Editor’s note: This is the latest monthly column with Rom Krupp, the founder and CEO of Marketing Vitals, an analytics software helping restaurants of all shapes and sizes. You can read his column on Twin Peaks here, Abuelo’s here, Kenny’s Restaurant Group here, Firenza Pizza here, Sonny’s BBQ here, Boston’s here, Del Frisco’s Grill here, City Barbecue here, Four Foods Group here, Melt Shop here, Sizzler here, Saxbys here, and Hopdoddy Burger Bar here.

Each year, 3 billion pizzas are sold, and Stoner’s Pizza Joint is happy to join in the action. With a menu for the whole family, customers can sample a pizza recipe that dates back 30 years along with a variety of appetizers, including the brand’s famous smoked jumbo Buffalo wings and several desserts. But more than providing high-quality food, Stoner’s is focused on delivering impeccable hospitality. Nick Bergelt, chief concept officer at Stoner’s Pizza Joint, oversees the voice and style of the brand and is leading the company growth through franchising. He shared insights on the company’s marketing success and tremendous appeal in every community they have a location. Below is our conversation about what they are doing, why they matter, and how they are making a difference to the people in the communities they serve. 

How important has your community relations been to building your brand?

Extremely important because community relations are a core tenant of every market we enter. We take the time to find out the personality of each town along with learning what we can about other local business owners, who is considered the community influencers, and finding out what is important to them and how we can participate in their goals. Our success in community relations has happened because we treat each individual store & market as its own ecosystem.

What do you look for in franchisees?

We look at their prior track record and how they have performed to insure they are strong and seasoned operators. But we have been fortunate because Stoner’s Pizza Joint has become such an exciting restaurant chain we are attracting franchisees who have already had success with legacy brands and now want to get in on the ground level of a new opportunity. We are selective and want experienced franchisees who have had proven success in their markets and understand community relations.

What role do coupons play in your marketing? 

When it comes to pizza, behaviors are driven by coupons, at least when it comes to the initial guest experience. After that, if we’re giving them great food with a great experience, the price isn’t important anymore. But when it comes to the exploratory diner, coupons are and will always be critical to attract the first-time customer.

How do you approach customer satisfaction, incentives & frequency?  

Our most important goal is to get the first guest experience 100 percent right because the marketing shows us if we get three guest experiences right then 78 percent will become customers for life. Here’s how we do this. First, we empower our servers to understand this and find out who are the first timers and train them to provide ultimate hospitality techniques. At the end of their meal, we give these customers a discount certificate for something they didn’t order, like a dessert, to bring with them the next time. And, when they return on the second visit, we tell them the next time they can enjoy a free appetizer on us. If we can create three fabulous dining experiences through our three approaches: great at pizza, drove them to other product mixes, and make sure they see us as more than a pizza place, then we are very likely to have them as customers for life.

How important is it to have a relationship with your customers?

Very and here’s why. The data has shown us that customers return 49 percent based on what we do (great food) and 51 percent is based how we make them feel (hospitality). To achieve this, we try to do this by insuring our customers have the best experience at every touchpoint, even delivery. Ultimately, our growth will be the result of word-of-mouth so our goal is to insure every interaction is a win-win. This means making customers happy, driving our internal agenda for growth, and building our community relations by donating a portion of checks to a great cause. We believe in growth while having a moral fiber that permeates all decision making. By being genuine and authentic, we will always have a sustainable effort and strong economic model.

Reader question: 

How can we upsell effectively? Chicago

By approaching it as a blend of new guest acquisition, increased frequency and increased spending.  Knowing sensitivities of guests is crucial to insure you haven’t broken the spending threshold on a transactional basis. Continually expecting increases in guest ticket average can lead to undue pressure by employees to perform in situations where they feel the guest is at that threshold. Offering a service where the byproduct is a well-timed dessert or cup of coffee that pairs up well with the overall meal is the trick.  Wheeling out the dessert tray when it’s obvious the guests are completely satisfied only delays the check to a group that’s ready to leave. Be smart and helpful and you’ll generate greater frequency which will lead to more sales.

Do you have a restaurant marketing question? Email Rom@MarketingVitals.com and follow him on Twitter @Vitals_com

Rom Krupp is the founder and CEO of Marketing Vitals, a game-changing analytics software helping restaurants of all shapes and sizes with intelligence that leads to actionable decision-making With over 20 years working with over 400 brands, Rom Krupp helps restaurants turn data into dollars.
Marketing & Promotions, Outside Insights, Story, Stoner's Pizza Joint