Canadian Pizza Magazine

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Three ways to quickly recover for small pizzerias: Making Dough with Diane


Times of crisis and challenges are always difficult for restaurant owners and operators, but they also provide opportunities for business operators to innovate. 

Changing marketing tactics and scaling down menus are just a few things that pizzerias are doing to stay in business during this pandemic. Here are three key ways to quickly recover and thrive:

Concentrate your effort on your local community
Pizzerias are the heart of many communities. Small, local businesses are what give a town or city its character. It’s where young couples with children enjoy a Saturday afternoon with pizza and drinks, families get together to celebrate birthdays, and friends gather for delicious and hot pizzas. Focus on connecting with your customers and your community. Stay in touch with your customers, whether you are open or closed. They care about you and your business, especially those who are regulars. Never before have we seen local communities rally together so much to support small businesses. People are really making an effort to buy local.

Ensure that your customers think of you when they decide to shop around for their upcoming events such as birthdays, anniversaries and graduation. During these challenging times, people are still looking for pizzeria operations to provide that same level of comfort and feeling they experienced in the past. 

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Start building your customer list. You may have already captured people’s email addresses on your website, but make sure you are also doing it in store. Are you encouraging your social media fans to subscribe to your newsletter? Have you thought of SMS (short message service), which is a text messaging service component of most telephone, Internet and mobile device systems? Once you have built these lists, you have an opportunity to have “sales conversations” with customers by sending them timely and relevant messages. Customer communication should be consistent and can take place through various formats, such as email, your website, your customer service line, social media platforms.

These are the top subjects you should be communicating about with your customers: your strict safety, cleaning policies, sanitation measures; your takeout, delivery or curbside pick-up options; and your future plans for your restaurant. You should also list your current hours of operations and include community support messages. 

Get restaurant customers to come back again quickly
There are only three ways to increase revenue for your pizza operation. Get new customers. Have your current customers spending more money per visit. And get current customers returning more often. For years, Starbucks used this strategy successfully to increase afternoon and evening sales. If you bought a coffee in the morning, Starbucks gave you a printed receipt with an offer to return the same day, and you got $1 off your next purchase. These offers created goodwill with their best customers. 

Offer a free gift with purchase. This can be enough to entice passersby in the door. Try to create a free offer with no strings attached. As you know, free offers always get the most activity: “Buy a pizza and get a free drink.” My testing has proven that offering a one “free item” will get around three times more redemptions than offering a price or percentage discount. You could always create expiration dates. This gives customers a sense of urgency to return to your pizzeria for some other treats. I am sure that you could set up in your POS system a receipt with the printed offer. For more impact, you could create a small advertising card with pictures to place in front of your cash register. Your staff should also point out the offer to the customer. Train your employees to say, “Thank you, and don’t forget to view our special on our website. For example, if you come back within a week, you can get a free________.” 

Continue focusing on quality and great customer service
Quality pizzeria products and friendly local customer service have not changed since the start of the pandemic. Continue building relationships now and these will turn into future sales. Your pizza operation should be based on four customer needs: quality, reliability, ease and accuracy. Your product mix should always include high-quality products and ingredients, and satisfy as many dietary and lifestyle preferences as possible. Make yourself known not only to your existing customers but also to your future clients.

For the time being, the best way to build relationships is online: you should show up consistently with relevant, helpful advice. Getting the word out is certainly your next step to survive, and that’s why it’s important that you develop your social media brand. Tap new online marketplaces to expand your market. The easiest way to get started is to pick the top four to six things you want to be known for. Talk about one of those things each week across your social media platforms.

To alleviate people’s safety concerns, heighten your cleanliness standards. Let customers know you limit the number of customers in the store at one time. Proactively communicate changes that affect your operation. Finally, update your location, restaurant hours (including temporary closings or modified hours), and takeout or delivery options.


Diane Chiasson, FCSI, president of Chiasson Consultants Inc., has been helping foodservice, hospitality and retail operators increase sales for over 30 years by providing innovative, revenue-increasing marketing strategies. Contact her at 416-926-1338 or chiasson@chiassonconsultants.com, or visit chiassonconsultants.com.