To market your pizzeria in challenging times, you have to start putting yourself out there.

I’ve said this a lot lately—to anyone at the PMQ office who will listen to me (admittedly, a short list)—and I’ll keep saying it: Katie Collier, owner of Katie’s Pizza & Pasta Osteria in St. Louis and this month’s cover subject (“Katie’s Kitchen,” page 34), does pretty much everything right in the marketing of her restaurant. I say “pretty much” because, who knows, maybe I missed something. But if I had to name a young restaurateur who has mastered pizzeria marketing in the digital era, Collier would top the list.

Collier puts her money where her marketing is, from online cooking videos with network TV-level production values to an outstanding website and social media presence that pull you in with gorgeous food photography. I didn’t ask about her marketing budget, but it’s likely substantial—and that investment pays big dividends. All too often, single-unit operators tell me they rely mostly on word-of-mouth for marketing and then complain, off the record, about how difficult it is to build up slow nights and keep the lights on during the dreary winter months. Year-round, Katie’s Pizza & Pasta Osteria serves 500 people on a typical weekday and upwards of 1,000 on a Friday or Saturday (not to mention a brisk carryout business). And that’s in part because Collier knows word-of-mouth is never enough.

Her personal story—she grew up bussing tables and washing dishes before falling in love with Italian cuisine during a visit to Florence—is fairly typical. But it feels extraordinary when Collier tells it because she sells herself in every customer interaction, every video, every TV appearance, not just with her winning personality and easy laugh—which make her approachable—but with her strength of character, passion for cooking and depth of culinary knowledge.

“The more you put yourself out there and tell your story, people will notice you,” Collier says. “Because not everybody does that. A lot of people just focus on their restaurant and stay inside, and they’re cooking all day and night and forgetting about the big picture. You have to get yourself out there in all types of ways, and opportunities will come.”

I wish more restaurateurs thought like that. Like I said, Katie Collier does pretty much everything right.

Rick Hynum
PMQ Editor-in-Chief