Whether you own a pizza shop or just frequently visit one nearby, marketing plays a huge role in whether or not that restaurant is successful. Not only is marketing important for bringing in new customers and highlighting special promotions, it also plays a vital role in keeping those customers coming back for more. To really drive home how important marketing is for a successful pizza business, we spoke with two pizza restaurant owners who seem to have it all figured out.
First, we spoke with Nichole Latiolais from Gusto Farm to Street. Nichole handles marketing for all locations across Maryland, North Carolina, and Virginia. You can safely assume by the name that the primary focus at Gusto is serving healthy, farm-to-table cuisine. In terms of marketing their business online, Nichole shares some of her trade secrets on how to win over customers with more than just delicious food.
Next, we met with Jeff Mettler from Home Slice Pizza in Austin, a very well-known brand to more than just locals. Home Slice is an authentic, neighborhood pizza joint serving NY-style pizza that is homemade and hand-tossed. Jeff shares his unique outlook on marketing, how online ordering has assisted in Home Slice’s success, and his passion for giving back to the community.
How has online ordering amplified your business?
Nichole: Online ordering has allowed us to increase our customer base by offering a quick, easy, and simple way for our guests to place orders without waiting in line. Before adding online orders our guests needed to come into the restaurant to get their Gusto on-the-go. This required them to wait in line and added time to the customer experience. We have also been able to use the guest data to increase our marketing. This allows us to have better understanding of what drives our guests back into the restaurants.
Jeff: Online ordering has helped us create business as well as give our return customers an easier alternative for ordering. For 12 years prior to online ordering, it was only phone calls and now we’re able to take orders in multiple ways.
We love being able to communicate directly with our customers on ChowNow. Having the customers’ information and being able to give the exact time the orders going to be ready, down to the minute, has been something Chow Now has been able to provide for us. So many other sites force you to have built-in times, which means you can’t customize each order.
Is there anything unique you do to stay competitive in the online ordering market?
Nichole: I don’t think that we are doing anything unique to stay competitive, per se. I think what keeps a company or brand competitive is ensuring that they communicate consistently with their guests, ensure order accuracy, and keep the process as simple as possible.
Jeff: We utilize the push notification feature through our app as well as disclaimer messages to promote online. We did this for Super Bowl pre-orders, and it was very successful. We don’t use postcards currently, but we have our ordering prevalent on our website, Facebook page and Instagram. It’s grown to a point where people find out about us now through social media.
We don’t do any paid advertising, however, we have close to $1K/month budgeted for charitable giving. We get our name out there by providing food for benefits, fundraisers, school lunches, art shows, and more! The money that most restaurants would spend for a full page ad, we use that money to donate, give prizes and contribute to events. We mostly participate in events outside of the restaurant that are more involved with our community in Austin.
What is one marketing tactic you’ve used recently that has proven to be successful?
Nichole: We strategically use email marketing to boost sales. For example, when weather is a factor, we will offer an online order to encourage our guests to “brave” the weather. We also use our email marketing to keep our guests up to date on special offers, seasonal menus, and new restaurant openings.
Jeff: We do a lot of press releases through our PR company to make sure that we are featured in different articles, such as “Best Pizza” lists. It’s important for us to get our name out there and make sure we are staying relevant in the media. We put all of our efforts into making a fantastic product, putting love into everything we make, and just believing that we’re making the best pizza. The difference is Home Slice is an experience for dine-in and take out customers.
How do you incorporate coupons/special offers into your marketing strategy?
Nichole: When creating special offers, we always want to give our guests a bold and value-added call to action. We will keep it exciting by not being too scheduled about when offers will be communicated, and we create a sense of urgency by offering specials that are short term. We do not offer special pricing through in-store marketing.
Jeff: We don’t do anything in terms of coupons, rewards program, etc. Our decision is that we don’t really discount our food because it opens up an opportunity to devalue it. We just don’t do any of that stuff. Also, not discounting our food allow us to do our charitable giving. My advice to other restaurant owners is to take caution in how you discount your food because it gives the impression that it’s worth less. You don’t want customers coming in just because you have a coupon or a special offer for a certain time of day. You want people to feel the value of the product 100% of the time.
How does seasonality play into your marketing strategy?
Nichole: We have a seasonal menu that we market and provide special offers to our online guests. This allows us to not only offer the highest quality ingredients but create excitement and repeat business. We use the customer data from online ordering to create a special and we encourage our guests to come check out our newest creation.
Jeff: Our marketing strategy is less seasonal and more event-related. In Austin, we have SXSW and Austin City Limits. We do social media marketing and really try to tie into events that are happening by using hashtags and incorporating the community. Mainly, we join in events with other people and share when and where we’re donating pizza – that helps us grow. More often than not, we let the food speak for itself.
Any advice you’d give to other pizza shop owners?
Jeff: A lot of times pizza is just made and marketed as a convenience, but you should also make it an experience. Focus on what the guests’ needs actually are and serve them more than just pizza. Be there for them as a friend in the community as well.
Gusto Farm to Street
Address: 4733 Elm Street, Bethesda, MD 20814
8512 Fenton Street, Silver Spring, MD 20910
7101 Democracy Blvd, Bethesda, MD 20817
3088 Wake Forest Rd, Raleigh, NC 27609
4400 Sharon Rd, Charlotte, NC 28211-3531
14385 Newbrook Dr, Chantilly, VA 20151
Address: 1415 S Congress Ave, Austin, TX 78704
501 E 53 Street, Austin, TX 78751