Limited-time offers take on a new face
We’ve entered uncharted territory in marketing during the COVID-19 Pandemic. Bill Vivian at Regents Pizzeria in La Jolla, California, has stated in a recent Checking In With video, “it’s like throwing ideas against the wall and seeing what sticks.”
One area of marketing that has taken an interesting turn, limited-time offers. Many experts surmised that traditional limited-time offers took a hiatus when the pandemic began. Or did they? Just as restaurants have adapted to operational changes, LTOs have shifted to fit the customers’ changing needs.
“When the pandemic hit, we basically had to throw out our entire marketing calendar and start over,” says Carol DeNembo, vice president of marketing at Mountain Mike’s Pizza with more than 220 restaurants across California, Oregon, Nevada and Utah. “We had our entire year mapped out, but our team quickly came together to create a new strategy that involved developing weekly calendars that were tweaked on the daily to ensure Mountain Mike’s was offering unique value and convenience wherever possible during a time of fierce competition.
“LTOs have long been a part of our DNA. We are very thoughtful about what we offer, and when, and identified LTOs that we believed would bring the most value to our guests at this time,” she continues. “Yes, it’s been effective, and we have been positive as a whole. In addition to driving sales, LTOs are a chance to stay in front of our guests, providing unique reasons and incentives to enjoy Mountain Mike’s while also making sure they know we are open and how they can place their orders.”
As a single-unit operator, Vivian also sees the shifts. “There is a wonderful article in The Atlantic where Tom Colicchio is being interviewed and I think he summarizes it very well,” he says. “There is going to be a significant shift towards safety, convenience and value. Those are far more important than they were pre-crisis.”
Let’s explore ways to give customers what they are looking for in a limited-time offer. Here are three LTO categories that will resonate with your customers:
• Comfort. When times are uncertain people look to comfort, especially as people venture out less. What special item or service can you provide to give your clientele comfort?
DeNembo says, Mountain Mike’s brought back one of its popular LTOs, heart-shaped pizzas. “The decision to bring back the heart-shaped pizzas when the pandemic struck was for a completely different purpose,” she says. “It was a natural segue that we could apply to the environment we were all now in, bringing new meaning to the age-old saying ‘Home is where the heart is.’ Besides just being fun to eat, we were seeing customers order heart-shaped pizzas for delivery to others as well, which wasn’t something we had anticipated. It was heartwarming to see and paired perfectly with our contactless delivery. Also, being that we had offered heart-shaped pizzas in February, it was simple for our franchise partners to implement operationally.”
• Family. All the heavy hitters offer specials for families right now. Leave it to the independent pizzeria to come up with an idea that drives to the heart of family and entertainment rolled into one. Pizza kits have been widely successful as families became bored of the same old takeout. Pizza kits evolved into entrée and dessert kits.
Bundles and packaged meals have been trending in restaurant and pizzeria segments. They wrap everything a household needs for a meal in one package at a reasonable price.
Fine Folk Pizza rolled out its Feed the Family meal for $50, which includes a 16″ Cheese Pizza, a 14” Specialty Pie, 10 Classic Breadsticks w/ marinara, Regular House Salad with 1 extra dressing, and Two-Liter Beverage.
“This special is designed for a family with a few young kids,” says Co-owner Michael De Nunzio. “Kids tend to order mainly a traditional cheese or pepperoni pizza, so a 16″ cheese pizza is great for them, but maybe not their parents. Here’s the problem we are solving with this special: Many adults don’t get the pizza they want because their kids only eat cheese. The 14″ specialty pizza in this package solves that problem and encourages them to order what they want and that it’s ok to do so.”
Regents also debuted its first-ever Family Value Menu targeting an overall 15-percent discount. “It didn’t stick,” Vivian says. “We have a premium price point. We try to be authentically New York and authentically Chicago in our two styles. We work very hard at that. We have never really couponed or discounted.” Vivian is on to other ideas.
• Service. Use your LTOs to do good deeds. Regents Pizzeria launched a “Buy a Meal, Give a Meal” deal. The unique offer gave 7,000 meals those in need through Feeding San Diego. “I’ve been wanting for a long time to do something like this,’ he says. “What we are hoping to do is once a quarter do something like this, just have a routine way of giving back to the community.”
Vivian says benchmarking has been key for Regents. “We are constantly searching for the next idea,” he says. “That’s where I’m spending a ton of my time doing finding the good ideas and then adapting them with our team to things that will success for us.”
Regents sits in a business district with a neighboring university, so retargeting offers was key. Social media geofencing has helped Regents reach its neighbors. Bill says they decided to even expand those geofenced areas and expanded our deliverable areas. “That really gave us a strong kick.”
DeNunzio has tapped all of Fine Folk’s marketing tools. “The current avenues we market today are Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Google Ads, Youtube, our website, e-mail marketing to our loyalty club, various forms of direct mail, and most importantly, having the specials available in our online ordering platform,” he says.
If developed and executed effective, LTOs can be a big sales generator. It comes down to this, DeNembo says: “At the end of the day an LTO is intended to drive trial, frequency and transaction average – short term efforts to create long term results – there’s no magic solution out there. The brands who do it well know their customers, their identity and are very targeted in their approach and won’t stray too far from what they’ve been doing.”
Denise Greer is the Executive Editor of Pizza Today.