer in the office. Although it was tedious, the response rate made it impossible to stop. Then we found a turnkey, direct response marketing program that took care of 95 per cent of the work. In addition to taking stuff off of my plate, this program also awards points to my customers based on their purchases and sends them reward certificates once they’ve earned the allotted points.

The company we use is called Repeat Rewards, and after three years with them I would fully recommend them. This company designed custom Diana’s Rewards cards that my customers keep in their wallets as a reminder of our pizzeria and the rewards they earn when they spend their hard earned dollars with us. They also send out birthday and anniversary postcards with an offer predetermined by us. They can send out referral letters for your customers to give their friends and family special offers for your pizzeria and in turn, your regular customers can receive rewards for those referrals. This program has not only freed up a lot of my time, but it’s also a lot more effective and it’s allowed us to concentrate on growing our company. Now all we have to do is sign people up to the program and decide what other campaigns we’d like this company to do for us. We can easily pull reports to see the response for the birthday cards sent last month, over the last six months or over the last year. We can even segment our list and send a special reward to the top five per cent of our customers, who are the ones that truly deserve the best offers from us.


Diana Coutu is a two-time Canadian Pizza Magazine chef of the year champion, internationally recognized gourmet pizzaiolo, co-owner of Diana’s Gourmet Pizzeria in Winnipeg, Man., and a board of director member 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 business 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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