Turn a slow night into a moneymaker with these 5 promotional ideas

Some days—and nights—are slower than others. For most pizzeria owners, this is just a given, but innovative operators look for ways to transform slow nights into moneymakers or, at the very least, to create fundraising opportunities that endear them to the community and generate buzz. We checked around and came up with these five great pizza promotional ideas that can help you build business on a slow day:

1. Partnering with Local Schools

Pizza Zone is known around Spring, Texas, for its off-the-wall promos that emphasize good causes with a sense of fun and even a little silliness. Co-owner Debbie Gainor, a.k.a., the Pizza Lady, has been known to don a pizza slice costume and visit local elementary schools to promote Pizza Nights to the kiddies. For Pizza Nights, the pizzeria devotes certain nights of the month to raising funds for local school groups and provides branded flyers and stickers to be passed out to the kids and their parents. Gainor often shows up at the school as the Pizza Lady to help promote the fundraisers, hanging out in the parking lot at pickup time to ensure maximum exposure. Pizza Zone also has hosted offbeat promos such as Penguin Awareness Day (in which customers who show up in black and white attire receive food discounts), Comic Book Day (free comics to the kiddies), Chocolate Chip Cookie Day (free cookies with every order) and Book Lovers Day (free Pizza Zone-branded bookmarks).

2. It’s Your Day

Every day’s a good day for some lucky customer at Flying Pie in Boise, Idaho, especially if you’ve got a fairly unusual name. The daily promotion, called “It’s Your Day,” revolves around a certain name, such as Greta, Mitsuko or Juniper (just to take a few recent examples). Any customer with that name gets to come into the Flying Pie kitchen and make his own 10” specialty pizza for free. I.D. is required, of course, and customers can only get access to the kitchen at specific times of the day. Customers can even sign up to be notified by email when their names are coming up on the list!

3. It’s Your Wednesday

In honor of hump day, Flying Pie takes the “It’s Your Day” theme a little further, creating “It’s Your Wednesday.” In this weekly promotion, the free pizza-making opportunity goes to guests who come in and show off a specific skill, such as yodeling, tap dancing and magic tricks. In other cases, the promo honors customers with unusual traits, such as free pizza for anyone over 6’6.

4. Cruise Nights

Tuesday nights are Cruise Nights at Fricano's Pizza in Comstock Park, Michigan, and we're not talking about Tom Cruise. In this summer-long promotion, Fricano's invites automobile enthusiasts to show off their classic cars, win door prizes and enjoy free soft drinks with their pizzas. The event draws an average of 180 cars each week, from Corvettes and Mustangs to souped-up hot rods and antique Ford and Chevy pick-ups.

5. Society Sundays

Pizzeria Piccola, located in Wauwatosa, Wisconsin, turns over the keys to local nonprofit organizations, schools and other community groups at least twice a month for Society Sundays. The groups are responsible for marketing the event to their audiences and provide front-of-the-house staff for the events (although Pizzeria Piccola uses its own cooks). In exchange, 10% of the night’s profits and 100% of the tips go to the participating organization. Take-and-bake orders are recommended for customers who are unable to dine in, and coupons are not accepted during the promotion. Recent participants have included the Milwaukee Lutheran High School, Tosa West Choir, Faith Bible Church, the West Suburban YMCA and the Mt. Mary Fashion Association.