New York pizza…in Texas?

New York pizza in Texas? Interesting concept, but does it work? It has for Danny Deari, owner of Pastazios Pizza in Addison, Texas, a suburb of Dallas. Danny moved to Texas in 1986 from Brooklyn, where he grew up. "I visited my aunt as a child, and decided to open a pizzeria in Sherman, Texas, just outside Dallas," Danny says. "I met a guy in Brooklyn who had a lease for a pizzeria in a new mall being built there. He said he couldn't open the restaurant, so I decided to do it. I liked the mall atmosphere and big city feel of Sherman. It reminded me of New York. A mall is a great place for a New York style pizzeria because you can sell it by the slice, like they do in New York."

Danny decided after 15 years in Sherman at his pizzeria, Italian Affair, that he wanted to open a full-service pizza and pasta restaurant. His new restaurant, Pastazios, featured pizza, pasta, salads, subs, sandwiches and desserts, all available dine-in, carryout or delivery. He looked for a location where this type of pizzeria would work in the area around Dallas, and settled on Addison. This town is a New York-like suburb of Dallas with expensive apartments and town homes, housing upper middle class business people.

Danny's location on Addison Circle is in the heart of the business district of town. Most of his customers are lunching executives. With all the nearby businesses, Danny has a large demand for delivered lunch and dinner. From day one, Danny has featured pasta on his menu. He makes his pasta and sauces fresh every day. A plate of pasta runs under eight dollars making it a bargain for hungry customers.

"I wanted to have a restaurant that has a mom and pop feel to the operation," Danny says. "You know the type, with grandma cooking in the back. You gotta love the food and the business you're in. The product needs to be the best it can be."

Danny has literally done this with his restaurant. His mother works for him on and off. "My mom cooks for me on occasion," Danny says. "When she does, she makes sauce and pastas and preps. The customers really like that she works here."

Danny says that to include pasta on the menu he had to purchase some extra equipment. He had to buy burners for boiling and sauce preparation. He says to keep the refrigeration close to the pasta preparation stations for easy access to ingredients. In addition, he invested in fryers for some of his dishes.

"Everything we do is from scratch," he says. "We can't compete with fine dining without using quality ingredients and preparation methods. It's a challenge balancing reasonable prices and the cost of ingredients and labor. You have to find a happy medium."

Pizza is the restaurant's main product with the sale of 70-80 pizzas a day, but pasta dishes don't fall far behind with about 60 sold per day. More pasta is sold with dinner, and men order it just a little more than women, according to Danny. "The women want to watch what they eat so they usually order a smaller portion of pasta like a spaghetti and a salad," Danny says.

Bring in the Pros
Danny advertises in many venues from radio ads to direct mailers. He offers some advertising advice to all pizzeria owners. "Hire an ad agency," Danny says. "I never was into that at first, but that's the best way to go. I know a lot about making pizza and pasta, not brand building. I realized I can't spend money on something I don't know will work or not."

By hiring J Frederick and his agency, RD&F Advertising, Inc., Danny was able to get the word out about his New York attitude and food. The agency came up with a detailed marketing plan to get maximum exposure for Danny and Pastazios.

How the Pros Can Help
Frederick and his agency let Addison and surrounding area know about Pastazios' great food and tough attitude by combining an advertising campaign with public relations. "We wanted to go out and get people lined up at the door," Frederick says.

Frederick and his colleagues got food critics to come try out the restaurant. The critics wrote great reviews. They had the local NBC affiliate do a humorous two-minute news spot on the attitude and New York authenticity of the place.

Another public relations strategy Frederick has used is getting Danny to make appearances at big events and to have him cater at them. One example of this was when Danny was invited to make his lobster ravioli at the Fairmont Hotel's Taste of Dallas.

This pizza shop owner tries to avoid coupons. Danny says this is "degrading to his product." He does, however, offer deals from time to time. For instance, he offers a salad free with a pasta dish now and then. "We market our brand and items and offer guarantees on our products," Danny says. "Our mottos is 'come and try us, you'll like it.'

This is something that Frederick and his agency used in coming up with the advertising campaign for Pastazios. Mailers, radio ads, newspaper and magazine ads are other ways Danny advertises Pastazios. Frederick told me how they best utilize Danny's advertising budget with a combination of all these ad types.

Marketing
With the radio ads, which are filled with New York attitude, the radio announcer asks about the great food and gets answers like "Your mother" and "Go bleep yourself." These commercials are not played on regular radio stations, but on sports shows and the like because men are the target group for this establishment. In the print advertisement market, Frederick places ads in specific publications aimed at businesspeople looking for something to do. They have a quarter page ad which runs in the Dallas Morning News' "Guide," an entertainment insert in every Friday edition. The "Guide" is a review of what to do and where to go on the weekends. Frederick says this is a great place to get exposure. "Everybody picks it up," he says. "Everyone plans their weekend by it. It gives us a large amount of exposure since the ad appears in the dining section of the guide." Another local publication Pastazios' ad appears in is the monthly issue of Addison and North Dallas Corridor, which goes to hotels. It features things to do and places to go for people in town on business.

Effective Advertising
Their print ads portray the New York attitude of Pastazios even further. They use comical pictures of New York stereotypes. One of these ads is of a table setting with a fork and knife. The knife is a switchblade. It's that type of attitude that has made Pastazios famous.

The direct mailers Frederick uses to advertise Pastazios is influenced by the decor of the restaurant with the use of black and white photographs and the same humor as the print ads. Each mailer is targeted to a product such as the pizza slices or the delivery service Danny offers or the pasta. One of the ads offering the pizza by the slice as I mentioned earlier has a place setting with a switchblade for the knife. Above the plate is the phrase "Pizza by the slice." Flip the card over and you find a pizza menu tagged with the line, "Grab a slice and shut your pie hole."

Direct Mail And Tracking
The direct mailers go to all the zip codes in the Addison area in phases. Frederick's company sends out 7,500 mailers per month. These mailers go to all the residents and businesses in the delivery area. Delivery customers are the targets of the mailers. Frederick said he tracks the success of the mailers by the number of phone calls for delivery and the number of people coming in to the restaurant.

"It's pretty easy to track because usually we'll get around 100 delivery calls the same day the mailers go out," Frederick said. "You can see when they need to be sent out. When the restaurant's not quite as crowded at lunch and when delivery calls are down, we know it's time to send them out."

Best Promotion
Danny shared one of his best promotions with PMQ. Each year the town of Addison holds a cultural and music festival called Taste Addison. It's held over a weekend and has had as many as 60 – 70,000 people in attendance. The park where the festival is held is very close to Pastazios-about 50 yards. This makes it easy for Danny and his crew to prepare the food at the restaurant and get it out there to sell. They keep 40 pizzas out at the booth at all times in thermal bags. They also use a small oven to heat up pizza slices for customers who want a crispier crust.

"We have a booth out there every year," Danny says. "That's a great way to get exposure for the restaurant. Another plus is Addison holds the festival within the area I'm located. The line is there all day long. I draw back on my mall experience here. I would definitely advise anyone to do it, even if you have to pay a percentage of your profits. It's good to get your name and brand out there. It's been especially good for Pastazios because we're located in the capital of food. You have to ask yourself, how do you stand out?"

Danny said that all he has to do for this festival is to pay for the setup, which is about $400 and to show proof of insurance.

Pastazios was featured in Addison's town calendar this year. The town decided this year's theme to be restaurants. "They picked twelve local eateries out of hundreds," Frederick says, "Addison has a stretch of town called the Belline, where chain restaurant concepts are tested. This strip, known as Restaurant Road, features some 240 restaurants. In this fierce market of competition, it's important for Pastazios to have something to make it stand out."

"The way for Pastazios to be successful is having Danny and the food be as good as they can be and to have customers who include this product in their diet once a week or so," Frederick says. "We can reach these people by making the pizzeria and atmosphere better than the rest."