Fifty million. That’s the number of Hispanics living in the U.S. now, according to the 2010 Census. That means that one in six people residing in the U.S. are Hispanic. Among children, the ratio is one in four.
And Hispanics love pizza. In fact, according to recent research, Hispanics are more likely to be heavy pizza consumers (those visiting pizza places several times a month) than non-Hispanics.
So what does this mean to you as pizza professional? It means that not only must you learn to attract Latino customers, you’ll want also to make sure you learn the customer service nuances that will keep those customers coming back for more. Happy, satisfied customers translate to good business—more repeat visits and terrific referrals. Here are a few pointers to keep in mind to provide great service to your Hispanic customers.
• Be “Latino-ready.” This means building your business infrastructure to best serve the needs of your Hispanic customers. Whether it’s with Spanish-speaking employees, having a website that can handle orders in Spanish, posting bilingual signage or even extending hours of operation (many Hispanics work very late and will grab a bite late at night), making your business Latino-ready sends a big message of “welcome” to your Hispanic customers.
• Be “Latino-friendly.” This costs your business nothing. Being Latino-friendly means that all of your employees are fully engaged in making Hispanic customers feel welcome and wanted, even if the employees don’t speak Spanish. It’s making eye contact, smiling and showing respect for Hispanic customers and their families. It’s being patient while non-English speakers work through menu or ordering options.
• Provide Hispanic customers all the time they need without rushing them. Non-Hispanic consumers value speed and efficiency. Hispanic consumers value customer service. And good customer service can take time. In fact, customer service is so valued among Hispanics that a survey among Hispanics who ordered fast food showed that even when the food order was wrong or the food was cold, if the customer service was perceived to be good (meaning friendly), the overall experience was rated very favorable. In other words, friendly customer interactions can even trump screwed up orders and cold food. With non-Hispanics, this is not the case. No matter how friendly the customer exchange was, if the food order was cold or wrong, non-Hispanics rated the experience very harshly.
• Respect—we all want it. There are many ways to show respect to Hispanic customers. Among them: warm eye contact, a sincere desire to help bridge a language barrier (most Spanish-speaking consumers are enormously appreciative of non-Spanish speakers making any attempt to assist them) and sensitivity to their needs. For example, doing something as simple as adding more chairs to your waiting area shows respect and that you value your Hispanic customers. Why? Because many Hispanic families run errands together, shop together and, yes, dine together. Having only a few seats in your waiting area may not meet the needs of typically larger Hispanic families.
• Add Hispanic food options. Whether it’s chorizo or jalapeños, limonada or horchata, adding Hispanic foods, drinks, spices and flavors can really help you cater to Hispanic palates. Even an Italian-themed pizzeria can add Latino touches to the menu.
The booming Latino population offers you a way to expand your business substantially. As this demographic continues to grow, smart companies will need to reach out and connect with this lucrative consumer base emotionally, rationally, culturally and relevantly. And as the Latino population grows, Hispanic consumers will become more selective, doing business with those places that meet their needs.
That’s why learning to provide outstanding customer care to this important population segment will pay dividends, today and mañana.
See Kelly McDonald at Pizza Expo / Click Here to Register for Expo
Kelly McDonald specializes in marketing to Hispanic and other minorities. Her most recent book, “How to Market to People Not Like You” was recently among the top five on Inc. Magazine’s list of top business books. She’ll give seminars at Pizza Expo 2012 on marketing Hispanics and other diverse demographics. Her website is www.mcdonaldmarketing.com.