Clever Marketing Strategy Keeps Things Fresh for Growing Pizza Brand


Revel Blog | Sydney Kida | September 16, 2022 |

marketing strategy Featured Article

True of many great stories, this one starts in a bar; specifically, with the bouncer outside of a bar. In 1965, Earl “Red” Schoenheider saw an opportunity when the bar he secured as a bouncer was up for sale. He saw another when, later, the pizzeria next door was available for purchase as well. After buying both, he knocked a hole in the wall dividing the two businesses, and Red’s Savoy Pizza was born. 

But how did one bouncer’s gamble transform into a steadily growing pizza chain with nearly 20 locations and counting? And how did the brand’s central product take hold as a trademark “Sota-style” pizza, a one-of-a-kind twist on a classic comfort food? There’s no singular answer, and in some instances, luck certainly came into play. With that luck, though, was a fair amount of marketing strategy, which we’ll explore in more detail in this blog post. 

To hear from current Red’s Savoy CEO Reed Daniels on how marketing and brand identity have helped propel one man’s dream into a beloved and scalable success, listen to his feature on the Restaurant and Retail Revel(ations) podcast here.

Creating Sota-Style Pizza—An Unintended Marketing Strategy

Red’s Savoy is on a mission to rid the world of “skimpy wimpy pizza.” They tackle this mission daily through their famous Sota-style pizza, a proprietary and truly distinct approach to the traditional dish. 

According to Daniels, Red decided to iterate on the recipe of the pizza shop he purchased. “He started messing with the recipe in the 60s,” Daniels says. “Part of the ethos of the brand that started 50 years ago is bountiful toppings. Thin crust, passive aggressive sauce, loaded with toppings, smothered with cheese, cut into squares—that’s Sota-style pizza.” 

CheeseburgerPizza1-Reds-SavoyThis trademark pizza is a cornerstone of the Red’s Savoy brand identity. It’s a differentiator in a crowded marketplace. Ibis World reports that, in 2022, the pizza industry is worth more than $55 billion in the U.S. alone. Marketing is essential in such a competitive space, and so are customer relationships. Few understand this better than the team members at Red’s Savoy. 

For example, the so-called passive aggressive sauce essential to Sota-style pizza isn’t just an apt name for a spicy sauce that’s balanced but packs a punch; it’s also an homage to Minnesota culture. 

“We’re pretty passive aggressive up here,” says Daniels. “It’s kind of like those backhanded comments that your aunt makes—it’s a nod to our culture, and people up here resonate with that.” 

While Red may not have had a specific endgame in mind when he initially started adjusting his brand’s recipe, his creation is something undeniably craveable that stands out from the pizza pack. On some level, he understood that this was a core element of marketing for restaurants. Among his parting words before he retired were, “Whatever you do, don’t [mess] with my pizza.” 

Restaurant Marketing Campaigns

In the case of Red’s Savoy, the secret is quite literally in the sauce and a pie that can clock in at a weight of 3 pounds. 

Red’s kitchen creativity did crucial work to put his Minneapolis pizzeria on the map, but it has been bolstered over time by intentional and clever marketing campaigns, too. Unlike the routine discounts offered by many national pizza brands—which Daniels considers lazy marketing—Red’s Savoy has a variety of unconventional marketing tactics in place ranging from humorous digital ads to pizza box pulltabs. Each effort is thoughtfully conceived with the customer experience in mind, and is designed to reach the target audience in memorable ways. We’ll unpack a few of them here: 

PJ Fleck Digital Ads

Certainly well known in Minnesota, Phillip John “PJ” Fleck is head coach of the Minnesota Golden Gophers college football team. Even Daniels, a Wisconsin Badgers graduate, can’t deny Fleck’s appeal. “I love PJ Fleck, the Gophers head coach. Everything he talks about is culture—building culture, building teams, playing at a high level—and he is as authentic as authentic can be,” Daniels admits. 

Eager to capitalize on the coach’s widespread admiration, Daniels and his team approached Fleck with an opportunity to be featured in a digital ad series for Red’s Savoy Pizza. 

In these short video ads, Fleck brings the pizza brand’s tongue-in-cheek approach of not taking themselves too seriously to life. Fleck’s role in collegiate athletics also aligns with the Red’s Savoy commitment to avoid all things “skimpy and wimpy.” The ads do a great job of carrying brand identity into a digital medium. 

Meat Raffle Bingo

For those unfamiliar with the tradition of a meat raffle, it is exactly what it sounds like—an event in which meat is raffled off for a fraction of what the cuts would typically be priced. “It’s a weird thing, but it’s a very Minnesota thing,” laughs Daneils. If you are wondering how a meat raffle relates to a pizza chain, in the case of Red’s Savoy, the raffle is positioned as a special event, and therefore a method of enticing customers to stay engaged with the brand. 

This proved especially valuable in the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic. As the pizza chain looked for ways to stay virtually connected with its customer base and strengthen customer relationships, Meat Raffle Bingo was born. 

Here’s how the promotion works: customers who purchase a large pizza get a bingo game card with their order. Daniels would then host virtual bingo nights on Thursdays via Facebook Live, giving customers a chance to win a pick of their favorite cut of meat (among other prizes). 

Even customers who didn’t have winning cards were staying connected with their favorite hometown pizza brand. For Red’s Savoy, that made every bingo night a winner in brand engagement.  

Pizza + Pulltabs Campaign

For this campaign pulltabs are a physical tab on pizza delivery boxes that provide a tactile experience for Red’s Savoy customers to win order freebies and special deals. 

“We give away a free pulltab with every large pizza,” says Daniels. “With the pulltabs, you get a chance to win free pizza for a year. So, it’s kind of like the Willy Wonka golden ticket.” 

In creating interactive promotional campaigns for customers, Daniels and his team avoid the trope of pizza discounts while still rewarding their loyal guests. Marketing ideas like these continue to set Red’s Savoy apart from the fierce competitors in the pizza industry. 

Strategies for Marketing In-Store

While virtual marketing strategies served them well during the throes of the pandemic, the Red’s Savoy team also places high priority on the on-premises guest experience. 

Reds-Savoy-Edina“We need the digital experience for the guest to be really high in store,” says Daniels. And though he acknowledges that the process of switching POS systems is painful, he believes it is a long term investment that will be well worth the effort. 

Citing open API for easy integrations, a general focus on product innovation, and significant savings potential with Revel’s in-house payments solution, Revel Advantage, Daniels affirms that Revel Systems® earned the confidence of his team to be the right technology for that exceptional digital experience at each Red’s Savoy location. 

Revel Could be the Best Fit for Your Marketing Strategy

No matter your marketing strategy, you’ll want to make sure you have the right POS in place to align with your broader digital efforts. If you’re inspired by what Daniels and his team are doing at Red’s Savoy Pizza, consider requesting a free demo of Revel’s point of sale (POS) platform today. One of our product experts would love to show you how our technology can help you experience similar results.