Big Pizza

In recent years, new scenery can be seen on the streets in Beijing city…huge orange Big Pizza signs. These orange signs have added a very bright color to the beautiful night of the city; and the feeling of the endless enthusiasm for the people of Beijing, especially when the blinds are drawn.

Big Pizza is an Italian-style pizza buffet restaurant owned by a local Chinese company and already has 14 stores in Beijing since their 2002 opening. Each Big Pizza location has a huge dining area with a very nice traditional Italian style decor. The kitchen is completely open so you can see the whole process of how the food is made. At Big Pizza, for only RMB39.00 (USD$4.85), you can taste 14 different kinds of Italian style pizza, 20 different salads, Italian-style pasta, chicken wings, soup, soft drinks, fresh-made fruit juice, draft beer, wine and ice cream. Would you believe that this all-you-can-eat buffet with free drink refills will only cost you five bucks?

Not only does Big Pizza offer a low price, there is a very special thing that Big Pizza offers in that a customer can make their own pizza or they can ask the chef to make the pizza exactly the way they want. “We came about this idea because we want to encourage people to learn new things. They come here to eat, but can also learn about pizza and how to make it. Once they start to like pizza, then they’ll eat more of it. We combine the dining with entertainment together here; it’s a part of the culture of Big Pizza,” marketing manager Liu said.

“Do you make any money for that low price?” I asked. “Sure we do,” Liu said “We are busy all the time, especially on weekends and holidays. Our price is very affordable for the local Chinese, so they come here a lot more often than going to other expensive pizza restaurants. We make money from the volume of consumers, that’s why we chose the big dining area. We use high quality ingredients and will not lower our food quality just because we have a low selling price. We are not the only RMB39 (USD$4.85) pizza buffet restaurant in Beijing. We have to compete with others and there are millions of cheap and tasty Chinese food restaurants in Beijing as well,” Liu said.

“You can tell how fast the pizza market has grown in Beijing when you walk around the shopping area center, ride on the taxi, bus or bicycle down the street. You can see there are so many pizza restaurants here. But, compared to the population of Beijing, there still are not yet enough pizza restaurants. We have competition here, but it isn’t strong.”

Not only does Big Pizza offer a low price, there is a very special thing that Big Pizza offers in that a customer can make their own pizza or they can ask the chef to make the pizza exactly the way they want.

Serving healthy pizza to their customers is the aim of Big Pizza. “We only use a little bit of oil on our pizza because we know that if we avoid adding too much oil, we are creating pizzas that are good for consumers’ health. We don’t offer too much fried food here either. Most of our food is grilled. We have so many different kinds of fresh vegetables that our customers have choices that are healthy. We also try to keep the original Italian style of our food; we don’t want to confuse the Chinese food with the Western food here. To keep the characteristics of Big Pizza is very important for our brand.” Liu said. Big Pizza not only offers a pizza buffet, they also have delivery for customers. Their delivery business is 20 percent of store sales.

Big Pizza also has some great marketing strategies to help increase sales. The VIP card is a very successful marketing idea they use to keep loyalty of customers. Customers can buy a VIP card for RMB20.00 (USD$2.50) at any Big Pizza store and earn one point on the VIP card each time they eat at Big Pizza. When they earn 10 VIP card points, they get a certificate for a free Big Pizza buffet. The more points they earn on their VIP card, the more discounts they get for buffets. Customers can earn discounts also and the highest discounts they can reach is 20 percent. VIP members also receive a free buffet certificate on their birthday. Besides the VIP card, Big Pizza also gives 50 percent discounts for senior citizens (Age 70 or older) and children (body height of less than one meter qualifies them). When customers come as a group, their group will get one buffet free when they have 13 or more people eat at the buffet.

Beijing is the capital city of China, the center of national economics and politics. Beijing has a population of almost 14 million. Ever since 1990, when Pizza Hut opened their first store in Beijing, pizza has become one of the most popular Western foods, just like McDonald’s and KFC. “Pizza Hut is the No.1 pizza restaurant in China. It’s not just because they are a very famous international brand with strong financial background; it’s also because they have created a pizza culture in China,” Liu said. “But, China is a huge market, so

no one company will monopolize the whole market and everybody has opportunity to build their success here. You can tell how fast the pizza market has grown in Beijing when you walk around the shopping area center, ride on the taxi, bus or bicycle down the street. You can see there are so many pizza restaurants here. But, compared to the population of Beijing, there still are not yet enough pizza restaurants. We have competition here, but it isn’t strong.”

When I asked where and how they found their equipment suppliers and food distributors, Liu said, “We buy cheese from an agent in New Zealand. Their prices are quite high, but it’s the best cheese that we can find at market so far. We designed and made our delivery pizza boxes by ourselves. They cannot really keep the pizza warm, but they help the pizza to keep from getting cold too fast. The oven we use is OK, but we are still looking for a better pizza oven at a fair price. Even though the Chinese pizza market is behind American and the European countries, with the fast growing market here, we should get more attention from the world’s pizza industry.”

After Big Pizza had success with several operatorstores in Beijing, they started to franchise. Liu has some suggestions for franchisees, “location is a very important element in the pizza industry here in Beijing, especially for our buffet style. It’s difficult to find a good location with big space and low rent in Beijing. Also, Beijing’s government has new rules to control the use of the utility systems in restaurants. For example: a lot of business buildings can’t be used for a restaurant; many types of restaurants can’t use fire as cooking energy; many business buildings don’t offer exhaust and sewage system for restaurant etc. You cannot ignore these government rules when you set up your restaurant, otherwise you won’t get your restaurant permit after you put in all of your money.”

Big Pizza plans to make a market expansion in the next three to five years, which will include opening sevento tenoperator stores in Beijing; three stores in Shanghai and set up an Eastern branch office and seven franchisee stores in 2006. Plans include opening 20 operator stores and 10 franchise stores between 2007 and 2010. Also, Big Pizza plans to set up their Southern branch company in 2009. By 2010, Big Pizza plans to have at least one hundred stores.

To learn more about Big Pizza in China, please visit www.bigpizza.com.cn. If you would know more about Chinese pizza market, contact Weihua Watson at weihua@pmq.com or visit https://www.pmq.com/International/