Hey! I’m Justin, one of the Customer Support & Operations Specialists at Marqii. Before I helped restaurant owners keep all their online menus and listings up to date, I owned and operated Baby Tommy’s Taste of New York, a 2-location pizzeria in Atlanta, for 7 years.
After getting to attend the Pizza Expo in Vegas as a vendor for the first time (I’ve been before, but always as an owner!), I have some thoughts on how pizzerias can set themselves apart from the competition this year.
Use timely references to pop culture and holidays
Everyone makes heart-shaped pizzas for Valentine’s Day. What about a corned beef and cabbage pizza for St. Patrick’s Day? Or lean into a few unexpected holidays - we once put out an escargot pizza for Bastille Day that was a huge hit.
You can also make your own holidays. Since Chik-Fil-A isn’t open on Sundays, we started making a Chik-Fil-A special every week that featured chicken nuggets and their special sauce.
Play with food trends
People love to try something new and a little goofy, especially if you’re selling by the slice. Don’t be afraid to think outside the pizza box! At Tommy’s we loved experimenting, and tried everything from Hot Cheeto pie to a peanut butter and jelly special. Yes, those were both pizzas. Not all of your ideas will be winners, but some might become the thing your guests keep coming back for!
We’re seeing a lot of 90s nostalgia marketing these days, in everything from toys to clothes to TV shows. Are there any foods or trends you remember from the 90s you could bring back? I’m thinking Dunkaroos, Cheese Balls, Lunchables…you can make anything into a pizza if you try hard enough.
Get ahead of up-and-coming pizza styles
I don’t have a crystal ball, but if I had to make a prediction for 2023, I think Roman style pizza, or pizza al taglio, is going to start catching on in the US. It’s not the thin pizzas we usually think of when we imagine Italian-style pies. Instead, it’s made with a focaccia style dough and topped with fresh ingredients. Traditionally it’s cut with scissors and sold by weight, rather than by the slice.
If you have some space to take a risk on a new style, this is a fun one to try! Plus you can sell the focaccia dough as breadsticks while you’re waiting for your Roman style to gain a following.
It feels important to add - if you don’t have a gluten-free crust option these days, you’re sleeping on a big opportunity. While it’s hard to avoid all cross-contamination in a pizza shop where flour is flying everywhere, a gluten-free option is still great for people with a gluten sensitivity.
Make sure people know what you have and when you have it
Okay so you have amazing pizza and people like it. Now you have to market yourself so they know what you’re serving and when.
Yes, Baby Tommy’s was a Marqii client. Because we had such cool pizza specials, I uploaded our menus into Marqii every week to make sure people could find that week’s offerings wherever they were searching. This is also important if you’re starting to explore dynamic pricing - your prices on your online menus should match your prices in-store so there are no surprises.
I also recommend having some sort of basic loyalty program, or an incentive to get your guests to give you their email addresses. Then you can send them weekly emails with your specials, upcoming events, and occasional surprise coupons. If you send them good content, they’ll stay on your email list and will keep coming back to your shop.
Push your catering offerings
Catering is a huge marketing tool that not enough pizzerias use! Advertise your catering to local offices and businesses. Pizza is an easy and relatively affordable way to feed a large group of people with varied tastes and dietary needs.
THEN - and here’s the key - when you bring in the pies, leave a stack of your menus behind! They’ll eat your pizza, take a menu home, and order from you again for their families. This is a great way to spread the word while making money, instead of spending money on ads.
Own your shiz
Pizza used to be one of the only reliable foods to get via delivery. Now with the surge of 3rd party delivery apps, pizzerias are competing with restaurants of all kinds for that takeout and delivery business.
The #1 way to set yourself apart from the rest is to own. your. sh**. Respond to your reviews, including the ones where the guest had a bad experience that wasn’t your fault. Own it anyway. Invite them back to try again. Make sure they’re taken care of. Don’t just hide in the back tossing dough - come out and visit with your guests while they’re eating! If you make the effort to be a part of your community, they’ll make the effort to come enjoy your pizza.
Want to talk more about pizza? Or restaurants? Or food? Or Vegas? Send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org and it’ll come to me!