Pizza chains have been able to survive during the pandemic by combining traditional marketing techniques with innovative online options to offer customers deals and a stellar customer experience in a contactless world.
The outbreak of COVID-19 in the U.S. decimated the restaurant industry. Restaurants were forced to shutter their dining rooms as states issued stay-at-home orders to flatten the curve of the pandemic. Many restaurants were able to pivot and turn to curbside and delivery service to stay afloat, but much of the industry took a hit. Employment in leisure and hospitality was down 41 percent in May 2020, versus the prior year, compared with declines ranging from 2 percent to 18 percent in other areas, according to the U.S. Small Business Administration. Even as dining rooms across the country reopen, restaurateurs are coping with capacity limitations and new social distancing guidelines.
Although more Americans are staying close to home during the pandemic, they are still making it a priority to order their favorite cheesy comfort food—pizza. Pizza take-out/ delivery is a weekly staple for many American families. It’s an easy way to get dinner on the table regardless of a full schedule. Sales are spiking at some of the largest pizza delivery chains. Domino’s, Papa John’s, Pizza Hut and local mom-and-pop pizza shops all saw sales increase as Americans continue to weather the pandemic.
While pizza delivery is on the rise, the fast-casual pizza industry has had to make some important marketing and business changes to stay relevant in the competitive pizza industry during this time. Over the past five years, small fast-casual pizza options popped up all over the country. These chains, like Blaze Pizza, Your Pie, Pieology and MOD Pizza to name a few, offer fresh, high-quality ingredients combined with fast service that is designed to appeal to the evolving tastes of their discerning customer base. Eight out of 10 millennials agree that quality drives their food purchasing decisions according to a survey conducted by YouGov.com, an international research, data, and analytics group.
Lucky for American consumers, these restaurant chains rose to the challenge and are continuing to thrive despite the pandemic. Here are a few examples of how your fast-casual pizza chain can stay afloat during this unusual economic time.
Appeal to New Residents
According to Bloomberg.com, every year, millions of Americans file a change of home address.
Implementing a robust new mover marketing campaign will help your pizza restaurant stay ahead by consistently adding a new set of loyal customers each month. Choosing a high-quality welcome package filled with proven offers is paramount. With a technologically-advanced new mover program, new customers can redeem their offer in-person or digitally, and restaurant owners can track their return on investment.
Mark Ulrey, VP of Marketing at Flyers Pizza & Subs in Central Ohio, says, “The most important advertising that we do is new mover marketing. It allows us to get in front of potential clients immediately upon their arrival into their home. Studies suggest that 10-15% of our existing customers move yearly, so it’s vital that we replace them.,” says Ulrey.
Tie-in a Digital Component
Implementing an online ordering platform that integrates directly into your point-of-sale system, enabling access to data and analytics will help drive business and automate processes. If you welcome new movers via a new mover program, be sure to include a code that can be entered into a POS system, or utilize their mobile app option.
Your Pie took this time to increase their digital marketing efforts by creating a new mobile app to allow customers to earn rewards and free pizza from their mobile devices. “One thing we’ve tried to pay close attention to is the digital guest experience,” said Dave McDougall, Your Pie’s chief executive, on their website. “Is it frictionless? What are the pain points when a guest tries to order online or tries to pick up curbside?”
Highlight Creative Menu Items & Kitchen Safety Standards
With cleanliness and safety top-of-mind, fast-casual pizza chains can capitalize on their open kitchens and fast service to showcase safety standards. Many pizza chains added plexiglass partitions, hand sanitizer dispensers and social distancing markers. Another innovative option is to package pizzas with tamper-proof stickers to ensure safe transport.
This is also an opportune time to add on new menu items to grab attention – take-and-bake options and family meals have become more prevalent. You could even introduce a new pizza flavor or side dish every few weeks.
Once you apply these safety standards and new menu items, it’s important to showcase this information on your website and marketing materials – such as postcard mailings and new mover offers.
Solidify Your Status in Community
Now more than ever, supporting your local economy is crucial. Showing that your business understands the value of giving back to the community could be the driving force to get new customers to notice your business. Delivering pizzas to first responders, hospitals or school teachers will make an impression on current residents, while welcoming new movers will have your business top-of-mind as the area’s only pizza restaurant to greet new residents.
Providing quality customer service and being a good neighbor will help your location flourish during this difficult season.
Innovative marketing, tasty menu items, and quality ingredients will help the pizza industry generate positive sales during this unprecedented time. What will your pizza restaurant do to stand out?
Michael Plummer Jr. is a U.S. Army veteran with more than 20 years of experience as a senior-level franchise executive and IT professional in the direct mail marketing industry. In 2009, he took over as the president/CEO of the Our Town America franchise brand for his father, the founder, Michael Plummer Sr.