“Spring,” Robin Williams once observed, “is nature’s way of saying, ‘Let’s party!’” It’s also an invitation to shrug off that heavy winter coat, step out into the sunshine and take a leisurely stroll to the nearest pizzeria. Start planning now to freshen up your restaurant for the springtime boom with lively seasonal decor and promotions that will get customers singing and cash registers ringing. Spring into action with these moneymaking ideas inspired by pizzeria operators around the country.
Host a private tasting.
Hearty soups and comfort food made winter bearable, but now it’s time to lighten up your menu. Dante Pizzeria in Omaha, Nebraska, kicked off the season in 2017 with a private tasting of its new spring menu. The pizzeria invited a limited number of Omaha’s top food bloggers and influencers to the event, where chef Nick Strawhecker served up a seasonally inspired eight-course menu, complete with wine pairings. The spring menu included a variety of veg-centric snacks, from Fried Potato Puffs to Beet Tortellini and Arugula.
Try this: Create an invitation-only tasting event for food bloggers, entertainment reporters and “Instafoodies” in your area. Invite local celebrities—such as TV news anchors, sports coaches or political figures—for added cachet.
Bring on the brunch.
Got a hunch that adding brunch could make a bunch of money? Now’s the time to find out. Under the Sun Eatery and Pizzeria, located in Boulder, Colorado, has earned rave online reviews for its weekend brunch menu, including the Captain’s French Toast—challah bread coated with Cap’n Crunch cereal, plus Chantilly cream and strawberries—and fried chicken and waffles. Vegetarians, meanwhile, sing praises about the Birdie: a layer of potatoes, tomatoes, baby kale, mozzarella and Grana Padano, topped off with poached eggs and a drizzle of arugula walnut pesto.
Try this: Plant an herb garden outside your restaurant and use what you grow in your recipes. Post social media pictures of the herbs to emphasize the freshness of your ingredients, and promote the garden on your website.
Make 420 a magic number.
April 20 is the highest (pun intended) of holy days for connoisseurs of cannabis. Of course, smoking the stuff remains illegal in most states, but you don’t have to get baked to celebrate this made-up holiday. D’Amore’s Famous Pizza, the celebrity-friendly chain with eight locations around Los Angeles, last year created a secret 420 Day menu that included the Weed Pizza, a pie shaped like a marijuana leaf, and won national coverage in USA Today. Pizza Peddlers, located in Noble, Oklahoma, offered free (perfectly legal) brownies from a local bakery with every April 20 order. Other pizzerias keep it simple, offering menu specials priced at $4.20 or 420-themed signature pies.
Try this: Develop a recipe using hempseed in your pizza dough and call it the 420 Pot Pie. (Hempseed contains no THC and is safe and legal in the United States.)
May the 4th be with you.
Speaking of made-up holidays, Star Wars fans will celebrate May the 4th all across the galaxy. Smart pizzeria operators can tap into the force with promotions built around the theme. Totally 80’s Pizza in Fort Collins, Colorado, lures in the Lucas troops every year with an all-day party that includes face painting for the kiddies and appearances by characters like Princess Leia and Chewbacca. Customers even get a 10% discount by placing their order in the voice of Jabba the Hut. Meanwhile, Paulie Gee’s Logan Square in Chicago has been known to offer pizza portraits of Princess Leia and R2D2, and Dallas-based Cane Rosso serves up the C-3P0 pizza, featuring three cheeses and pepperoni.
Try this: Host a Star Wars costume contest with gift cards or free food as prizes. Or award prizes to costume-wearing guests who post selfies with a designated hashtag on Facebook or Instagram.
Hash out a social media campaign.
Celebrate springtime where the crowds are sure to gather—on social media sites like Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. Hashtag campaigns help boost your brand exposure across multiple platforms, and spring is the perfect season to launch one. Using a hashtag like #springatvinniespizza, invite customers to post mouthwatering photos of their pizzas or other menu items for a chance to win free food or gift cards. Also use the hashtag to promote new menu items featuring seasonal and locally grown ingredients.
Try this: Whenever a hashtag contest winner comes in to redeem the prize, take that person’s photo and post it as a reminder of the ongoing contest.
Build some egg-citement around Easter.
What’s the Easter Bunny’s favorite restaurant? IHOP, of course. But that shouldn’t stop you from hiring him for your Easter promo in April—he’ll learn to love pizza if the money’s right. The Saratoga, New York, location of Beer Wine Pizza last year booked the cotton-tailed giant for an Easter meet-and-greet on Saturday, March 31. Pizza Pi, located on St. Thomas in the U.S. Virgin Islands, hosts an annual underwater egg hunt—actually fastener nuts dyed in pastel colors and dropped into the water—for preteens and teenagers. Nuts of different colors earn different prizes, including $2 off a pizza. If hosting an Easter egg hunt is too complicated, simply buy an Easter Bunny costume and play the role yourself for a family-friendly holiday event.
Try this: Work with a local brewery to host a “hops festival” for Easter week. Develop a special menu with pies that pair well with the craft beers.
Reboot your patio.
If you offer patio dining, now is the time to start planning an al fresco refresh. Start out with a little spring cleaning—dust off the tables and chairs, replace worn-out cushions and consider putting a new stain on wooden tables. Replace battered umbrellas or tiki torches and fix wobbly tables. Beautify the area with small potted plants and bulb lights. After a long, cold winter, many customers will be eager to relax in a peaceful outdoor setting and, hopefully, linger for an extra beer or two.
Don’t forget moms.
We shouldn’t have to remind you, but Mother’s Day is Sunday, May 12, and shame on you if you don’t celebrate it. According to the National Restaurant Association, 32% of moms list eating a meal in a restaurant with their families as the gift they most want for Mother’s Day. In addition to offering holiday specials or a brunch, add heart-shaped pizzas to the menu, give each mom a complimentary rose and develop some unforgettable desserts.
Try this: Why limit Mother’s Day to one day? Turn it into a three-day weekend extravaganza with different offerings each day, including wine specials, kids menus, Sunday brunch and more.
Rick Hynum is PMQ’s editor-in-chief.