Ask Chef Jeff

2009 August: Ask Chef JeffQ: With so many new restaurants opening around me and the economy being what it is, I’m getting scared watching sales drop. What can I do to keep my name out there without going broke?

A: It’s time to turn your advertising inside out! Here’s what I want you to try: take a month or two off from your normal newspaper ads or coupon mailers if you can. Print up flyers with great specials on them and go to lots of local businesses and offices, even schools and close neighborhoods. Here’s the catch: I want you to take great-tasting samples of some of your specialty pizzas (and wings or appetizers or even desserts) with you. Take samples of things that set you apart from your competition. Look neat and presentable, and make sure you go yourself and take your manager with you. Be professional and let these folks know that you are there for any of their daily or catering needs. Yes, hand out lots of food to lots of folks. It will actually cost you less than what you’re spending in other advertising — and it’ll yield great results if you handle yourself properly!

Q: The big chains offer these $5 specials and jingles that stick in everyone’s head. How do we compete with that?

A: Between the $5 subs and $5 pizzas, it’s not easy — but it’s all about educating the public. Include in your advertising phrases like: “You’ve tried ‘cheap and skimpy’ from the chains, now try quality and hearty at a value.” Come up with your own campaign and drive it home. Make a big deal of it. Get people talking and trying your “substantial subs” and “impeccable pies!”

Q: I know that kids have a big role in where the family goes to eat. How can I get kids to fall in love with my place?

A: Make kids feel welcome. Give them crayons and a coloring sheet. I’ve had a caricature drawn of me and use that on my coloring sheets. Kids love to color in someone they know! Then hang their drawings up. They’ll come back just to see their own artwork. You can have a coloring contest for age groups with prizes. Just make sure you don’t publicly display children’s phone numbers or addresses.

I want to increase my delivery. I think offering free delivery will really help, but I don’t want to hurt myself by offering something that none of my competitors are doing. How can I do this safely?

Two options come to mind: bite the bullet and add extra drivers, or assign a certain part of town free delivery for a specific night of the week. This way your driver isn’t going all over town like a mad man. Keep the delivery concentrated to a certain radius. This way it will create a routine for folks in the community, while also creating a busy and easy night for your driver. ?

Jeffrey Freehof, owner of The Garlic Clove in Evans, Georgia, is Pizza Today’s resident expert. Send your questions to: Ask Chef Jeff, c/o Pizza Today, 908 South Eighth Street, Suite 200, Louisville, Kentucky, 40203

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