June 1, 2016 |

Man on the Street: In With the New

By Scott Wiener

Attract new customers to your pizzeria

Scott Wiener Owner & Operator Scott’s Pizza Tours, NYC

Scott Wiener
Owner & Operator
Scott’s Pizza Tours, NYC

College-town pizzerias have it made in the shade. Every semester, a fresh batch of students shows up to take the place of the outgoing class and they’ll all end up ordering pizza sooner or later. Such is not the case for most independent pizzerias. It used to be simple; place an ad in the Yellow Pages or distribute coupons and door hangers –– but the landscape is changing and independent pizzerias are developing creative ways to attract new customers.

Not a week goes by that I don’t receive an invitation to an event at a local pizzeria. It’s usually a pizza tasting or happy hour sponsored by a local wine store. As a customer, I love this because it gives me an excuse to check out new pizzerias. It’s brilliant for the operator because it allows you to maintain control over my experience. Try inviting your neighbors, local bloggers and journalists to taste your exciting new pizza. If you require an RSVP, you’ll know exactly who’s in the room so you can follow up and convert these new faces into regular customers. Don’t worry about shutting down your store and killing an entire night; these things only last about an hour or two and usually happen on nights you know will be slow. A successful event will result in a burst of social media posts and shares that will allow you to track your impact.

pizza box pizzaI follow hundreds of pizzerias on social media, so I know you’re using it to post carefully sculpted specials and discounts to your followers. That’s a great way to encourage return business, but attracting new customers might mean taking a chance and posting something that isn’t the usual direct advertisement. A few months ago, Vinnie’s Pizzeria in Brooklyn lit up the Internet with a photo of a pepperoni pizza encased by a pizza box made from dough, sauce, and cheese. An image of the edible pizza box went viral and suddenly people who had never heard of this little hole-in-the-wall pizzeria were making pilgrimages to visit it. An off-the-cuff joke posted for free led to a barrage of new business –– that’s some pretty great ROI!

The most powerful key to attracting new business might be right under your nose, waiting on your make line. If you purchase ingredients from local producers, you’re sitting on a huge

opportunity for cross-promotion. Imagine you use a product called Amy’s Truffle Oil on your most popular pizza. Brag about it. Let everyone know you’re using it. Sell it at your front counter. Get in touch with Amy and invite her over for a pie. If she enjoys what you’re doing, Amy will tell her entire network about your pizza. New business for you equals more business for her and it also helps build community without leaving your area.

Attracting new customers requires breaking free of your regular routine. Think of yourself as more than just a pizzeria –– you’re a part of the community that just so happens to provide a specific food. The more creative you are, the further you’ll extend your messaging beyond the usual suspects.

Scott Wiener owns and operates Scott’s Pizza Tours in New York City.