2010 February: Five Questions

Kevin Polito owns three Polito’s Pizza locations in Wisconsin. Polito says business has been booming due to the company’s day-to-day operations, its marketing tactics and its ability to fi ll a niche in its community.

Q. You’ve opened three stores in two-and-a-half years. That’s pretty aggressive growth for a startup. Have you had any growing pains?

A. They all pretty much took off from the start. The (Steven’s) Point store, we opened up on a day when they had the street closed off for what’s called Crazy Days –– they have food outside and shops set up. We opened on that day and a lot of people that wouldn’t have known we were there found out about us right away. I had a lot of real good managers. We just kind of went from there.

Q. You have the ingredients to create more than 150 different types of specialty pizzas ranging from a macaroni and cheese pizza to a chicken quesadilla pie. What are you doing to control waste with so many options?

A. Sometimes, we order different products because when you sell by the slice, you can pretty much throw whatever you want on there. It helps with waste because if a product is getting dated, we can just throw it on the counter and it usually sells right away.

Q. You offer a 28-inch, 12-pound pizza and two contestants have one hour to finish it for a $500 grand prize. How does it help in your marketing strategies?

A. It creates a lot of buzz around town and it gets a lot of people coming in. A lot of people ask about it. They’re serious about the $500. We sell it for parties and games. Also, customers can enter in a drawing to win a “Monster Pizza Party.” The winner of this drawing gets a free Monster Pizza and drinks, as well as our fried cinnamon knots. The best part about this drawing is that we teamed up with a local limousine service to pick up the 10-person party and bring them to our pizzeria to eat, and then take them for a ride around town before returning them to their final destination. At our Oshkosh location, we have a drawing for a free Monster Pizza and a keg of Natty Light beer.

Q. You do a lot of promotions with the local high schools and universities as part of your marketing campaign. How does this work for you?

A. For our “Polito’s Fan of the Game” promotion we deliver pizza to two lucky fans at half time during the high school football games and before the third period at the university hockey games. We also have free slice and pie giveaways at baseball games and during free-throw competitions at the high school and university basketball games. We sponsor many local youth sports teams and sometimes deliver pizzas to the field after the games as a treat for our team and the competition, at no cost, just to say thank you for making us a part of the community.

Q. You have a promotion pairing pizza and a logo t-shirt. Since you don’t make money on the shirts, what’s the hook?

A. It works really well for us. We sell a ton of t-shirts. … A deal for two slices and a t-shirt for $10? People can’t resist. They’re getting two slices, which would be about $6.50. Why not throw the extra money in and get a t-shirt? They’re good quality t-shirts and they’re logoed on the front and the back. We see a ton of them around town. We don’t make any money off they T-shirts but the customers love the deal and it’s very rare that I go through a whole day without seeing someone with a Polito’s shirt on.