Few foods are more loved in America than pizza. It is estimated that pizza is likely one of America's favorite dinners. Over half of the total US population eats frozen pizza alone. While so much demand is great for pizza restaurants, this market is also highly competitive.
Pizza restaurants need to earn their customer’s loyalty to survive in this market. This is especially true since pizza tends to inspire passion in its enthusiasts. When going to a pizza restaurant, customers are more likely to choose a restaurant that's fun and makes them feel a sense of camaraderie. Therefore, inspiring loyalty in customers is an important goal for any pizza restaurant. Here are a few tips and examples of pizza restaurants creatively building customer loyalty
How do you stand out among other local pizza restaurants? Build a brand that makes an impression and get your name out there. Satchel's Pizza, in Gainesville Florida, is a local legend, surviving where other local pizza restaurants have failed. The reason is that they have built a strong brand that resonates with this community. Satchel's bumper stickers are given away for free at the restaurant. They are ubiquitous on cars, businesses, and mailboxes throughout town.
Restaurant locations are decorated eclectically, with street signs, pins, car parts, and just about any other fun junk you can imagine. From the seating in the VW bus on the porch to the gift shop full of fun, playful knick knacks, Satchel's has built a powerful brand.
Existing and potential customers are reminded of Satchel’s every time they see bumper stickers, potentially inspiring a craving for pizza or the signature Satch Salad. The combination of a memorable brand and a low-cost, fun way to get your name out there has worked well for Satchel’s, and it could work well for other local pizza restaurants as well.
Even better, this kind of marketing is a low-budget option compared to other advertising you might be considering. It costs very little to mass-produce simple giveaways like bumper stickers, but they can have a big impact on local marketing. A gift shop offers the double benefits of bringing in income directly as well as offering a fun space to draw in more customers and make the restaurant more family-friendly.
You can be creative in how you make a pizza brand that will resonate with your community. Are sports important in your town? Integrate an over-the-top sports theme. Do you live in a farming community? Paint the walls with a cow pattern and fill the restaurant with agricultural tools. You can have a lot of fun making your pizza restaurant a place that residents feel represents them and their community.
Loyalty programs are a straightforward way to build a positive relationship with your customers. They work well for most food and retail brands, and they work well for pizza restaurants too.
Pizza is the go-to food for parties and big gatherings. Compelling coupons and discounts encourage customers to think of your restaurant when they need to feed a lot of people. You’ll be the restaurant that residents think of when they have big orders, which is precisely what you want.
This can also be a great way to market your restaurant and build a strong brand. People may eat your pizza who otherwise wouldn't have tried it. The person who ordered the pizza can also talk about how much they saved using the loyalty program. If you have an incentive for referrals for your loyalty program, customers are likely to encourage their friends and family to try not only your restaurant, but your loyalty program too.
The best loyalty programs feature the following characteristics:
Over half of Americans choose to shop small and keep money local. That means that if you are a local brand, you have a lot on your side when it comes to inspiring loyalty. True, you have to compete with big chains like Domino's and Pizza Hut. However, many of your potential customers are willing to pay more to support local business and get a unique, local experience.
For your pizza restaurant to be successful, interaction has to go both ways. Customers won't support you just because you are local and a small business. They need to feel that they're getting an experience that warrants giving up the predictability, convenience, and affordability of the big, cheap pizza chains. There are a number of good techniques for building customer loyalty in the local community:
You can even take advantage of the crowded pizza market and pair with other pizza restaurants to accomplish mutual goals. For instance, Chicago's Robert's Pizza and Tony's Pizza paired with Las Vegas’ Metro Pizza to create a charity campaign during National Pizza month, in October.
Every community is different, so successful local marketing looks different depending on where you are. Consider taking a poll of your current customers to get a sense of what your customers and potential customers would like to see you do in the community. Start a conversation, learn from your customers, and watch loyalty skyrocket.
Perhaps the best way to inspire loyalty in your customers and create a strong brand is to be loyal yourself. If your restaurant is constantly changing the menu unexpectedly, your staff has extremely high turnover, and you generally think about your customers overall as a necessary evil of running your business, they're unlikely to develop a lasting loyalty to you.
Pizza is a comfort food. Customers want to feel at ease and familiar whether they're dining in or taking out. Don't be afraid to make changes, but don't do so at the expense of a consistent experience for your customers.
A great example of doing this well is Antonio's Pizza in Brunswick, Ohio. This pizzeria has been in business for over 50 years. It has been run by four generations of family, and has grown to 16 locations, but they’re still coming up with new, innovative ideas.
For instance, the Philly Cheesesteak Nuggets aren't exactly a traditional pizzeria menu option. However, since unexpected dishes are made with the same spice mixes and slow-simmered sauces from the kitchen that have been used in this restaurant for decades, the taste is familiar and feels right to customers, even as the dishes evolve.
This commitment to the same values that customers have been loyal to all this time makes it likely that Antonio's will keep building customer loyalty for another four decades. Finding a balance between consistency and innovation is challenging, but it is a powerful tool for creating a restaurant and a brand that will keep resonating with customers in the same way that Antonio's has resonated with residents of its community for so long.
If you produce quality pizza in America, you can be confident you have a product that people want to buy. However, you probably aren't the only restaurant producing decent pizza in your area. To compete in an often densely populated market, you need to devote some effort to inspiring loyalty in your customers.
You want customers to keep coming back year after year, bringing friends and family with them. Creating formal loyalty programs with giveaways is a powerful tool to get people to come back, but building up your local brand, interacting with the community, and showing loyalty to your customers are also important elements if you want your pizza restaurant to become a beloved institution in your location.