How to Play the Video Game

Joey Karvelas of Karvelas Pizza Co. has mastered the art of leveraging good, old-fashioned moving pictures to market his pizzerias.

  • Joey Karvelas of Karvelas Pizza Co. uses video marketing to help customers get acquainted with his menu and his staff.
  • “These videos become commercials people don’t want to skip,” Karvelas explains.

Related: How to advertise your pizzeria affordably on YouTube

By Brian Hernandez

They say a picture is worth a thousand words, which begs the question: How many words is a video worth? Well, more than my editor will allow in this article, but I’ll give it my best shot. 

The typical American pizzeria has changed very little over the years. Of course, pizzerias have conceived of and implemented new tools and techniques along the way, but the basic building blocks have been the same: ovens, flour, cheese, sauce and satisfied customers. There has been one notable change for modern pizzerias: marketing with new media. 

First came newspapers, then radio, TV, and finally the internet. Whereas we used to have to pay for an ad and hope our customers saw it, now pizzaioli can get that sort of targeted visibility for free, at the customer’s convenience, thanks to social media. From Instagram to YouTube, Joey Karvelas, a U.S. Pizza Team member and owner of several Karvelas Pizza Co. locations in eastern Georgia, has figured out how to achieve market dominance using social media platforms and good, old-fashioned moving pictures.

PMQ: How did you get started doing videos?

Karvelas: When I started doing the marketing for the business, on day one we created a Facebook page. It got 350 [followers] the first day and was very exciting to me at first, but I soon figured out that I hate typing. I finally said, “Forget this, I’m just going to do a short video and tell them what I want them to hear and show them what I want them to see.” It was just easier for me. I started seeing videos by other business owners, and in my true pizzaioli spirit, I thought, “I could do that better.” It just evolved from there into doing different video series over time.

PMQ: Tell us about some of these video series.

Karvelas: We just ended a series called “Wingin’ It.” It focused on all of our wing flavors and homemade sauces, how they taste and our inspiration behind the flavor. It also showed how to pair them with local beers, so our customer knows what type of beer they want with their wings before they even arrive, even if it’s their first time. There was “Catching Up With Karvelas,” our first series, and “Eat Like a Boss.” We also do a news-style show called “The Daily Slice,” and we’re starting another called “The Karvelas Experience,” which focuses on our staff from the customer’s point of view. I also do one from home called “Backyard BBQ.”

PMQ: Which do you think is more beneficial—a series or standalone videos?

Karvelas: There’s room for all. You still want to get your pictures and text posts out there, but video opens that creativity up more. For us, doing different shows allows us to document or highlight various parts of the business, be it food, staff or just the ambience of Karvelas. You can still do the stand-alone videos if you feel inspired by something, but recurring series create some anticipation in your viewers/customers. We are planning to put these shows on TV sets in all of the locations, running on a loop. Yes, we will still have the games on, but this will also be on, giving the customers something to talk about during their meal or something to look for online after. 

PMQ: Where do you get inspiration for your shows?

Karvelas: From anybody and everybody. My partners and I come up with most of the ideas, but we take suggestions from staffers and even customers. I do wish more customers would suggest ideas of what they want to see. We have done shows that didn’t work, but you never know until you try.

Related: 7 simple YouTube content ideas for pizzeria owners and operators

PMQ: How do you market your videos?

Karvelas: Every Monday morning, we have a marketing meeting and review videos from the week before. We have a budget for videos, which is usually a percentage of a store’s sales. I’ll apply that to how many videos we can make that month in that location or which videos I may want to target to a specific audience or boost with ads. We still do a lot of free, organic marketing using these shows and videos, but I firmly believe you should put some money into that budgeting account every week.  

PMQ: Should you use these videos as hardcore commercials for your pizzeria or keep them light and fun?

Karvelas: We try not to be too solicitous, but, for the big chains, that’s their whole marketing plan. Our approach is more content-focused, documenting what we’re doing for the customer and allowing them to get to know us on a personal level. It makes them want to come see us. These videos become commercials people don’t want to skip. A funny side effect of these videos is that a lot of young people are seeing them and how much fun we’re having and then want to come work for us. They inadvertently turned into recruiting tools, which is especially helpful in today’s job market. People are not as eager to do the work anymore. These videos can help glamorize that work to possible applicants. 

PMQ: How big of a team do you need to start producing quality videos?

Karvelas: I think that is up to each person. Start off with some short cell phone videos, but don’t just post them—watch them too. You’re not watching for likes or anything else; you’re watching to see how you can improve your video and pictures. The more comfortable you become with it, the more time you can devote to doing it. I started by editing cell phone videos with an editing app and eventually grew it out from there. A solid content team could be yourself, a camera operator, sound tech and editor. We also use a scheduling software that we upload all our content to. This allows us to schedule certain videos to go out at certain times across all of our social media. The size of your team can depend on the type of content you want to put out, but great content can be created with as many or as few people as you want. 

PMQ: You keep most of your series to 11 episodes. Why?

Karvelas: I like to be creative and try new videos. “The Daily Slice” has been weekly for 72 weeks, but the videos we post on Friday is where we just like to have fun and keep it fresh for the customer. But if a customer calls me up and says, “I really miss ‘Catching Up With Karvelas,’” of course we’d bring it back.

PMQ: What are the best platforms to post on, and should the content be tailored for different platforms?

Karvelas: I’m really liking Instagram right now. It’s been growing really fast, and you can reach more people with your boosts. We have gotten into Reels on Instagram as well. I recently posted a short video there about sliders, and it got 11,000 organic views in one hour. When people see these Reels, it also shows them a page of all your other videos, leading them to inevitably need to get some of your pizza.

Facebook is still good for some things, but its reach is not very organic right now—for me, at least—which leads to having to purchase boosts. I know a lot of younger customers are using Instagram to find or research restaurants. If they go to your page and see a lot of clear, colorful, in-focus, mouthwatering food pics or videos, they are more inclined to visit. I know I am using it that way myself a lot more. Word-of-mouth is and will always be the most powerful tool any restaurant has, but with videos and social media, that word-of-mouth has become more powerful and almost instantaneous. You’re hearing about a place one day, looking up its Instagram page the next day, and eating there on the third. Instagram really seems like it was made for both food makers and lovers.  

Brian Hernandez is PMQ’s test chef and coordinator of the U.S. Pizza Team. To see the full interview with Joey Karvelas, visit PMQ.com/karvelas-media.