September 20, 2012 |

Prep Back to School Rush

By Jeremy White

The next two months usually are welcome periods for pizzeria operators, particularly those located next to high school and college campuses. As kids return to school in August and September, business invariably picks up. The Memorial Day to Labor Day lull is a great time to tinker with the menu and try new marketing promotions to see what will and won’t work in the upcoming months. Once school starts, though, it’s all about handling the rush.

There’s nothing like a wave of fans hitting your shop on Friday night after the local high school football game. But to handle the increased business, you must be adequately prepared. From increasing your staffing levels to ensuring there is enough product to get you through the evening, those first few Friday nights each season can be a challenge. Still, it’s exhilarating, isn’t it?

The good news if you’re amongst the thousands of operations looking to cash in on high school and college students: they have more disposable income than ever before. The bad news: they still spring for the discounts, despite the cash in their pockets.

What’s an operator to do? That’s where bundling comes in. Take a cue from McDonald’s and other fast food giants by offering “after-school specials.” Package a personal pizza, breadsticks and a soft drink together at a price moderately less than the cost the three items would command if they were separate sales. This spares you steep discounting, but still provides you with a marketing message that appeals to the young audience.

Of course, these package deals appeal to other demographics as well. Which is one reason why the aforementioned Burger Giant does so well with a streamlined menu that doesn’t even need words. Think about it, a photo of the “bundle” and a corresponding number is all it takes. Talk about efficiency.

Our society has three new years annually, when you consider it: the calendar year, the fiscal year and the academic year. With the 2005-2006 academic year dawning, now is the time to attack new menu items and your marketing plan with zest and vigor.

Now also is the time to think about seasonal menu items. With fall around the corner and winter behind that, heartier sandwiches, heavier dishes and soups are going to experience an increased demand. Halloween offers unique marketing opportunities and the day before Thanksgiving is one of the biggest days of the year (in terms of sales) for the pizza industry. If you want your shop to be the food and service provider of choice during this stretch, you better get to work on it. Your competition has already done so.