Heat up your warm-weather sales by taking cues from these diverse seasonal marketing strategies, successfully employed at pizzerias nationwide.

By Tracy Morin

As the temperatures soar and regular customers flee on vacations, some operators notice a sales slump during summer. But savvy pizzeria owners know that the right promotions, events, menu items and partnerships will have customers streaming through the door all season long. “We usually see an increase in sales during the summer, but the sales shift from weekend-heavy during the school year to all days more evenly distributed during the summer,” notes Hengam Stanfield, co-founder of Mattenga’s Pizzeria, with six locations in the San Antonio area. “By actively promoting our summer offers to clients, the pizzeria stays competitive and top-of-mind during the hot season.”

Read on to hear Stanfield and other pizzerias around the country share their top successful strategies in their own words. Then start planning now for a blazing summer season!

Photo courtesy Mattenga’s Pizzeria.

“We’ve also forged partnerships with local businesses to create unique experiences, such as our Pizza and Pottery events. Children have the joy of making their own pizzas and painting pottery…for $25 to $30 per child.”

Hengam Stanfield, Mattenga’s Pizzeria
Hengam Stanfield

co-founder, Mattenga’s Pizzeria, San Antonio, TX
(6 locations)

Many of our patrons frequent community pools or relax in their neighborhoods, choosing our pizzas as their go-to dinner option. To stay top-of-mind, we’ve tailored our social media content to resonate with these summer moments, ensuring our brand is associated with fun, leisure and group gatherings. In a social media ad, used in a three-mile radius around each of our stores, we mention, “Come try San Antonio’s voted-best pizza.” 

We’ve also forged partnerships with local businesses to create unique experiences, such as our Pizza and Pottery events. Children have the joy of making their own pizzas and painting pottery, offering families a delightful evening for $25 to $30 per child. This initiative not only entertains the kids, but allows parents to unwind with a glass of wine on our patio, enjoying a peaceful summer evening.

Collaborating with local breweries, we’ve hosted beer tasting events, capitalizing on the communal desire for new experiences and the pleasure of outdoor gatherings during the warmer months.

Incorporating seasonal items into our menu is another strategy we’ve embraced. Understanding the cultural and dietary preferences of our community guides us in offering summer favorites like barbecue meats, seasonal vegetables and refreshing desserts like ice cream and gelato. Showcasing these seasonal specials on social media emphasizes freshness and appeals to the diverse tastes of our customers.

These strategies are not just about driving sales; they’re about enriching the community experience, creating lasting memories, and building a deeper connection with our patrons by aligning our offerings with their summer lifestyle.

Finally, we send our team members with free pizzas to hotels every two weeks. We build relationships with the front desk, so they recommend Mattenga’s to guests. When folks ask for restaurants in the area, our restaurant is the first they mention because of the goodwill we’ve built with them. We also drop off menus and complementary breadsticks vouchers at the hotels biweekly. A lot of out-of-towners also check reviews before visiting, and they’re more likely to leave reviews after purchase. 

Photo courtesy Perry’s Pizza.

“At our former beachfront location…we’d hold an end of summer party – when the tourists left – to say, ‘Thank you for helping us through the winter.’ We took pictures and put them on our walls.”

Dawn Bingaman, Perry’s Pizza
Jess and Dawn Bingaman

owners, Perry’s Pizza, Huntington Beach, CA
(1 location)

Dawn: One of our most popular events is kids pizza parties. We offer them throughout the year, but they’re more popular in summer, since kids are out of school and parents are looking for activities for their kids to get involved with. The group can be up to 12 people, with fun activities and pizza trivia. We dress them up in a kids apron that’s Perry’s-branded.

Jess: We give them a tour of the kitchen while we’re working so they can see what actually happens in a restaurant. We teach them how to roll their own pizzas, then we cook and serve them to the kids. 

Dawn: They have so much fun—they’re super engaged, and they remember it forever as one of those cool childhood experiences. Then, with everyone more conscious of what they’re eating in summertime, we’ve had some recent summer menu items. 

Jess: We do an angel hair pasta with summer veggies, like squash and asparagus, in a light wine sauce. We also have a crispy chicken salad and a summer salad, with strawberries, cranberries and walnuts.

Dawn: We have a garden at home, and one year we had a bunch of squash and tomatoes. That’s often where stuff begins, here at home—if it works, we try it on the menu. The angel hair has been super popular, since in summer people might want lighter options instead of a heavy meat lovers pizza. We also have outdoor dining, with a few tables and a little patio area. At our former beachfront location in Newport Beach, we’d hold an end of summer party—when the tourists left—for the locals, to say, “Thank you for helping us through the winter.” We took pictures and put them on our walls. When we moved to our new location, we made the pictures into a digital wrap for the tables. Now we’ve continued the party tradition for our anniversary every year, inviting people for giveaways and raffles. We take their pictures and put them on the tables, too. Customers like showing them off.

Jess: It was pretty easy to do the end of summer parties. I was in a band then, and we always had volunteers to run the barbecue and pizza ovens. 

Dawn: We’d close early to the public at 4 or 5 p.m., and it was invite-only. It became a big thing; we eventually had to have wristbands. There are also a lot of events that the city puts on each year, like concerts. We’ll talk up events like the 4th of July parade and prepare for extra traffic.

Jess: For events that are going on in the city, join the chamber of commerce. It’s expensive, but they’ll support you a lot: “After the 4th of July parade, come to Perry’s.”

Dawn: To get the word out on anything we do, social media is a big player. We have talented folks on our team who, for new menu items, will design stand-up menu boards with chalk paint. Customers like to be part of something new, and if they like it, we’ll put it on the real menu. We also use email, sent to our loyalty members, for big announcements. We’ve used mailers and discount coupons, too—mostly to target new customers.

At Toppers Pizza, sales of Frozen Custard rose by 15% in the summer of 2023 as the brand ramped up promotion of the dessert for National Dairy Month. Photo courtesy Toppers Pizza.

“We ramp up the promotion of [our frozen custards] starting in June for National Dairy Month, then remind customers of this cool, tasty treat all summer long through various owned and paid media channels.”

Greg Wold, Toppers Pizza
Greg Wold

VP of marketing, Toppers Pizza, Whitewater, WI
(70-plus locations)

It’s important to market to customers all year long, especially during relevant seasonal eating occasions. Sure, traditionally we might get more delivery sales during a snowstorm for the big game, but having an option to feed a large group instead of barbecuing for Father’s Day or the 4th of July is just as relevant to the customer. Our goal is to be culturally relevant to the customer throughout the year.

Like many in our space, we do tend to see a seasonal dip during the summer. Many of our stores are located in campus markets, where college students are back home. But, because we are from Wisconsin and take our dairy pretty seriously, we offer some pretty darn good Frozen Custards. Although this menu item is available all year long, we ramp up the promotion of it starting in June for National Dairy Month, then remind customers of this cool, tasty treat all summer long through various owned and paid media channels. This has allowed us to drive awareness around this specialty product and, more importantly, sales. Last summer, Frozen Custard saw an increase of 15% in sales during this time frame as a result of these efforts. Our advice: Stay top-of-mind to the customer by talking to them, when it makes sense, with breakthrough creative.   

Tracy Morin is PMQ’s associate editor.