2012 March: My Turn

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When I opened Marco’s Coal-Fired Pizzeria three years ago in Denver, I knew it was important to make an impact quickly in the city and get the word out about our niche product. Marco’s is the only VPN-certified Neapolitan pizzeria in the state; we make a high-quality product and offer it in a warm and upscale atmosphere. I asked myself, ‘What is the absolute best way to sell Marco’s?’ The answer: ‘Have people try the pizza.’It was at that point that I launched a personal campaign to get my product out to the public. This was an old-school guerilla marketing campaign that didn’t cost me endless amounts of money for advertisements, media gurus or the time of hourly employees who didn’t share the same passion for my product or my bottom line.

In order to target the large lunch business potential in the downtown area around my pizzeria, every single day I dressed in my Marco’s uniform, complete with apron and Marco’s scarf, and personally took pizzas to office buildings around the city. It’s not easy getting into many offices; at times, you’re stopped at the door or by security. You have to take it all with a grain of salt, put your best acting foot forward and (don’t tell anybody I said this) fake it ’til you make it.

I can’t tell you how many times I lied my way into an office building, but I can tell you that surprising a corporate assistant or office manager with a delicious pizza pays off in spades with Corporate-lunch and delivery orders. With every new person I met and told about Marco’s, my goal was the same: make not only a professional impression, but also a personal one. People want to be a part of the story of your success, to be in the know about the best places in town, and to have a hook-up when they visit. There is nothing better than meeting someone on a marketing excursion, as I have, and then seeing them dine in your restaurant the next day! This kind of personal relationship that guests can develop with your business is invaluable. Not only do they know you, but they also support you and take a sense of ownership in your pizzeria. Suddenly, you have a group of regulars who you’ll see again and again.

What is the key to making this kind of compelling first impression? There can be no trick or magic slogan. I got where I am today through passionate determination, something you and I as restaurant owners need to share with our communities. Each time we meet a potential new guest, we need to know our niche — how we fill the market needs better than any other place in town. Maybe you have the biggest slices, largest selection of toppings, or have perfected take-and-bake or a superb gluten-free pizza. No matter what it is, it’s important to have an aspect of your business that sets you apart. Getting your pizzerias’ name out there can be made easier with a little bit of personality and passion.

Of course, be sure to leave a stack of menus with everyone you meet. It is harder to forget your restaurant if everyone in the office has a menu in their desk.