Brooklyn pizza department

Ever heard of the Brooklyn Pizza Department? If you've been to Austell, Georgia, you probably have. Started in 2002 by Dave Yekell and Vince Tuccillo, Brooklyn Pizza Department quickly established itself as a marketing force to be reckoned with.

It all started back when Vince and Dave became best friends in high school, where they met, believe it or not, in a sewing class. A couple of years ago, they both ended up in Atlanta, Georgia, and realized that they couldn't find pizza like they used to have back in New York. So what did they do? They quit their jobs to open the Brooklyn Pizza Department.

Using such things as an aggressive email marketing campaign, themed nights and new menu items, Brooklyn Pizza Department has become a smashing success.

Email Marketing

Vince and Dave use email as a key way to stay in touch with their customers. "We invite everyone to join our email list and take advantage of our specials when they come through the door," Vince said. "You get a free 14-inch, one topping pizza and drink for joining." Vince also told me that they try to send out an email about once a month or more often if there's something truly special going on at the restaurant. But how often it goes out is key. "We try not to do too much," Vince said, laughing. "People tend to turn you off if you send out too much!"

As the email list grew (currently over 2,000 members), they decided to use an email program that allowed them to print out and keep copies of their regular newsletter. This allows them to send hard copies to customers who want to participate in the specials but don't have email.

Specialty Nights

As a way to attract the community's interest on the slow days, they have themed nights. On Monday nights, the Guys from Brooklyn promote a 2-for-1 wing night, Wednesday is Trivia Night and Saturday night is Movie Trivia Night

Vince told me that they haven't been doing the Trivia Nights all that long, but the customer response is encouraging. Each night more and more people are showing up to play, and of course, order food and drinks while they're there.

The Trivia Night on Wednesday and Saturday nights brings in a crowd that stays a little later. Vince makes up the questions and puts them together on a Power Point Presentation that's broadcast over the 11 televisions throughout the store and read by Vince over the PA system.

At the end of the night, the team with the most points is awarded $50 in house cash, second place receives $30 and third place receives $20. That's right, house cash. House cash that can only be spent in-house on Brooklyn Pizza Department's food. So in the two-hour course of the game, his customers have more than likely bought drinks, appetizers, supper and desert just to win more money for a return trip to the restaurant.

Vince tries to have a good mix of questions for the game. Some take real knowledge, such as U.S. history and geography and some focus more on pop culture references, such as movies and sports. The game is split into six rounds. Teams have to assign a point value to each question before any answers are asked. They can only use each point value once. Bonus questions come at the end of every round. "The bonus questions are fun because most of the time it's something outrageous that no one knows but everyone can guess at so you can get at least a few points for it," Vince said. "I like to use a lot of Top 10 stuff. For example, what are the top ten kennel club breed registrations in 2001? I'm pretty sure no one knows it, but everyone can say well, I like Labradors or I like beagles." Customers receive points for how many they actually get right.

To keep the game within the two-hour limit that Vince sets, he brings in extra wait staff. When the question pops up on the presentations and he reads it out loud, customers have three minutes to write down an answer and turn it in. If you get it right, the team gets the points they assigned to it.

The Wings

The guys from Brooklyn eventually looked into expanding their menu and settled on the idea of Buffalo wings. "Our philosophy on our food is if we don't make it ourselves, then we use the best that we can find," Vince said. Since they are called Buffalo Wings, Vince and Dave packed their bags and headed for the annual wing sauce competition in Buffalo, New York, where they found the ultimate wing recipe, called Wy's Wing Sauce. It won the competition the past two years running. They arranged for him to make the sauce and send it straight to them from Buffalo," Vince said.

They've set up a lunch program to push their wings. They encourage customers to bring in three coworkers and each receive six wings for free and 25 percent off the rest of their ticket during lunch hours. Another example that pushes their wings is for the customer to receive 50 percent more wings if he orders a pizza and wings (if the customer orders a pizza and 12 wings, he actually gets 18 wings).

What Works For Them

They've found that things like ADVO and money mailers are the most effective form of mass marketing. ADVO costs them about $50 per thousand and they usually see a 10 percent bump in sales the two weeks after the piece mails. "Free always seems to work better than money off.

They do caution fellow pizzeria owners to do their homework when looking into coupons. "We bought into a sales pitch with a coupon book before we really learned to research the history of what's going on and how to check into the effectiveness of how to do it," Vince said. "A lot of times, those kinds of companies will throw a guarantee at you that you definitely need to research."

Vince and Dave also swear by the local community. "We've gotten really good responses just working locally through people and through the schools," Vince said. "We started a discount for educators and marketed it to the high school with a 15 percent off discount to everyone that worked at the school." By word of mouth through the teachers, this discount eventually spread to include every teacher in the county. They also cater lunch three days a week for two private schools.

Moving Up

When Vince and Dave initially started their pizzeria, they set out to establish themselves as a kid-friendly place. "David and I both juggle and make balloon animals," Vince said. "We just like to entertain the kids when they come to the restaurants."

While they wanted to maintain their kid-friendly reputation, the guys from Brooklyn eventually wanted to add the option of alcohol and drinks: the problem was how to offer both a family restaurant and a bar without detracting from either experience. Their current location didn't allow them to introduce alcoholic beverages, so a few months ago they closed shop and moved to a new location a half mile away from the original store.

In the new place, they focused more on the decor than they did in the old store. To give customers the feel of Brooklyn, Dave and Vince set up an exact replica of the Brooklyn Bridge, under which customers can sit and eat. They also had murals painted on the walls that show the real Brooklyn skyline-one side of the restaurant showing Manhattan and one side showing Brooklyn. To bring in the bar without taking too much from the kid-friendly reputation of the restaurant, they placed the bar inside of a subway car that runs down the center of the restaurant.

"The subway car was just a lot of fun to do," Vince said. "It's very cool, black-and-white and metallic with little black-and-white pictures throughout the car. A lot of folks were concerned that offering beer would detract from the kid-friendly reputation, which is why the two areas are separated."

Regardless of where their pizzeria is, the Guys from Brooklyn seem to have Brooklyn Pizza Department on-track. Whether it's community involvement outside of the pizzeria or interesting offers within the pizzeria, the big city boys make sure their big city pizza is what gets all of the attention.