Want to increase your volume? Strategic promotions can persuade both new and existing customers to pop in or to place a few orders.
While coupons and discounts are tried and true, there are plenty of other creative promotions you can offer that won’t necessarily carve such a big slice out of your register while still making a positive impact on customer traffic.
In fact, some of these ideas for creative promotions will have a much bigger long-term impact, because instead of a one-and-done coupon, they elevate your profile in the community and build goodwill.
We know that increasing your profits is a universal goal but think about the big picture. What’s your objective? It could be increased customer loyalty, recognition for your chef, introducing a new product, or greater visibility in the community.
Ladd Biro, founder and principal at Champion Management, a PR & digital media agency that represents more than 70 restaurant brands, including several in the pizza category, says “formulate the objective first because if you don’t know what you’re aiming at, you’re sure to miss the target.” In addition, he emphasizes the importance of knowing who your audience is, “and then once you figure that out you have to figure out the best way to reach them.” Younger demographics are on TikTok while older people are on Facebook or even reading print publications.
“We’re big fans of give-back promotions and campaigns – it’s always good to create goodwill with the community,” says Biro. “Everybody likes to get behind a good fundraiser. And if done right and done with the right partners it can drive incremental traffic,” some of whom may convert to loyal customers. Biro suggests finding a partner organization to align with who’ll take an active role in “driving some awareness for you, getting their supporters to come in your restaurant and support the fundraisers. It should be a mutual thing where everybody benefits.” These campaigns can include limited-time menu items that trigger your donation with purchase, messages printed on the box in support of the organization, and more. Such partnerships are newsworthy and might get you some press.
Local Coordinated Promotions
In Portland, Oregon, a local weekly newspaper has been organizing Pizza Week for six years. “It’s a week-long pizza celebration where participating pizza places sell a special slice just for Pizza Week,” says Rob Thompson, publisher of the Portland Mercury. “Slices for $3 and/or whole pies for $20 – this is a considerable discount in Portland.” The discount applies to a single pie at each pizzeria, specially composed for the event and promoted via a website complete with descriptions, images, maps and hours. Some of the “truly creative combinations” over the years have been spins on the Reuben sandwich (corned beef, kraut and Russian dressing); tacos (carnitas, raw diced onions, cilantro, and a wedge of lime), gyros, barbecue and so much more. Dozens of pizza spots participate each year and “Pizza Week is by far the busiest week of the year for most participants,” says Thompson. “Not only do participating businesses initially benefit financially but the marketing efforts the Mercury puts forth bring in many new customers that return throughout the year.” With huge community participation, it also generates a ton of Instagram traffic (#portlandpizzaweek).
Highlight Your Local Purveyors
If you’ve got a farm-to-table thing going, partner with your purveyors for mutually beneficial promotions. Perhaps you can team up for a cooking demonstration at the farmers market or on a local morning TV program; cross-promote each other; serve a special dinner on the farm; or have a mini petting zoo during baby goat season.
Gift Pizza to Your Community
Acknowledge local heroes like first responders, medical personnel, teachers and retirement homes. Pick a hero of the month and deliver a stack of pizzas for them, make sure you get some pictures for social media, and maybe even some actual local media coverage from local TV or newspapers.
Tap Takeover or Pint Night
If craft beer is on the menu, use it to lure customers in. Invite a different brewery to take over the taps one night each week and share samples and limited-edition kegs with your diners. Offer happy hour beer prices all day on Tuesdays or during televised games.
Promote Selfies and Social Media
Set up a selfie wall and make it irresistible to those picture-posting kids. Make sure your hashtag is posted so they can share it and tag you. Offer a free pizza prize every week or month to someone who has tagged and shared pix of your product.
Get Customers Involved
Invite your guests to submit their dream pizza topping combo. Take a poll on social media and serve the winning combo for a week or a month, named after the inventor. Offer coloring pages to kids and post their artwork on social media or on the wall. Take submissions from local artists or kids for the artwork on your boxes, bags or cups. Hang local artwork on the walls and throw an opening party for the artist.
Launch a Retail Element
At Fiore Pizzeria & Bakery in Forest Park, Illinois, they offer high-quality ingredients in their retail Mercado de Fiore. “I’ve cultivated a nice inventory of imported, mostly Italian ingredients,” says Regional Chef Jonathan Court. “I really focused on finding stuff that you can’t find anywhere else — really high-quality olive oils, marinated vegetables, honeys, to kind of promote and showcase what we’re all about.” This is a great way to elevate your image if you’re going for a gourmet audience.
Offer Classes and Events
Offer classes for adults, date nights, scout troops, parents and kids. Teach them how to stretch out dough and craft a fantastic pizza. Fiore Pizzeria & Bakery offers an evening class making limoncello. For the holidays, they invite kids in to decorate cookies as part of a one-day Holiday Market Celebration, along with face painting plus wine and food sampling for mom and dad.
Optimize Your Swag
Make the most of your branded t-shirts, can cozies, hats, stickers or temporary tattoos by making it a contest. Everyone who posts a picture of themselves advertising your pizzeria out in public is entered into a drawing for a pizza or more swag.
Cross-Market with Neighboring Businesses
Forge ties with other local businesses. Offer a coupon to the taco place or ice cream parlor up the street to your customers, and they can do the same for you. Everyone benefits when there’s more traffic and commerce.
Specialized Combo Orders
Pizza is the most shareable food out there, so capitalize on it! Make some combo orders that appeal to assorted group sizes and consider some specialty packages for events such as finals week, sports events and local festivities.
Enlist the Pros
Need some help? If you don’t have a PR partner, you might want one. “Good ones can be an incredible resource for you that can help you shape your message and tell your story in a way that can resonate deeply with your audience,” says Biro. They’ll also help you set up interviews, secure media for you, provide talking points, and capitalize on the relationships they’ve built with local and national media.
Annelise Kelly is a Portland, Oregon-based freelance writer.