Pizza toppings and pizza profits

Variety, choice, and a better tasting pizza. Every customer wants it but they don't always know how to get it. With all the tastes and flavors in your pizza business, what are the chances that your customers are really ordering their favorite topping or combination of toppings? Who knows? The only way to know for sure is to encourage your customers to experiment long enough to find their personal perfect pizza.

Just as Baskin Robbins found they could sell more ice cream by leading customers beyond chocolate, vanilla and strawberry, so can we, sell more pizza by educating the customer about the other toppings and quality of toppings that contribute to a better tasting pizza. Pizza topping variety can increase the number of yearly purchases and satisfy those deal-breaking family members who think they don't like pizza

One way to do this is to reassure your customers that they have just made an excellent choice and make the ordinary seem extraordinary. Another is to educate and expose them to the many delicious choices and combinations that await them.

Big Dave Ostrander says it best: "If you do, tell them about it." It sounds simple enough, yet so few operators do it. If you were a customer who was about to order a pizza, which statement would inspire you to add a topping or two to your order: "PMQ Pizzeria – The best pizza with the best ingredients." or "PMQ Pizzeria – We only use fresh veggies chopped daily and (Burke, Nick's Sausage, whatever you use) meat toppings!"

Telling customers what you do to bring them a great-tasting product drives home the idea that they are not getting an ordinary pizza from an average pizzeria, it tells them they are getting an extraordinary pizza from an above average pizzeria. If you use more cheese than your average competitors pizza, plaster it on every box top, coupon and mail piece you have printed. If you make your sauce, let customers know it didn't come from a can. If it did come from a can, let them know if it's fresh-packed from the vine to the can in just a few hours and not days later. If you chop your onions, green peppers, garlic or other veggies, don't hide this in the back of the store, showcase it on your menu or other printed material. Make the ordinary extraordinary.

All of this should sound familiar unless you have been on another planet and haven't heard about the big lawsuit concerning Papa John's slogan: "Better Ingredients – Better Pizza." These guys have made this company one of the top pizza companies in the country by taking what they do in the back of the store and making it a big deal. Whether their pizza does actually taste better is a matter of opinion, but the image they have produced is that because they cut fresh toppings the pizza tastes better. It's a big enough deal that Pizza Hut felt it would sway consumers, regardless of whether it's fact or not, and filed lawsuit to stop the use of the slogan. Promoting something you already do can make a difference.

When it comes to meats, let customers know who makes your toppings. Just mentioning the name of the manufacturer on the menu, on a table tent or at the register gives customers the impression that it must be great or above average if you're bragging about it. This brings up another point, talk to the manufacturer and see if there are some co-op opportunities for promoting their products on your printed material. This could help pay for the printing.

Obviously, this isn't as effective if your toppings aren't fresh and come frozen or in a can, but even then there are ways to make them more appealing. As mentioned before, if you use a fresh-pack product, let customers know about it. If your pineapple was picked and shipped fresh, let customers know your pineapple was basking in the Hawaiian sun less than a week ago.

How do you let them know? There are several great ways to do this. One way is to dedicate a page on the menu to explaining what fresh-packed is and how it works. If the tomatoes are vine-ripened, tell them where they are grown, how they are harvested and packed. If your mushrooms are fresh, tell them about the company that grows them followed by something like, "They are so fresh you'll thing we grow them in the basement." Put this, along with your stores history on the back of the menu. It makes customers feel you have nothing to hide about your restaurant or the ingredients you use.

If you don't want to use a page of your menu simply have it printed up all nice and neat with pictures, have it framed and hang it on the wall. Call the manufacturer and they will gladly get you some artwork of their products to use. They may even have something already printed you can get framed. The more customers know about your products and ingredients, the better they feel about their choice. You just reinforced the idea that they came to the right pizza joint.

Now that they have the information about the product and company, put the product in their mouths. This is easily done by putting out some small disposable ramekins or plastic cups and toothpicks with samples of your toppings for them to try. All it takes is a small cup of cut up pepperoni, pineapple, olives, mushrooms or other toppings. Have the person taking the order tell customers a little about a topping they didn't order and have them try a small bite. (How many times have you had to tell someone what an anchovy tastes like?) Just the taste of a good olive or piece of good Canadian bacon can get the juices in their mouths flowing then, "Hey, can you add olives to that order?" Get the picture.

This is a great thing to use in conjunction with other topping promotions. Promotional ideas can include: Mushroom Monday, I love Olives, Sausage Sundays or any free topping day each week. Let the waitstaff give a sample on a toothpick to customers when taking the order to help boost the topping sales. If you have any local celebrities, such as athletes, find out what their favorite pizza combination is and use it as a special when they play or on a certain day of the week.

Other ideas for boosting topping sales, or sales through toppings, is to look at what toppings cost the least. You are charging the same for additional toppings whether its pepperoni or onions, so choose the one that cost the least and offer it free with an order of another topping. This will help expose customers to new combinations. Another way to boost sales is to offer a cash bonus for additional sales of a special topping. If you normally sell (insert whatever your monthly average is here) pounds of any particular topping, offer an incentive if your employees top that by a certain percent.

Every additional topping sold on each order adds to your bottom line. Instead of getting more people to come in, try focusing on selling more to the customers you already have. Every topping, and the manufacturer of the topping, has a story. Let customers know what it is and make them feel like your suppliers are not ordinary, but special.

This makes your pizza special, but they have to hear or see something about a mushroom, olive, onion, pepperoni or other topping before it can be special. You can create some type of criteria for what hamburger has to be, such as ground chuck, before you will use it then say, "We only use so-and-so's beef topping." Now it's special. Let customers try samples and have employees use suggestive selling techniques. Hey, how many of you would actually order fries or an apple pie if the McEmployee hadn't suggested it?

These are the best selling toppings for Papa John's (in order)

  1. Pepperoni
  2. Cheese
  3. Sausage
  4. Mushrooms
  5. Ham
  6. Onions
  7. Beef
  8. Pineapple
  9. Black Olives
  10. Green Peppers

These are the best selling toppings for Domino's with pounds sold

  1. Cheese 146,182,343 lbs.
  2. Pepperoni 25,530,130 lbs.
  3. Sausage 12,948,867 lbs.
  4. Mushrooms 9,986,640 lbs.
  5. Ham 7,194,621 lbs.
  6. Onions 4,056,883 lbs.
  7. Green Peppers 3,549,767 lbs.
  8. Bacon 2,304,798 lbs.

Based on an AOL survey, consumers reported these as their favorite toppings

Topping votes

  1. Pepperoni 3909
  2. Extra Cheese 2121
  3. Sausage 1487
  4. Pineapple 658
  5. Canadian Bacon 604
  6. Onions 584
  7. Olives 542
  8. Green Peppers 398
  9. Chicken 382
  10. Tomato Slices 370
  11. Spinach 302
  12. Garlic 298
  13. Anchovies 215
  14. Eggplant 153
  15. Broccoli 151
  16. Shrimp 146
  17. Potatoes 25

Total votes 12,345

Ideas for Daily Toppings Specials

Monday Mushroom Monday Free mushrooms with any order
Monday Madness Buy one get one free toppings
Tuesday Fat Tuesday All meat topping pizza specials
Tater Tuesday Free potato topping with any order
Wednesday Hawaiian Hump Day Specials on pineapple and ham
Thursday Tomato Thursday Free tomato slices with any order
Friday Fishy Friday Free anchovies with any order
Saturday Sausage Saturday Sausage pizza specials
Sunday Shrimp Sunday Shrimp pizza specials
Saucy Sunday Free extra sauce with topping order