Ask Joey

Everyone is always looking for a way to sell product to a wider customer base with as little cost as possible. Operators develop a reputation and a following for their products that strengthens the longer they are in business in a certain area.

Then an inevitable decision of whether or not to open locations, partner with other business, or develop other strategies to extend the range of their business has to be made. Are we happy with the amount of business our store’s specific DMA offers us? Is there a demand for our quality items outside of our delivery range? How do we tap into that demand?

At La Nova, long before we developed manufacturing for our heat-and-serve wings; we felt that pull from customers. Some folks moved out of the area. Others moved out of our neighborhood. Some even moved out of the country! Still, they called and asked often how they could get the La Nova pizza and wings they grew up with and loved. In the early 90s, we looked for the best available option; that meant the least amount of capital investment. What we then started to do was ship our product to them overnight! We set up an arrangement with FedEx and developed a program where anyone in the United States could get our food the next day. Believe me, in the last 15 years, we have learned a lot and developed enough overnight business that it is totally self-sustaining.

There are some things to consider when developing the program. I will outline a few important issues that you need to deal with to ensure the product you ship best represents your brand.

Here are a few things to consider:

1. Shipping Company and Cost Schedule

Over the history of La Nova’s overnight business, we have used both UPS and FedEx overnight service depending on which brand afforded us the best rates and service at the time. This is an important consideration. You need to get a pricing schedule built by region and set up a cost spreadsheet that will allow for ease in quoting the customer on cost to ship them the item. Most shipping companies will give you that information by zones that will make it easier for you to set up. Ask your local representative to help you with that, and make sure you keep up with cost changes and remain competitive by shopping the firms against one another.

2. Packing Materials

The product you ship customers is perishable. In order to ensure its integrity when it gets to the customer, you need to pack it in dry ice and insulated packaging. La Nova uses four different style boxes depending on the size of the package. Each of them needs assembly and is Styrofoam insulated to keep the dry ice and the product protected. The cost of the packaging needs to be included in the cost to the customer, and they are not cheap. La Nova uses Thermosafe brand packaging; you can reach them at www.thermosafe.com for more information. You also need to find a local dry ice provider. We send a driver daily around 2 p.m. to pick up the amount we need for the day.

3. Product Selection

At La Nova, we only ship three types of products to our customers: pizza, wings and sauces. No sandwiches, subs, tacos or anything else we have on our menu maintains its integrity overnight. We parbake the pizza and include cooking instructions with every pie we send. Now that we have the plant-produced frozen wings, it’s easier for us to send them. Prior to that, we would fully cook them and ship them with reheating instructions packed inside. We have the sauces bottled for us locally and provide retail and gallon sizes for our customers. We also suggest ground shipping on the sauce to reduce costs dramatically.

4. Marketing

At first, customers inquired were the only ones that had the chance to use this service. After we became comfortable with the process, we started to market the opportunity more aggressively. If you look at any branded item that we use: menus, pizza boxes, cups, plates, napkins and sub bags, you will see the “we ship anywhere in the U.S.” information. It is also listed in every advertisement including our yellow pages ad. Last, and most importantly, we use our www.lanova.com website as the main driver for this segment of our business. When we developed the site, the company we used automated the whole process for us and integrated our shipper’s software to make it user friendly for the customer. Feel free to visit, and view how it works at your convenience.

5. Manpower and Scheduling

The last consideration I want to advise you of is the manpower and scheduling. You will need to make sure you have someone on all shifts that is capable of processing orders and discussing this option with your customers in a professional manner. You also need to make sure that you have time to cook, package and ship the additional products along with your normal business. Lastly, make sure you set up a cutoff time for same day orders fairly early in the afternoon in order to give yourself a reasonable amount of time to fulfill the request.

This is a great way to spread the range of your brand and your signature items. If managed efficiently, it can provide an additional incremental profit center for you as well as maximize your opportunity to grow at a marginal expense.