A Conversation with Roger Glass, Marion’s Piazza

conversationGlassThe nine-unit pizzeria is this year’s No. 1 on Pizza Today’s Hot 100 Independent Pizzerias list. See page 60 for the full list. Founded nearly 50 years ago by Marion Glass, who passed away in 2006, the family tradition has been carried on by his son, Roger, who now runs Marion’s Piazza.

The reason for our continued success over the years can be summed up in one word: consistency. Marion’s Piazza has always been known for providing top quality products at reasonable prices, while providing a family friendly atmosphere in our dining rooms. The quality and quantity of pizza ingredients served on its pizzas have remained unchanged since the company was founded in 1965. The style of pizza Marion’s serves is known as “Dayton-style pizza,” that is thin-crust pizza that is cut into squares, rather than slices. Dough and breads are made fresh daily in the company commissary. Besides pizza, Marion’s menu includes sandwiches, spaghetti, lasagna and salads. Soft drinks, draft beer and wine are also available at all locations. It is interesting to note that Marion’s menu has not changed since its inception … .the company has resisted adding chicken wings, breadsticks, deep-dish pizza, thick-crust pizza, limited specialty pizzas, etc., preferring to concentrate on what has worked so well for the company over the years.

Another factor in gauging Marion’s continuing success is that dine-in has always been king; our smallest restaurant seats 275 and six of our restaurants seat over 500, which enables Marion’s restaurants to accommodate large groups of people quickly. The theme of all Marion’s dining rooms is an outdoor Italian courtyard or a piazza. Besides its dine-in, which accounts for approximately 75 percent of its business, Marion’s offers carryout, but no delivery.

Of course, no restaurant will ever be successful over any period of time if it did not have great customer service. Marion’s Piazza prides itself on offering the best customer service in the business! Our 311 employees go through a rigorous training program and our employee turnover is extremely low, as we pay our employees above average starting wages and provide them with a pleasant, fun work environment.

In 2011, the economy in the Dayton, Ohio, area was still very bleak. The National Cash Register Company relocated to Atlanta, Georgia, and a large GM plant in the Dayton area closed in 2011. Even though Marion’s continued to show an increase in business in 2011, many Daytonians were laid off that year. We felt the community needed something positive during that time, so we decided to hold a five-day “46th Anniversary Sale” offering 46 percent off our pizzas. The sale proved to be so popular (Marion’s sold 54,000 pizzas during the sale) that we decided to repeat the sale every year thereafter as a way to say “thank you” to all our loyal customers.

This year, during our 48th Anniversary Sale, Marion’s Piazza sold 63,435 pizzas. We have estimated that approximately 200,000 people in the greater Dayton area enjoyed our pizza over the five-day sale. The longest wait for a pizza at any of our locations during the sale was 45 minutes; four locations sold over 2,000 pizzas the last day of the sale with 2,293 being the most pizzas sold in one day at one restaurant. All locations were open 11:00 a.m. to 11:00 p.m. during the sale, which was held Sunday through Thursday, August 4-8.

Web Exclusive from Glass

On operational logistics of executing the Anniversary Sale…

Two months before the sale, our buyer Kay Barker, checked the inventory in our warehouse and made sure we had adequate supplies of non-perishable food and paper products to be used during the sale. She also scheduled orders at that time for perishable items to be delivered to the warehouse the week before the sale (for example, the warehouse received a shipment of 40,000 pounds of cheese and 22,500 pounds of pepperoni four days before the sale date). Two days before the sale, and for the next five days, the bakery made dough (over 65,000) and breads that were used during the sale.

Two days before the sale, the nine Marion’s Piazza restaurants received the necessary supplies to enable them to be ready for the start of the sale. During the sale, there were three dough deliveries daily to each location, along with anything else the location needed. (For the record, Marion’s warehouse employs a manager and two delivery drivers; the commissary employs one baker with five assistants).

On marketing the Anniversary Sale…

Other than placing table tents and a few posters advertising our 48th Anniversary Sale two weeks before the promotion, a “48 Percent Off All Pizzas” coupon (good for two pizzas per coupon) along with an ad advertising the dates of our Anniversary Sale was placed in the Thursday, Friday and Sunday editions of the Dayton Daily News (the local Dayton newspaper) on August 1, 2 and 4. (The Anniversary Sale began on Sunday, August 4). In addition, advertisements announcing the sale were placed in 15 local newspapers the week of July 28. Finally, a coupon was placed in the Reach Magazine (a direct mail publication which is mailed to 560,000 homes that surround our nine locations) was mailed one week before the sale. Customers needed a coupon to be able to purchase pizzas at a 48-percent discount (over 30,000 coupons were remitted at our nine locations during the sale).