- Review your menu from a new customer’s perspective and ensure there’s nothing frustrating or confusing about it.
- Foster a sense of community at your pizzeria by creating a genuinely warm, authentic and comfortable experience.
By Jolee Sullivan
Running a pizza restaurant takes tons of hard work and know-how every single day. If your restaurant is doing well, that’s a major accomplishment—congrats! However, as any business owner knows, there’s always room for growth.
Have you ever eaten at a restaurant or even spent time at a business that left you feeling wowed? A place that seemed to have truly pulled out all the stops, exceeded your expectations and surprised you with the outstanding experience it provided? As a restaurant owner, you are fully capable of making all of your customers feel this way. Some assessment, planning and a few useful tools are all you need to take your pizzeria from good to great and beyond.
Offer Quality Food and Menus
A menu is a restaurant’s No. 1 sales tool. It’s what customers primarily know you for and how you bring in profits. As such, a killer menu is one key that unlocks the door to restaurant greatness.
Competition is everywhere, and it’s likely that there’s a restaurant nearby that sells food similar to yours. Unique dishes and flavors are important, but when competitors sell similar items, it’s the quality of your food that matters.
Moreover, viewing your menu is almost always the first interaction that customers have with your restaurant. A menu doesn’t simply tell customers what kind of food they’ll be able to get; a good restaurant menu portrays a unique brand, is designed to boost sales, and can be an excellent tool for a great customer experience overall.
Related: How beer and wine sales could save your pizzeria in 2023
Building a Better Pizzeria Menu
To create a menu that makes customers happy and helps your restaurant stand out, you should start with design. Use a simple, easy-to-navigate layout with easy-to-read text that promotes your brand persona. The menu should include:
- Mouthwatering photos of the food
- Prices of all menu items
- Highlighted vegetarian, vegan and gluten-free options
- Optional substitutions
- Allergen warnings when applicable
You’ve looked at your menu a thousand times and know it inside and out. But this isn’t the case for many of your customers, especially new ones. So it’s important to read your menu from a new customer’s perspective and ensure that nothing is frustrating or confusing.
Aside from your menu layout, its contents are important, too. Come out with weekly dinner specials, seasonal items or holiday discounts/specials to keep things exciting for guests. While you don’t want to remove popular dishes, it’s a good idea to update your menu periodically with new recipes, trendy dishes or diet-friendly options.
Creating an effective, quality menu layout is simple if you work with free menu templates, whether you’re creating physical takeout menus or mobile-friendly menus. Pasting scannable QR codes inside and outside your restaurant can also help make menus easily accessible to more people. Add QR codes to your direct-mail pieces as well.
Provide Top-Tier Service
The quality of your restaurant’s customer service should always be on your radar. If your food is incredible but your service stinks, it’s something customers will take into account when deciding between you and a competitor. Don’t waste the effort you’ve put into creating a great menu only to lose customers over bad service.
People visit restaurants for more than just their food; they want to have a special experience. As a restaurant owner, you’ve got to know how to provide a top-notch experience that will leave customers happy and itching to return. Creating an environment in which customers feel welcomed, valued and cared for starts with customer service.
How to Improve Your Pizzeria’s Service
It’s up to your staff to make guests feel welcome and comfortable. So hire strategically, not lazily. Investing in a solid, reliable team of employees who are both skilled and outgoing and who value your business is one of the most important ways you’ll spend your time and money as a restaurant owner. Show appreciation and empathy for your employees, and they will do the same for you.
Train all employees to maintain a welcoming, friendly attitude towards customers, whether they’re servers, busboys or kitchen staff. If you’ve ever dined somewhere and had your water glass refilled by a quiet, stone-faced busboy, you may not have thought about it too much. However, if the busboy takes the time to smile and ask you how you’re doing while filling your glass, it leaves a lasting, positive impression on the overall experience.
Related: Why “I know the owner” is a familiar refrain at O Sole Mio
When it comes to service, a little goes a long way. If you can afford it, hire a greeter to warmly welcome guests the instant they arrive at your place. Give out coloring books to children, offer free samples of new specials, surprise your regulars with complimentary desserts, ask diners directly what they think of their food and shake their hands.
Providing service that is both efficient and friendly can be difficult, especially on busier nights or low-staffed days. Utilizing staff scheduling platforms can help you stay organized and plan ahead, while tools like online ordering forms, third-party delivery services, and QR code payment options can make the customer experience more efficient and seamless.
Build a Sense of Community
Think about the restaurants you frequent or the ones you think are great. We’ll bet there’s at least one employee who knows you by name or maybe you know some of the staff by name. When your restaurant makes its customers feel like part of a community, you begin to build a loyal following that others want to join. And having a loyal group of regular customers—rather than only new, non-returning customers—is ideal for profits and good for publicity.
Additionally, when people in your community are loyal to your restaurant, you stand out from competitors in the area who can’t provide a truly unique experience. Likewise, having connections in the area can open doors, whether you partner on cross-promotions with a neighboring restaurant, microbrewery or other local businesses, sponsor a nonprofit organization, or land an impressive catering account with a local company.
How to Create a True Community
Building a sense of community within your restaurant and establishing yourself as a local favorite starts with customer service. Don’t just give service with a smile. Give service that feels special. When you and your staff genuinely value and care about your customers, the customers know it.
One way to show appreciation (and, in turn, garner loyalty) for returning customers is with loyalty programs. Offer points so that for every 10 pizzas someone purchases, they get a freebie. Hand out coupons to customers who dine on slower days, offer discounts for those who leave reviews or check in on social media, or promote a customer-of-the-month series. Get creative and do what works for your community.
Using social media can help foster a sense of community with your customers and followers, and it’s a great way for outsiders to peer in and feel the urge to belong. Reshare anything that customers tag you in online, post photos of staff and customers, respond to comments, and conduct fun contests or giveaways.
Jolee Sullivan is a New York-based freelance writer and content specialist who’s passionate about culinary creativity and great restaurants. She writes for a slew of food-related media outlets, including Cozymeal and Tasting Table, combining her background in the restaurant industry and her education in literature to make content that fun-loving foodies like herself can devour.