Don’t let roadwork kill your sales
It’s construction season. Over the weekend, I was diverted from my route three times during a three-hour drive in rural Indiana due to road closure detours. There’s this little wood-fired pizzeria in the middle of a cornfield that I’ve been dying to try but could not maneuver through the construction to reach it. The roadwork was headache for me, but for businesses on the route, the closures were downright devastating.
What’s a pizzeria to do when faced with disruptive road construction?
Our Entrepreneur of the Year Sammy Mandell kept his late-night slice shop open through an extensive streetscape project in front of his Dallas pizzeria, GAPCo. He resorted to building a makeshift bridge of pizza boxes through the construction.
When area construction forced the closure of the sidewalk in front of Brooklyn Pizza Company in Tucson, Arizona, the team created directional signage to get to the restaurant and sent out mailers with a map. The pizzeria also ran a “Construction Special,” free pint of house-made Italian ice with any purchase over $15.
We see restaurants go out of business frequently due to lengthy construction work. You can either be proactive or reactive. Here are some proactive tips to survive and even thrive in a construction zone:
- Get involved with local city and neighborhood planning. If you don’t know the roadwork’s coming, you can’t plan for it. If you’re part of the planning, you can help devise strategies to minimize impact to area businesses.
- Follow communications from your municipal and state’s department of transportation and department of public works, as well as chambers of commerce and business associations.
- Investigate what local government has set in place during construction, like lifting some zoning signage rules or parking restrictions.
- Plan an alternate route to your pizzeria. Don’t let customers try to figure out how to get to you. Limit every excuse for not reaching you, like direct access and parking.
- Get the word out to your customers ASAP. As soon as you know the construction project is coming, let your customers know through in-store signage and social media with your plan to make it as painless as possible.
- Draw a map. Make a how-to visit us video or photo graphic.
- Reach out to local media with your story on how you are proactively handling area construction.
- Highlight your delivery service. If construction is really going to impede traffic to your shop, increase delivery.
- Offer incentives, like construction specials, to get people in the door.
- Ramp up social posting of food photos and videos to remind your fans that your pizza is worth the construction headache.
- Send out a street team to area businesses with boxes of free pizza to let them know you are riding out the construction phase.
- Try other revenue streams. Now might be the perfect time to test a mobile unit; bid on catering gigs; or work with other businesses like breweries, event spaces and even other restaurants to do pop-up events.
- Show the construction crews some love. Take them some pizzas. They may turn into your best customers.
- If you have a renovation in the works, a road construction period might to a good time to temporarily shut down to revamp your store — new road, new look.
There are ways to get around aggravating roadwork. It may require creativity to get through the “rough road ahead”.
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