Eating With The Eyes

Front-of-the-house display cases put ancillary products in customers’ sights

Whenever Tony DiSilvestro designs a new YNot Pizza, an endeavor he’s tackled three times since opening his first restaurant in 1993, he encounters the same conundrum: where to put the 28 feet of display cases he says are vital to his business.

In each of DiSilvestro’s four current Virginia-based outlets, five separate display cases are a must: a six-foot case holding Italian cookies; another six-foot case containing cakes, tiramisu, and other pastry treats; a pair of four-foot cases, one housing a dozen flavors of YNot’s homemade gelato and the second hosting chopped salads and a final eight-foot case displaying various pizza options.

Though some might argue DiSilvestro dedicates too much valuable real estate to the display cases, space that might otherwise add dozens of chairs to his 180-seat eateries, DiSilvestro counters by actually pushing other elements aside to make room for the cases, which he says provide a tenfold increase to his dessert sales.

“I feel the display cases are that important to my bottom line,” DiSilvestro says. “I sold 3,000 pounds of cookies last December alone and those type of add-on sales add up quick.”

As DiSilvestro can attest, display cases — and what’s inside them — can help boost an operation’s overall revenue, particularly in carryout venues that can play to impulse purchases. From pre-made salads and bottled drinks to homemade breadsticks and salad dressings, highlighting a pizzeria’s peripheral offerings in fresh, eye-catching ways can heighten incremental sales, steer purchases, and entice product trials.

Much like DiSilvestro, Adam Goldberg knows the power display cases can produce. Each of Goldberg’s six Fresh Brothers pizza outlets in southern California feature a 24-inch-by-24-inch custom-made glass case displaying a sample of a thin crust personal pizza and a deep-dish counterpart as well as two take-out salad samples. The case sits adjacent to Fresh Brothers’ registers, a spot all customers visit with their wallets in hand.

While customers think of Fresh Brothers as a pizza destination, Goldberg says showcasing the eatery’s various product offerings promotes additional sales while simultaneously linking the pizzeria’s menu to sensory marketing.

“When people see a product in the case, they can almost taste it,” Goldberg says. “That’s not true when they’re just looking at a menu.”

Dritan Saliovski, who runs Luigi’s Pizza in Frisco, Texas, believes too few operators assign a retailer’s eye to the display case and its point-of-sale potential, a profitable concept his establishment only mistakenly learned. Originally, Saliovski used his display case to showcase the cheese and fresh tomatoes Luigi’s used to create its pizzas. When people started inquiring about purchasing blocks of cheese, Saliovski saw an opportunity to exhibit his own products, namely the pizzeria’s homemade Moni’s salad dressing line. By displaying 20 to 30 bottles of salad dressing and putting them within reach of customers, 75 percent of whom are carrying out, Saliovski witnessed an
immediate uptick in sales.

“When we began displaying the product, we saw people make impulse buys,” Saliovski says.

Saliovski also shares Moni’s story with signage. Using buzzwords such as “natural” and “local,” he says, creates a persuasive, contemporary story that prompts the add-on sale.

Indeed, many pizzeria operators utilize a range of proven merchandising techniques to catch customers’ eyes. During the holidays, DiSilvestro packages his cookies in bags with festive ribbons and packs cookies into YNot coffee mugs. He also places small children’s toys on colorful cupcakes, a marketing-savvy, minimal expense that makes YNot a favorite of local kids and tugs on the parental heartstrings.

“The more colorful and clean the products look in the case, the better they sell,” DiSilvestro says.

Both DiSilvestro and Saliovski, meanwhile, adhere to the stack-it-high-and-watch-it-fly mantra. Both veteran operators assemble extensive product inside their cases, a visual display they say informs guests that the products are available for purchase and worth a trial.

For Goldberg, who does not sell product out of his cases but rather uses them solely to showcase product, less is more. Much as an advertiser uses white space to call attention to a particular item, Goldberg limits the products he places inside his display cases, often emphasizing higher-margin items or salads high in color and vegetables to enhance the value perception.

“By not overcrowding the case, we’re highlighting the suggestive sell right in front of our customer,” says Goldberg, who rotates display case product throughout the day.

Similarly, DiSilvestro seeks the right product mix, making sure the best-selling products and high-margin treats are most visible.

“You want items in there that move,” DiSilvestro says, adding that YNot servers, eager to boost the check average and their subsequent tip, often parade dine-in guests to the display cases to entice a dessert purchase.

In fact, every YNot customer confronts the display cases at some point: carryout patrons are tempted by the savory goods as they await their order, while all dining room seats have clear views of the various cases.

“Every moment they’re in the store, I want them pondering what we have,” DiSilvestro says, adding that case placement must always flow with the restaurant and not impede the mobility of servers or guests.

Chicago-based writer Daniel P. Smith has covered business issues and best practices for a variety of trade publications, newspapers, and magazines.