Introducing a new pizza style to a region

Loui Loui's Detroit Style

Loui Loui’s Authentic Detroit Style Pizza owner Mike Spurlock.

We spent some time with Loui Loui’s Authentic Detroit Style Pizza founder Michael Spurlock. We asked Spurlock what he did to introduce Detroit-style pizza to Louisville, Kentucky as one of the first of its kind in that region:

  1. Do something you are passionate about. It’s easier to convince others when you are completely sold on your own product. If you can’t get people fired up, you shouldn’t do it.
  2. Do your research. Who else is doing what I am contemplating doing? Can I be easily copied? Visit local pizzerias and test the market, go online, read reviews, talk to people. There’s no substitute for being there, talking to operators, testing and tasting yourself.
  3. Hone your recipe and your pitch, make sure both resonate with potential customers. I did dozens of private parties and tastings to get feedback to see if others would feel the same about my pizza as I do. They did and said things like “this is the best pizza I have ever tasted” repeatedly! Build that feedback into your message and train your staff to stay on-message – consistency of message is really important.
  4. Differentiate your product. Louisville is largely a thin-crust town – why would people buy my pie? At Loui Loui’s we focus on the ingredients, the process, the texture and most importantly, the taste – Fresh, Artisan, Authentic! We also say “we think you’ll agree, it’s the best pizza you’ve ever tasted.” Hammer the message that gives customers a reason to choose you.
  5. Make personal connections where you can. I grew up in Detroit as a child and always loved the pizza. I couldn’t get it in Louisville, so I created my own. Studying the history, I learned that this type of pizza was originally baked in assembly line parts pans. I have pictures on our walls of assembly lines from the 1920s through 1950s featuring those parts pans. My grandfather also worked on one of those assembly lines – I have a picture of he and my grandmother in front of their Model T on our menu. Good stories generate interest.
  6. Engage food critics and foodies. Bring them to the restaurant. Give samples and deals to generate buzz –– they’ll write about it and tell others. Written words are powerful, spoken words more so.
  7. Engage on the web and social media. Facebook, Twitter, a solid web page, Yelp, Google, etc. Build followers and “likes” with special offers they can only get through those media and your restaurant. Build loyalty through engagement, great food and legendary service.
  8. “4x4x4”. Focus on current and potential customers within 4 miles, 4 blocks and your 4 walls. Use mailers, go door-to-door and give compelling boomerang coupons to current customers (insert them in the guest check books with carry out menus) to get them to return.
  9. Contact local TV and radio news stations. Explain to producers how your new product is special, take samples, get them to try it on-air – ooohs and ahhhs speak volumes. Accept every opportunity to get on television or radio to talk about your product.
  10. Get feedback through comment cards and social media sites. Capture customer email addresses –– a very valuable asset. Use email to engage, intrigue and entice!

Mike Spurlock founded Loui Loui’s Authentic Detroit Style Pizza in Louisville, Kentucky.