November 1, 2016 |

Respecting the Craft: Are You Ready for Some Football?

By Tony Gemignani

Tony Gemignani World-champion Pizzaiolo and Pizzeria Owner

Tony Gemignani
World-champion Pizzaiolo and Pizzeria Owner

I can’t tell you how exciting it is for football season to be underway.  It’s not just because I love the sport, but also because the sport and its fans love pizza!

What’s better than watching your favorite football team and eating a delicious pizza, breadsticks and wings? Pizzerias everywhere rev up and revamp specials for game day.  With the addition of Thursday night football, an added second game on Monday nights, and more college coverage than ever before, football is not just a Sunday event. Now it’s practically all week long. Pizzerias can quite possibly do more marketing during football season than any other time of year.  A 30-second ad during the Super Bowl just surpassed $4 million, which is a record. The television access to games is easier today than ever with more NFL and college packages readily available, not to mention boxes (such as the Amazon stick) that allow you to watch any game at any time with no added fees.

With so much access and availability to the public, how can we capitalize on this and get busier during football season? Below are some different marketing ideas you may not have tried or even heard of from some pro players in the pizza industry.

chicken wings appetizerSean Brauser, the chairman of Romeo’s Pizza and CEO of Pizzafire in Ohio, explains how he has a different approach. He doesn’t focus on pro or college football, but on high school football primarily. He advertises on billboards, scoreboards, in programs and sponsors the local teams. Supporting the local high school team in his areas sets a loyal customer foundation with fans, players, high school kids and families.  This strategic marketing has catapulted sales each and every year.

In California, Vince Dito, the food and beverage director at Mary’s Pizza Shack, doesn’t focus on pizzas during football season. Instead, he promotes the Mary’s Burger Dog. It’s a hot dog bun with a rectangular hamburger and all the fixins’, served with fries and paired with a pint of Lagunitas IPA.  The special is available on Mondays, Thursdays and Sundays at 18 locations.  This burger dog has become an all-time customer favorite and allows Mary’s to showcase a quality non-pizza menu item to its customers.

In Las Vegas, Michael Anthony, director of marketing for the Pizza Rock restaurant group, takes a different approach with a Blitz Rockin’ Brunch. This brunch is available on Sunday mornings (through the early afternoon) at all three Pizza Rock locations. With games starting so early on the West Coast, how can a pizzeria capitalize on this audience? By opening early and offering a special brunch menu with mimosas and Bloody Marys while listening to killer rock and roll tunes and proudly showing all Sunday NFL games! All Pizza Rock locations have 70-inch flat screen TVs that show several games at once, making them an ideal football destination. The menu offers diverse breakfast items, like specialty breakfast pizzas such as a Baja pizza (refried beans, olives, cheddar, salsa and sour cream). Other menu items include eggs benedict, meatball hash and eggs, and French toast ambrosia.

These three creative marketing tactics go down an entirely different route. Maybe they will encourage you to think about something new and creative as opposed to just mailing out a “football special” $10 pizza coupon.

RESPECTING THE CRAFT features World Pizza Champion Tony Gemignani, owner of Tony’s Pizza Napoletana in San Francisco and Pizza Rock in Sacramento.  Tony compiles the column with the help of his trusty assistants, Laura Meyer and Thiago Vasconcelos. If you have questions on any kitchen topic ranging from prep to finish, Tony’s your guy. Send questions via Twitter @PizzaToday, Facebook (search: Pizza Today) or e-mail and we’ll pass the best ones on to Tony.