Seen around town

It’s no secret that you need customers to make money, and one of the easiest ways to get your name out in front of the masses is through logo merchandising with items such as T-shirts, hats, sweatshirts and jackets. Even something as simple as a key chain is a constant reminder to customers that you’re there and ready to take their orders when they’re in the mood for pizza.

Choices, Choices, Choices

When trying to decide which promotional items to purchase, think about how much you can afford up-front and what kind of exposure you want to garner. 

T-shirts are one of the most popular promotional items. They’re universally appealing and almost guaranteed to get a fair amount of exposure, whether your customer wears it to the gym, the store, the mall or any other high-traffic area.

Logo T-shirts have helped bring increased visibility to Nick’s Pizzeria (www.nicksgrantville.com) in Grantville, Georgia, according to owner Nick Sasso. “Children who won our shirts in various contests wear them to school and are excited to wear them,” says Sasso. “They really help talk us up.” In addition, the logo shirts are used for staff uniforms, and Sasso says they really help provide a sense of cohesion. “Our shirts match the sign out front, and the logo on our boxes, menus, postcards and website,” he says. “People know our brand when they see it, and the Tshirts have played a part in that.”

Brad Neugart, who owns Marnanteli’s Pizza in Cold Spring, Minnesota, and Teli’s Pizza & Grill in St. Joseph, Minnesota, with his wife, says that they’ve spent more than $25,000 promoting their brand through the use of logo merchandise such as T-shirts, sweatshirts, shorts, sweatpants, golf caps, stocking caps and more. “We firmly believe that name recognition, via visual imprints, spawns additional business,” he says. “We opened the Teli’s location only six months ago, but I went into the bar next door to talk to the manager, and about 20 college kids started chanting ‘Team Teli’s, Team Teli’s, Team Teli’s!’ I’m a believer.” Neugart adds that they give everyone on staff five logo T-shirts and hats each and replace them free when they wear out (staff members are asked to participate in new designs and color changes). 

La Nova Pizzeria and Wing Company (www.lanova.com) in Buffalo, New York, has been selling and giving away logo merchandise for decades. “My dad, ‘Big Joe,’ started the giveaways back in the ’70s,” says owner Joey Todaro. “Our T-shirts and hats have been spotted in Italy, China and Disney World, and at universities all over the country.” Todaro says that whenever someone from La Nova goes somewhere, they take 40 shirts to hand out, helping to spread the La Nova name around the country. 

Hats and jackets are a little pricier than Tshirts, but you can choose to sell these items rather than give them away. Most people don’t mind paying for logo merchandise if it’s stylish or if they’re visiting from out of town and want a memorable souvenir to take back home. 

At the beginning of each hunting season, Neugart gives out three to four dozen blaze orange logo caps. “I actually have guys come in and ask how many pizzas they have to buy to get a hat,” he says. “We may be overdoing it on the promotional aspect of giveaway logo apparel, but it seems we’ve built some fierce brand loyalty.”

Because jackets can be more expensive, some pizzerias save these for owners and employees. “We gave logo jackets to our employees at Christmas, and owners wear them as well,” says Denise Marasco, owner of Donte’s Pizzeria (www.dontespizzeria. com) in South Park, Pennsylvania. “They were a great investment for advertising!” 

Key chains don’t get the same billboard-type exposure that T-shirts, hats and jackets do, but they are seen every time a person pick up his keys to get in his car or home—and that offers a constant reminder of your business. “We give out key chains that are in the shape of a pizza and have our name and phone number, on them,” says Marasco. “They’re a huge hit! Kids have them on their backpacks, and parents use them to call ahead with their orders.”

Known for its popular Peel-a-Deal promotional items, Vision Marketing also offers key tags that can display a pizzeria’s logo and phone number, as well as specials or peelable coupons. “We try to offer practical items, like our memo boards that let customers keep daily notes while displaying specials and a writing surface,” says owner Ron Beverly. “Many pizzerias like to hand them out for holiday gifts to local college students.”

Pizza cutters seem like an obvious choice for a pizzeria. Frank Kingston Smith, vice president of Showline Promotional Products, says that some pizzerias have purchased the company’s mini pizza cutters and boxes for both resale and giveaways for pizza club members. “We’ve just added an option to insert a wheel-size coupon in with the cutter when packaging the wheel,” says Smith. “One pizzeria has chosen to make this a dollars-off coupon with the customer’s next purchase.” 

In an interesting twist, Smith says that Showline actually sells most of their pizza cutters to businesses that have nothing to do with pizza! “Pizza is a universal comfort food,” he says. “We’ve had banks, insurance companies, auto dealers, investment firms and even a tourist site purchase the pizza cutters. The themes are usually along the lines of: ‘Take a bigger slice of life,’ ‘Cut your car insurance premiums!’, ‘Let us cut you a deal on your new car!’, etc.”

Souvenir mugs and glasses are popular with those who want to offer special drink pricing and include the mug price in the price of the drink. You’ve seen this tactic done in many tourist bars; when people take a souvenir glass home, every time they drink out of it, they’ll think about pizza, and every time they pour a guest a drink in your logo glass, that guest will ask about your pizzeria!

Endless Options

The options are endless at any logo merchandise wholesaler website. All you need is some creativity and a logo. “Look up the word ‘pizza’ in our search tool online and you’ll find hundreds of items,” says Jay Cohen, president of LogoBuy. “We sell to more than 300 pizzerias nationwide. Probably the most popular  items bought by pizzeria operators are Tshirts, polo shirts, magnets, hats and balloons. We pride ourselves on offering the least expensive T-shirts in the industry.”

Kyle Markott, owner of Gio’s (www.giosny.com) in Miller Place, New York, agrees that endless options mean endless opportunities. “I think that the more items we can get our logo on and give out, the better,” he says. “We’ve been giving out Gio’s pens, sweatshirts, T-shirts, stickers, hats and candy wrapped with our logo since we opened two years ago. Our name and logo is all over town. I’ve been at the gym and seen our shirt; that advertising costs us nothing and is seen by hundreds of people!”

To Be Free or Not to Be Free

Each year for customer appreciation, Neugart gives away between 144 and 288 shirts. They also give kid’s sizes out at schools after doing presentations and showing them how to toss dough. “We give away a significant amount for golf and fishing tournaments, fundraisers, etc.,” he says. “At our location near the college, we give out 100 to 200 T-shirts at the beginning of each semester. It’s all about branding, and branding some more.”

Of course, it’s always going to be easier to give away a promotional item than to sell one, but in the beginning, it can be hard to justify spending money for logo merchandise. So think of the ways you can add a small cost to certain menu items using some creativity. Offer a free slice of pizza when customers buy a logo T-shirt, or a free large soda or beer when they purchase a logo glass. The ideas are endless; just remember all the money you’re saving on traditional advertising, and the cost of the logo merchandise will seem marginal.

Advice From a Friend

Sometimes it helps to get some tips from those who’ve been there. It’s easy to get excited about an idea and go overboard in the beginning, so it’s important to have a plan of action before you begin any promotional program. 

“Buy enough to get a price break, but don’t go too crazy and have your money sitting tied up in boxes of stuff that isn’t selling,” advises Sasso. “Make your pricing aggressive, too; sell just above cost to get things out into the street. Make some profit, but don’t get caught up trying to score on a shirt and not sell any.”

Marasco reminds fellow pizzeria owners to think of all the branding they see on a regular basis from other large companies and try to relate it to themselves. “The more that people see your name and associate it with your logo and colors, the more likely they are to remember you,” she says. 

“Make sure your logo stands out and you’re giving away T-shirts to people who are actually going to wear them,” says Todaro. “We make and give out orange logo shirts to construction workers, and they love them.” 

“If you’re not doing it, you’re missing the boat,” says Markott. “Think about how much you spend in advertising when you could simply give out some T-shirts or sweatshirts and the return is more. Who doesn’t like a free shirt?” 

Whatever your final decision may be, make sure you choose a quality product that represents your company and is worthy of your logo.

Liz Barrett is PMQ’s editor-in-chief.