Ask Joey

QUESTION:

What effect have wings and tenders had on the pizzeria industry and how do you suggest operators market them?

ANSWER:

Wow. This is a question that really hits home with me. I can honestly say the development of these items has been integral in the success and development of the La Nova brand. My father has always talked about the pizzeria industry in a historical context when it has come to what items have been impacting our business. His train of thought is as follows: In the 60's, it was pizza and pasta in Italian restaurant settings. In the 70's, the sub sandwich was added to the menu. In the 80's, 30-minute delivery put the pressure on all of us. In the 90's, chicken wings became the add-on of choice. The wing and the tender has become the #1 appetizer to the pizza trade. The major chains that added wings (Pizza Hut, Little Caesars and Domino's) all hit the national marketing hard.

We were conditioned to believe that every pizza should have an order of wings go over the counter with it. I don't think there is a location in the Western New York area that does not sell these items with one another. It was a long process to get the independents to come on board, but after they realized the ability to increase sales in an incremental fashion, both the wing and the tender began to flourish.

Today, we are seeing some new trends. The "traditional" Buffalo wings are a standard addition to a huge percentage of our trade's menus. The research shows that the product is most popular with male customers. Now we are seeing an addition to our customer base by offering boneless varieties of the same style. Domino's has the Chicken Kickers, Papa John's made a big splash with their Chicken strips. All of the products have similarities. The most evident being that as an industry we are earning the business of women and children who don't like the bones, but love chicken and Buffalo seasoning. Operators expect to take advantage of the customer's expanded tastes. Customers expect a variety of items to be available when they contact their pizzeria of choice. Operators are rewarded for having the offerings with increased ticket averages and overall comp sales growth. It is a win-win situation that is a direct result of a lot of factors coming together at once in the business. The Buffalo Wing is a staple in the industry, and now the boneless items are making a huge run to the top of pizzeria menus across the country. Today's family can comfortably order from most pizzerias and expect that a poultry offering can round off a meal that is either dine-in or eaten at home.

JOEY'S MARKETING IDEAS FOR CHICKEN TENDERS, WINGS AND NEW ITEMS

Menu the wings and tenders in combination with your pizza. You raise the ticket average while offsetting the cost of the new items. The customers will automatically gravitate to the items in combination. Also, it offers variety so the customer can feed everyone in the family from one location: yours!

Offer a sample of a wing or tender to customers (maybe put one wing or tender in the

customer's pizza box to try). Over-the counter sampling and while-you-wait offerings really excite the customer base.

Suggestive sell: Answer the telephone by telling customers about the new items you are introducing. Example: "Thank you for calling LaNova, would you like to try our new chicken bites today?" (716-634-5151, call and listen.)

Send samples of your new items to local hotels. If the staff likes it, they will recommend it to their guests. The concierge can sometimes be the most effective ally in getting out of town recognition for your brand.

Participate in mass mailers with color photos of your new items. Customers buy with their eyes. Point-of sale material that displays the item prominently is very important to the item's success.

Offer specialty flavors. This will allow you to hit a wider market base that traditional flavors (Hot and BBQ) might not satisfy.

Most important rule on introducing new products: Always make sure the new items are prepared properly because sometimes you may only have one chance to get the customer to sample. First impressions count!