Long before the rapper Xzibit began transforming ordinary Plymouths and Toyotas into tricked-out blingmobiles on MTV’s hit show Pimp My Ride, pizzeria operators had been using delivery cars as attention-grabbing billboards on wheels. Today, car signage is more popular—and more successful—than ever. After all, your delivery vehicles stay on the road most of the time—why not use them to your advantage? And, because the vehicles are an extension of your business, it pays to get creative with your signage and make customers—and potential customers—take notice.
If your drivers use their own cars for deliveries, toppers or magnetic signs are imperative in promoting your brand on the road. But if you can afford to provide vehicles to your drivers, you will be limited only by your imagination. You can have an entire automobile custom-painted or purchase unusual-looking vehicles that passersby can’t overlook. The most important function of your vehicle signage, though, is to reinforce your pizzeria’s brand and logo so that they stick in customers’ minds. Additionally, prominent signage puts your patrons at ease, showing that the vehicle that just pulled into their driveway is indeed a pizza delivery person and not a potentially menacing stranger.
Mark Fischer, owner of Sy’s New York Pizza in Eugene, Oregon, painted his restaurant’s smart cars to match the school colors of North Eugene High School and the University of Oregon.
Of course, not every pizzeria operator can afford his own fleet of custom-designed vehicles. For delivery drivers who use their own cars, you can employ removable signage that is easy to put on and take off at shift changes. A lighted car topper or a window-mounted sign makes delivery cars stand out and usually costs less than $200. These signs can be custom-designed with your logo, phone number and website, and they’re made of material that won’t scratch the car. If you go this route, investing in sign locks can help eliminate the all-too-common problem of signage theft. Sign locks have hanging cords with balls at the ends, which are closed into the car when the door is shut.Some pizzerias, such as the green-themed Galactic Pizza (galacticpizza.com) in Minneapolis, command attention both through car design—their tiny, logoed vehicles run on 100% electricity and are built for one person—and an eye-catching, amusing concept that puts delivery personnel in superhero costumes. “In the most simple terms, every brand—every design of any kind—is an invitation,” notes Jeff Johnson, owner and founder of Spunk Design Machine, which designed Galactic Pizza’s trademark green vehicle and collaborates on vehicle branding with other food and beverage operations. “We are trying to invite someone to our table. For Galactic, it is very clearly an invitation to the people who are passionate about sustainable, healthy and adventurous lifestyles. Those are the people that thrive at the Galactic table.”
Magnetic signs are another easy—and easily removable—way to identify your delivery vehicles. Visibility at night is a definite plus for your delivery vehicles and, in lieu of a lighted car topper, a lighted magnetic sign makes a good alternative. Regular magnets can run as little as $25, with reflective magnets costing, on average, less than $40. If you choose magnetic signs, it’s wise to invest in a type that boasts reflective lettering; since many, if not most, of your deliveries likely take place at night, a regular magnet will do only part of the job.
Meanwhile, vehicle wraps can give the appearance of a custom paint job but can also be removed. Wraps are vinyl decals custom-designed for a vehicle and can feature your chosen artwork. However, wraps aren’t practical for employee cars, as their application and removal takes time and effort. You can leave a wrap on a car for up to five years, depending on its quality as well as local road and environmental conditions. Wraps can cost from a few hundred dollars for a partial wrap to more than $2,000 for a full wrap on a large truck or van. If you aren’t ready to custom-paint your vehicle, a wrap looks like a paint job without the commitment.
The latest trend in delivery signage is full-car design, from custom paint jobs on a fleet to unique vehicles that will get noticed by passersby. The Fresh Brothers (freshbrothers.com) chain, which is headquartered in
Traits of Effective Signage
According to the Outdoor Advertising Association of America, one vehicle wrap can generate between 30,000 and 70,000 impressions daily. Wraps and toppers are purchased for a one-time cost and keep producing results for years, as opposed to a print ad that must be paid for week after week, month after month. To create the perfect car sign, keep the following factors in mind:
Keep it simple. In many cases, potential customers will catch only a glimpse of your vehicle’s sign, so complex messages won’t register in their minds. Instead, simply display your pizzeria’s logo with your phone number, website and any other vital information, such as, perhaps, a very short tagline.
Visibility is crucial. You’ll want your car topper or wrap to stand out even at a distance, so make sure to use large lettering and bright colors. A lighted sign ensures visibility at night.
Choose the right design. A lousy or dull sign will look just as lousy or dull on the side of a car as it does on your building’s exterior. Choose sharp, bold colors and images that both convey your brand and make people hungry.
Manhattan Beach, California, uses the image of a smiling pepperoni pizza face on all of its billboards, advertisements and direct mailing. So, when it came time to design its delivery vehicles, the company took advantage of this familiar icon. “We want people to smile at the image, and then their eye goes to our logo. Quick branding identification is important,” says owner Debbie Goldberg.
Fresh Brothers uses its distribution trucks and vans as rolling billboards. Each is custom-painted with the eye-catching pizza face and logo and an appealing phrase, such as “Have a nice lunch,” or a list of the chain’s locations. “Our vehicles are constantly on the road, traveling several hundred miles a week, going back and forth to each of our eight locations,” Goldberg says. “They allow us to educate and entertain consumers about our company in a quick and fun way.”
Daddio’s Pizzeria (daddios.ca), located in Grand Prairie, Alberta, Canada, uses unique right-hand-drive delivery vans imported from Japan. The unusual vehicles not only advertise his store and attract attention; they also make it safe and handy for his drivers to exit the vans on the curbside. “I chose to go with simple signage rather than a wrap because the uniqueness of the vehicle is the attention-getter,” says owner Richard Ames. “I had success with a simple billboard sign with the same basic format, so it was an easy transition to the vehicles.”
The use of reflective lettering is particularly important during long Canadian winters, Ames notes. “With sixteen hours of darkness on an average winter day, I felt the need to have my rolling billboards be as visible as possible. I’ve had customers tell me they have seen the vans from four blocks away in their headlights.”
For Ames, it has made good financial sense to buy his own delivery vehicles. “A regular billboard costs $275 per month if a one-year lease agreement is signed,” explains Ames. “The monthly van payment based on a three-year loan was slightly less, but it gave me a billboard that went to where my customers are, as opposed to a fixed location. Since I pay for delivery vehicles already, the choice to go with the vans was easy to make.”
Some pizzerias have taken a page from Galactic Pizza and begun using smart cars, which save on fuel and get attention on city streets. Mark Fischer, who owns Sy’s New York Pizza (sysnewyorkpizza.com) in Eugene, Oregon, has found that smart cars, emblazoned prominently with the Sy’s logo, are not only cost-efficient to operate, but also boost brand awareness in the community. To demonstrate community spirit, he even painted the vehicles to match the local school colors at North Eugene High School and the University of Oregon. “These cars generate a lot of attention wherever they go,” Fischer says. “Even though we have been in business for 34 years, we just recently started delivery, and many customers have learned that by seeing the cars on the street.”
Regardless of how “smart” it is, a unique vehicle or a vehicle with attention-grabbing signage will almost always generate buzz in the community, and this buzz can lead to new business, pizzeria operators say. “I stripped all manufacturers’ badges off the vans, so, when curiosity gets the better of someone, the only thing they’ll find is my contact information,” Ames says. “That contact usually ends up with an order being taken. I have friends and customers tell me quite often that my vans are the topic of conversation at their workplace or at a social gathering. These conversations often lead to orders for a business or party.”
“Most people ask a lot of questions concerning the size of the car and what it will hold,” Fischer adds. “We have had customers tell us they have seen the car and ordered pizza because of that.” As for how much food his cars will hold, Fischer says, “My largest delivery to date was 15 large 18” pizzas, but we could fit double that amount if needed.”
If your delivery vehicles put out a feel-good vibe to folks as they are driving down the road, they will want to patronize your store, Goldberg believes. After all, people who see that big, smiling Fresh Brothers pizza face can’t help but smile themselves. “I was driving one of our work vans to go to a meeting,” Goldberg recalls. “A gentleman driving a convertible pulled up next to the van and motioned for me to roll down the window. He then told me I was making him hungry and rubbed his belly! I laughed and said, ‘This van is doing its job!’”
Pizzeria operators who use their vehicles in social media marketing plans get even more bang for the buck. “I have run promotions on Facebook where customers get a free pizza for taking a picture of the vans while they are out on the road and posting them on our page,” shares Ames.
Goldberg gets similar results without even running a promotion. Fresh Brothers’ trucks are designed to make people want to share the good feeling, and it works. “We have customers who will post shots of our vans that they’ve spotted in different areas on our Facebook page,” says Goldberg.
Every time an employee hits the road to make a delivery, that person is spreading the word about your pizzeria. Operators should think carefully—and creatively—to take full advantage of this opportunity and achieve maximum and lasting impact.