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, Sonny’s BBQ here, Boston's here, Del Frisco’s Grill here, City Barbecue here, Four Foods Group here, Melt Shop here, and Hopdoddy Burger Bar here.
Firenza Pizza has garnered a loyal following, which isn’t surprising since they specialize in truly hand-crafted and made-to-order stone-hearth pizzas. With 20 locations across nine states and 25 more in various stages of development, I wanted to know more about this brand started by a former Domino’s multi-unit franchisee (17 to be exact). Firenza Pizza co-founder and CEO Dave Wood wanted to bring his passion to a new pizza concept and I wanted to know more about their success. With over 20 years of marketing experience with restaurant brand chains, I sat down with Stacey Kane, chief marketing officer at Firenza Pizza, and below is our conversation.
What marketing strategies have been most effective in your franchising success?
Our most effective strategies revolve around making sure the promotion is worthy of word of mouth. We use the litmus test of "would you tell a friend?" In more digestible terms, we make sure that most activations will be interesting to both consumers and influencers.
Many of your promotions happen during sports events. How effective has it been to create marketing that is engaged in current events.
We want to be relevant to what is going on in everyday life. It acts as a touch point for keeping Firenza in the forefront of everyone’s minds. If people are thinking about watching the big game then we want people to think about eating pizza while watching that big game.
How important is community relations in growing your brand identity?
I cannot stress how important it is to become the "mayor" of one's trade area. Firenza partners with non-profits when we open each and every restaurant to help amplify the grand opening messaging. These various partnerships position Firenza as a part of the community from the moment the doors open. This shines a positive light on the brand and allows us to give back to those in need.
What role has social media played in brand awareness for customers and franchisees?
Not that long along social media was considered non-traditional. Now a brand cannot exist without having a social media presence and strategy. Social media is a great communicator sharing info that is handy and quick. For a brand like Firenza, with locations across the country, social media is incredibly valuable to build location and brand awareness in real time. However, a good marketer cannot put all of their eggs in only the social media basket. Social media is just one tool in the toolbox to spread your brand’s story.
Can you give an example of a successful customer incentive program?
A successful promotion in my book has to check-off a few boxes. Beyond the expected metrics of trial and average check, I want to see if press picked up on the activation and, most importantly, did the franchise community embrace it and execute it properly. I think March 14, PI Day, is one of my favorite promotions. We offer $3.14 pizzas with a purchase of a drink. The press eats this promotion up (pun intended) so we get tons of new trial, the imagery is adorable and the franchisees love it as it drives traffic while covering food cost.
What is your top marketing tip for a new restaurant just starting?
Marketing should not be an afterthought. Marketing projects should be built into every owner's schedule. Plan on going out into your market and visiting every school, business and nonprofit that can sample your product. Getting food into potential customer's mouths is the easiest way to make someone loyal and eventually an ambassador for your brand.
Reader question: What is the best time of year to update menu items and prices? Houston, Texas
Seasonally is the best time of year. In general, menu updates should be done between seasons to use fresh ingredients and seasonal favorites. Also, when you make menu changes at specific times of year, you will be more effective responding to customer behavior changes in those seasons like summer visits might be different than winter visits, tourist season, out of school, holiday time, etc.
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