April 1, 2017 |

Respecting the Craft: Slump Buster

By Tony Gemignani

Creativity can help bring in new customers

Tony Gemignani
World-champion Pizzaiolo and Pizzeria Owner

I received an e-mail from a pizzeria operator in Arkansas recently. He reached out and asked me a simple, but disturbing, question: do you ever lose your inspiration? This operator disclosed to me that business has “been in the dumps” and he didn’t know why. He’d been racking his brain to figure it out. He also was dealing with some sad personal news — his mother was in the final stages of dementia and was being moved into a nursing home to live out her final days. “With everything going on, I have lost so much inspiration to move forward business-wise,” he wrote to me. “Do you have any advice on how to bring back a business in the dust?”

Pretty heavy stuff, right? But the reality is that this operator’s business problems are felt by many across the country at any given time. I’m not immune to it, either. I know people think it’s easy for me to succeed in business, but it’s not. Every day I’m thinking of new ideas to help make my business busier and more profitable. People see me in the limelight or read about me in articles and think everything is great. Well, it’s not always. Some stores do better than others. Some are profitable, while others are not. I am trying to hang in there at a couple of locations — and I’ve had wise businessmen whom I look up to tell me to get out of these. I don’t like to fail at something, and I try everything in my power to prevent it, but sometimes in life things don’t work out.

When I try to think of ideas for bringing in business, I always try to think outside the box. I try to make things more memorable to my customers, so simply mailing coupons won’t cut it. When I received this gentleman’s e-mail, I put a little thought into it and sent him some ideas back. Maybe one of them will also work for you:

I noticed that Arkansas has some amazing breweries. On slow nights, like Mondays and Tuesdays, I would suggest working with a local brewery on beer nights, pint nights or something devoted to pairing beer and pizza. A lot of these companies have a promotional budget that allows them to give you a lot of swag that you can give away to customers. And many customers love anything related to beer! You could also start a beer club that uses personalized mugs that hang on the wall. Beer enthusiasts love this. Limit it to 50 members per year with a $99 membership. This gets members discounts on beer and pizza throughout the year, plus bragging rights.

Another thing I did was Google popular Arkansas foods. Once you know the favored regional foods in your area, capitalize on their popularity by incorporating them into dishes in your pizzeria. For example, I found that tamales are well embraced in Arkansas. Well, an Arkansas Delta Tamale, for example, could make an awesome topping on a Hispanic-style pizza with the addition of jalapeño peppers and sour cream. Teaming up with a local tamale maker and using their product in a cross-promotion could be a winner. By paying homage to Arkansas, you might even get some local press.

For those of you located elsewhere throughout the country, use this as an example and think of what local delicacies you could use to your advantage.

Being creative is the key to bringing in customers. It’s not always roses for any of us, me included. Hopefully a new spark can help us all the next time we feel business is in the dumps.

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 jwhite@pizzatoday.com and we’ll pass the best ones on to Tony.