Pizza News

Marketing take 'n' bake

It's almost been a year since the original article on the Take 'n' Bake phenomenon was printed. This particular story created a tremendous amount of activity on the Think Tank and requests for more information.

It seemed that the amount of interest generated would make it a good topic for a live seminar. I presented the seminar in Las Vegas last February at Pizza Expo 2002 to 350 attendees in a room that was set up for 250. The 90 allotted minutes flew by. After the seminar was done and the microphones were unplugged, 80 or so people stayed after with additional questions. My colleague, Pizza Paul Nyland, and I answered as many as we could on an individual or small group basis until it became time to get ready for another presentation. The story needed to be continued with a follow up piece explaining how you can successfully and profitably introduce this concept to your marketplace, so that's where we are now.

Within a few weeks of the seminar I found myself in Chicago working with two very different businesses that had decided that the Take 'n' Bake was right for them. I'd like to share their stories and the tactics we developed to launch the concept.

The first operation we'll analyze is very unique. It is not a pizzeria, but rather an upscale artesian bakery. The Breadsmith of Skokie is part of a franchise operation based in Wisconsin. The owners, Joseph Polsky and Evan Lafer, have run a thriving business for the past three years. They are also unique because they run a kosher bakery to serve their community's desire for foods that are prepared in accordance to their religious tenants. The owners were very kind to me and gave me a crash course in the do's and don'ts of kosher law. I did a lot of research and only located two dairies in North America that produced mozzarella under rabbinical supervision and had the highest certification acceptable to the owners and customers. The rest of the toppings were all vegetables. Kosher law forbids meat and dairy products from touching each other during the baking / cooking process. Thus, my mission was to teach them how to make the highest quality Take 'n' Bake veggie pie in Chicagoland. I was pretty comfortable in this area because of prior consulting assignments with other clients who stick to dietary guidelines that are similar. I have designed menus and systems for Hindus, Muslims and Adventists that are somewhat similar.

The first and second visit was to perfect the product. The third visit was dedicated to designing the floor plan, ordering the refrigerated make table, small wares, and Pactiv Baking Trays. We then ran the menu through FoodCost Pro and established proper, profitable pricing strategies. We baked more pizzas off in home-style ovens and were convinced that we had nailed the ingredients and specialty pizzas. We sampled them in a small focus group and tweaked the menu for the final time. The pizzas were fantastic.

We were working on a time line that was less than 30 days from conception to roll out. We developed a "to-do list" with who was responsible for the tasks, as well as a firm date. I've found that lists like this are useless unless there are firm deadlines and accountabilities. It's a lot like getting married. Nothing happens until you set the date.

We set the roll out date and worked backwards on the calendar. If Joseph, Evan or myself got behind we enlisted the help of one another to meet the deadline. This teamwork is vital. The phone calls and faxes flew. We decided the best day to introduce the pizzas to the existing customers would be on a Tuesday. Monday morning found me prepping and training staff how to hand toss, sauce, cheese and top all of the pizzas. We practiced for most of the day until I was comfortable we would be ready for kick off day.

Our threefold marketing strategy was simple and straightforward; first, we design a couple of print ads and insert them in local newspapers and bulletins. This would give us the first leg of the marketing triangle, awareness. The second tactic was to give away a 12" cheese and one-topping pizza to any customer who bought a loaf of bread at regular price that Tuesday. This would accomplish the second leg of the marketing triangle, trial. The final leg of the triangle is repeat. We decided to give recipients of the free pizzas a bounce back certificate for money off of their next purchase.

I rolled in the back door Tuesday morning around 9 a.m. Evan had set up the make line and had already made several dozen pizzas by then. I was thinking like a pizzaman and forgot bakeries get going very early in the morning. We restocked the make table and the rookie pizza flippers punched in a few minutes later. By 10 a.m. we were jammin'. By noon I was nagged by a thought, "What have we created here?" We had made well over a hundred pies and the line was out the door. By 2 p.m. I needed a coffee and brownie fix. Not today…no time. By 4 p.m. we were getting punchy. Someone said we had just gone over the 400 mark. At 5:15 p.m. we ran out of dough and started handing out rain checks for tomorrow. We had sampled over 500 pies in a little over seven hours.

I was having flashbacks of the good days at Big Dave's Pizza. I hadn't worked that hard for that long in years. At any time that day I was expecting the two young ladies who were tossing the doughs to bolt out the door. Their feet never moved in six hours. They were seasoned pros in just one day. As I was heaping praise on them and telling how proud I was of them the phone calls started coming in. First time customers were calling and praising the pizza. They would be back tomorrow for more. I had a damage control report done on available stock and prep. We needed to make more dough so I called our CSR, Doug Vincent, to hustle us up some more stock and baking trays, etc. The night shift had arrived and the bakers were mixing up another 500 pounds of dough and re-stocking was well on its way.

The following day was a piece of cake. The crew was smiling and we kicked out another 250 full price pizzas along with the 75 rain checks from the day before. That day we gave away plastic pizza cutters with their logo and phone numbers on them. This launch was wonderfully successful and has accomplished the goal of generating a sizable amount of new additional sales for the bakery in the afternoon.

Client number two was Nancy's Pizzeria. This 32-unit franchise operation is based in Tinley Park, Illinois, a suburb of Chicago. The chain surrounds the city with locations strategically placed to offer seamless carry out and delivery to customers who live in the burbs. The president, David Howey, Jr. attended my seminar in Vegas and asked me to help design and implement a marketing strategy for his franchisees. Dave and his management team had been researching the Take 'n' Bake phenomenon for some time and were convinced it would work for them. This assignment was totally different than the Breadsmith's. Instead of marketing to a relatively small niche community, we were going to market to a huge population. The tactics would be different, but the results would be the same.

This organization has a tremendous team of professionals. They have the leadership of Dave as well as operations, marketing, communication, research and development and an in house graphic designer. I was spoiled and very impressed. They had perfected their already great pizza to bake in a home oven. They had the full color baking instructions and packaging well under way. Our job was to spend the marketing budget in the most prudent way to maximize return on investment for the franchisees.

We met for most of two days, non-stop in their boardroom. Most of the time these types of meetings make me nauseous. This one was different. Instead of seven people sitting around the big table breathing each other's exhaust, the time was extremely creative. Every member was encouraged to openly add his or her ideas into the final draft. No one was criticized for creative thinking. The dynamic was electric, humorous and occasionally a little irreverent at times.

As we wrapped up day one, we all were given the big list of ideas we developed. We were to review and prioritize the list and sleep on it. The next day we reconvened and got the creative juices flowing again. This type of facilitated brainstorming meeting is very hard work. Our final list included the tactics, costs associated and target date for completion. We decided to do some unique things. We had to create a mime, or audio logo that would be repeated in all of our advertising. The 'audio logo' we decided on was "Absolutely, Positively, Ready when You Are." Next, we got pricing for renting and designing the copy for several dozen billboards in Chicago. Then we decided to produce in-house a video training tape for the pizza makers in the stores as well as a endless loop tape that would be played in the waiting lobbies of the restaurants on televisions so existing customers could be educated on the Take 'n' Bake concept. Then a list was developed of suppliers who would be interested in financially funding a portion of the launch. This launch was also on a short time line.

We were looking at less than 30 working days for all of the pieces of the puzzle to come together. We were going to present the idea and all of the marketing materials to the next scheduled franchisee meeting in four weeks. Two weeks after that, kick off. Some of the other ideas that came out in the focus group were offering complimentary add-ons. Rick perfected a one-pound gourmet chocolate chip cookie. Fresh dough bread sticks were also added. Both of these value added offerings have been superstars. Since the customer's oven is already pre-heated, it's a natural.

Rounding out the program was the four walls marketing. From the time the customer enters the lobby, they gain subtle awareness by watching the endless loop videotape describing how easy and foolproof Take 'n' Bake is. The fear of failure is diminished by Nancy's guarantee. Nancy's graphic designer, Paul Howey, created wonderful four color posters. A picture is worth a thousand words.

Every location was challenged to seek out neighboring businesses to establish cross promotions. Hair salons were great partners. The demographics are matched perfectly. Posters were placed offering free samples on a specific day. This strategy created high customer awareness.

The repeat leg of the marketing triangle is assured by the outstanding taste, texture and attention to detail of the pizza makers. Employees working the order pick up counters took the time to explain, step-by-step how to bake the pizzas at home. The new buzz for Nancy's Take 'n' Bake is: "Who bakes the best pizza in town?……You do."

In contrast, we have looked at two entirely different operations. The first is a single unit non-traditional bakery that successfully blended this idea into their operation. The second is an existing, well established organization. The advertising budgets varied from less than a thousand dollars up to several hundred thousand dollars. The percentages were in line for both operations.

The initial customer feedback has been very positive for both the Breadsmith and Nancy's. The additional sales are growing every week and have not cannibalized receipts from traditional sales. The return on investment for both operations has exceeded our expectations, and will continue to grow every week.

Since both of these businesses were very early adaptors in their respective communities they have established leadership status in the niche. They paved the way by teaching their communities all about the convenience, ease and quality of home baked pizza. They will own the long-term loyalty of their customers. Their positioning in the consumers' minds will make them almost unchallengeable by operators who will challenge them in the future. Everyone remembers who was first. No one remembers who was second. It's time to get with the program, or be a wannabe.

I'm more than ever convinced that once you try a Take 'n' Bake pizza, you'll also be a believer. This tried and true concept could be the answer to the question that's asked millions of times a day; "What's for dinner?" If this article hasn't answered all of your questions and you would like to discuss it further, please visit my website at and post a question or call me at (888) BIG-DAVE. You can also go to and click the Ask the Experts button and ask me a question in the PMQ Think Tank.

Next Steps.

If this article hasn't answered all of you questions and you want to discuss it further please visit my website at and post a question or call me at (888) BIG-DAVE.

Copyright © 2002 Dave Ostrander, all rights reserved.