Re-energize your pizza brand with these 10 summertime promotions and marketing strategies

Ready to heat up your pizzeria’s summer sales? Pack in the crowds with dough-making classes, summer sampler specials, pet-friendly events and more!



 

A long, bleak, cold winter isn’t just bad for the soul—it’s terrible for business.

But summer’s here at last, and it’s a beautiful day in the neighborhood. To make up for the sales you’ve lost to snowstorms or round-the-clock rain, rethink your humdrum marketing approach, get out there in the community and start re-energizing your brand. Here are some ideas to heat up your summer sales.

 

Hit the streets. 

It’s time for the charm bomb to explode! Send a personable, outgoing employee or manager out into the community for an hour or so every day to win over new customers. His or her mission will be to pop into neighborhood businesses, medical and dental clinics, law firms and offices and pitch your pizzeria with menus (including catering menus), fridge magnets and coupons. Free samples of your pies or appetizers won’t hurt either. This is classic neighborhood marketing at its best and a great way to get to know and build relationships with fellow business owners and professionals.

Try this: No one ever got arrested for handing out free pizza. Visit local police and fire departments with samples of your food. Hand out coupons for first-responder discounts to show that you appreciate their contribution to the community.

 

Mellow Mushroom’s hilarious 2012 video campaign featured mascot Mel O. Mushroom “following” the chain’s social media fans, whether they liked it or not.

Create a mascot. 

There’s something about a goofy, grinning behemoth in an eye-catching costume that will put anybody in a good mood. Mellow Mushroom has used its mascot, Mel O. Mushroom, to hilarious effect in social media and TV commercials for years. In the chain’s deadpan-comedic “Follow Us and We’ll Follow You” campaign in 2012, a series of videos tracked the hugely obtrusive Mel as he stalked unsuspecting customers through the streets and parks of some unnamed city, earning national exposure for the brand. Independent pizzerias can easily develop their own mascots and send them out on madcap, attention-grabbing adventures of their own.

Try this: Whether out on the streets or in your pizza shop, ask customers to take selfies with your mascot and post them with a designated hashtag on social media to win free food or drinks.

 

 

You don’t have to be a fine-wine wizard to create delicious and refreshing sangria cocktails.

Serve up sangria sensations. 

Light, fresh and fruity, sangria is the nectar of the summertime gods. But you don’t have to be a fine-wine wizard to invent and promote your own signature sangria cocktail. You can start with any tasty, simple and reasonably priced dry red wine—preferably a younger variety (older ones don’t mix that well)—and go from there. Sangria cocktails also offer a great opportunity to partner with growers in your community and showcase local fruits, from oranges, apples, lemons and strawberries to peaches, pears and plums.

Try this: Team up with your hometown liquor store or a local grower (or both) to launch a Sangria Saturday or Sangria Sunday promotion. Signature libations and laid-back live music will help you bring in more daytime or late-night customers.

 

Sauce Pizza & Wine encourages its customers to post photos of their pizza, salad and wine combos with the #SummerSampler hashtag.

Bundle up! 

Sauce Pizza and Wine, with multiple locations in Arizona, kicks off warm-weather season every year with its Summer Sampler special—one pizza, one salad and two glasses of wine for $22. And we’re not talking your average garden-variety iceberg—the Watermelon and Arugula Salad combines watermelon, jicama, spinach, arugula, feta, and a white balsamic vinaigrette. Make sure to promote your seasonal special with a hashtag (Sauce uses #SummerSampler).

Try this: Host a late-night pizzata (Italian slang for pizza party) on slower nights with specially priced pizza-and-beer pairings. If possible, partner with a local brewer and develop a menu just for this promo.

 

Papa Murphy’s sign spinner Michael Hildreth became an overnight sensation when a local TV station spotlighted him in 2017.

Show them a sign. 

Leading pizza chains have employed sign spinners for decades, and there’s no reason you can’t do it, too. A Papa Murphy’s store in Arlington, Texas, made national news last year with a spinner named Michael Hildreth, a long-haired, heavy metal enthusiast who put on a head-banging show for passing traffic on busy Highway 287. Hildreth’s antics helped his employer boost sales by 40%, according to media reports. The key to successful sign spinning is simple: personality, energy, and a sense of fun and flamboyance.

Try this: Design an arrow-shaped sign—with your store’s name, logo and a social media hashtag—and hire a high-energy spinner who can improvise and develop his or her own act. Play it like a guitar, ride it like a horse or paddle it like a canoe—motion attracts attention!

 

Pizzeria Locale’s “Dough from Scratch” classes attract kids’ groups as well as local professionals looking to learn a fun new skill.

Be a class act. 

Summertime is the season to offer dough making classes for moms and their out-of-school kids. Pizzeria Locale, with locations in Denver, Cincinnati and Overland Park and Kansas City, Kansas, has reaped priceless TV and print coverage with its “Dough From Scratch” classes, which cater to student groups, children with special needs, business owners and local influencers. Kids dig getting messy with flour and dough, and adults learn a skill they can use at home. Don’t forget to call up your hometown newspaper or TV station and invite them over to shoot photos and report on one of your classes.

Try this: Offer to teach dough making to local TV news anchors, reporters or morning-show hosts. Invite them to your store or bring the dough to their studio. Either way, it’s a guaranteed PR score!

 

Soda Creek Pizza showed up with free pies to honor Rocky Mountain Remedies as a great place to work in Steamboat Springs, Colorado.

Honor the best in town. 

Spread a little extra sunshine this summer by honoring local businesses and service providers with free food and social media buzz. Steve Hitchcock, owner of Soda Creek Pizza in Steamboat Springs, Colorado, asks his Facebook fans to share positive stories about companies that take good care of their employees. Out of the nominated businesses, Hitchcock and his team choose various random winners and drop in at each business with free pizzas for the employees. Winners have ranged from a local ski resort to Rocky Mountain Remedies, a medical marijuana dispensary.

Try this: With input from your social media fans, celebrate local medical professionals—including doctors, nurses and dentists—every week this summer. Deliver pizzas to their offices and clinics (along with catering menus), shoot photos with their staff and post them on social media.

 

Pizzerias like Cane Rosso in Dallas use “pups on the patio” events to draw crowds and raise awareness for animal shelters.

Try a little heavy petting. 

If you have a patio and you’re not using it for pet-friendly events, you ought to be smacked on the nose with a rolled-up newspaper. “Yappy hour” promos, tied to your hometown animal shelter, will attract new customers and turn into a can’t-miss social event. Restaurants across the country—from Cane Rosso in Dallas and Pizzeria Rustica in Colorado Springs to Landini’s in San Diego—offer special prices for two-legged customers, plus complimentary doggie treats. These tactics can help pack in the crowds for a heartwarming cause during the warm-weather months.

Try this: Hold a “prettiest pet” beauty contest to raise funds for a local animal shelter. Bring in a photographer to shoot photos and invite the news media to cover the event.

 

Regular art contests at Zachary’s Chicago Pizza draw all kinds of creative and off-the-wall entries and help freshen up the pizzeria’s decor.

Give your heart to the arts. 

Redecorate your pizzeria this summer with the works of local artists. Zachary’s Chicago Pizza, with four locations in the San Francisco Bay area, holds a biennial contest (every two years) in which artists of all ages, working in the medium of their choice, create pieces that celebrate Zachary’s and its food. In addition to being featured on the restaurants’ walls, the winning entries earn a $100 Zachary’s gift card and free T-shirts. Alternatively, you can simply invite local painters, illustrators, digital artists and photographers to exhibit and sell their original works in your restaurant. Promote each artist with a social media campaign that includes photos and video—and ask each artist to cross-promote your pizzeria. Use the opportunity to educate your customers about the arts while providing exposure for talented people in your community.

Try this: Use the power of video to publicize your art contest. Interview the artists about their work and their approach to art and post on Facebook and Instagram. Kick off the contest with a reception for the artist’s family members and friends.

 

From birthday parties to summer recreational programs, kids are the center of attention at Peter Piper Pizza.

Let the kids go crazy. 

If you take pride in your restaurant’s kid-friendly atmosphere, kick it up a notch with weekly Children’s Day events. At various locations in Texas, Oklahoma and New Mexico, Peter Piper Pizza in recent years has offered a summerlong recreational program for children ages 3 through 12. Held from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. every Tuesday, event themes include Pirate Day, Science Detective, Crazy Hats, Christmas in July, and Local Heroes Day, which brings in police officers and firefighters to visit with the kids. At Peter Piper’s Tucson stores, the cost was $4.49 per child, which included a lunch buffet and a kid’s drink.

Try this: Channel your inner Bill Murray and create a wild and crazy, Meatballs-style summer camp experience the kids will never forget. Create silly games and contests with prizes like logoed T-shirts and gift cards for your pizza shop.  

Rick Hynum is PMQ's editor-in-chief.

 

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