Merchandising matters, so choose wisely
I realized last week while folding a load of laundry that at least 80 percent of my t-shirt collection is pizza-related. Some have catchy phrases or images and others are from pizzerias I’ve visited over the years. But it doesn’t end there; my tiny apartment is a warehouse for every kind of pizza swag you can imagine. It’s quite a change in décor from the rock band posters and t-shirts of my high school and college years, but the idea is the same. I love showing my support for things I enjoy, and your pizzeria is one of them. Help me flaunt my fandom by taking advantage of merchandising opportunities that will bolster your bottom line.
You can get your pizzeria’s name printed on just about anything, but I tend to prefer the simplest options. Magnets and stickers are great because they’re inexpensive and take up almost zero real estate in your shop. Customers will keep them on their refrigerator or inside their locker at school, providing a constant reminder of whom they can call for pizza and wings this weekend. The marketing potential is enormous, especially when compared with paper menus that get lost in piles of junk mail. The longer an item survives before hitting the trashcan, the more eyeballs will see it and the greater your return on investment.
I’ll never pay for a pizzeria magnet, but have no problem dropping $20 for a cool t-shirt. Cost is usually around $5 to $7 per piece (depending on shirt quality and print quantity) so there’s definitely room for profit. Rizzo’s Fine Pizza in Astoria, New York, sells t-shirts for $5. For the customer, such a low price makes the purchase a no brainer. For your pizzeria, a net loss of zero dollars is a pretty great price for a mobile billboard that will expose thousands of people to your brand.
My first pizza t-shirt remains one of my favorites because I earned it. Carmen’s Pizzeria in Neptune, New Jersey, is famous for their XXL pizza challenge. Long before “Man vs. Food,” Carmen’s offered a free t-shirt to any customer able to finish a XXL pizza in under an hour. The best part is the pizza is extremely thin, so even my grandmother could take it down. I remember sitting at a table with at least five of my friends, each of us devouring our own XXL pie. The promotion increases the pizzeria’s average check while creating a frenzy of free advertising. The best part is the t-shirt design changes every year, so there’s incentive for repeat attempts.
Your pizzeria’s unique identity could be ripe for possibilities beyond the standard apparel, just be sure you know your audience. Branded sunglasses might not sell in a Seattle pizza shop but they’re a good bet at a touristy beachfront location in southern California. If you feature craft beer, a branded bottle opener could be the perfect take-away. Don’t waste time, space and money on branded bobble heads and board games just because they’re available. Think about what you’re known for and you’re likely to find some matching merchandise.
Scott Wiener owns and operates Scott’s Pizza Tours in New York City.