In terms of menu news, Little Caesars did manage to release Stuffed Crazy Bread, the Pepperoni Cheeser! Cheeser!, and Slice-N-Stix, which combines four pizza slices with eight cheese bread sticks. The promotional calendar is built six to nine months out, but the cadence of product news was disrupted when COVID hit. Gleich says that at the time, Little Caesars chose to focus its marketing efforts on health and safety standards.
For about six to eight weeks, the brand ran commercials showing how it cooked pizzas, sealed boxes, and utilized the contactless Pizza Portal. Gleich notes this messaging not only put loyal customers at ease, but also built trust with new guests.
The executive says the current actions of operators will determine whether new customers will carry into a post-COVID world once more dining rooms open and the market re-saturates.
“It's critically important now, not later, to take care of them and make sure they have a great experience with us,” Gleich says. “So a lot of our messaging to our operators is reinforcing that how we treat these customers certainly is going to impact long-term. We're going to get a fair amount of carryout customers that are staying away. … There still is, I think, in the category certainly some people's behavior is to eat more in-house versus venturing out to pick up food. … We’re expecting a bump next year when carryout customers will either go back to eating, picking up food or increasing the frequency in which they pick up food.”
Because of the bolstered sales, Little Caesars fully expects to reach more customers around the world as it continues to build its pipeline. Gleich says the company has beefed up its development teams recently, both domestically and internationally. In August, the brand opened its first stores in Colombia, after debuting in Spain, India, and Barbados in 2019.
Interest from investors has only surged during the COVID pandemic. And according to Gleich, a greater reach means more opportunities to convert consumers into lifelong fans.
“Our observations are, we're very social people,” Gleich says. “This is no matter where in the world we have stores. People tend to like to eat out. They love the convenience of Little Caesars. Our expectation is that we see no reason why their behavior wouldn't come back to pre-pandemic levels once the vaccine is out. We're seeing recovery even before the vaccine. So we're highly optimistic."