Unique promotional giveaway items can heighten your pizzeria's visibility for a minimal cost.

If you’re doing your job well, the merest mention of your pizzeria’s name or a glimpse of your logo likely has a Pavlovian effect—the customer’s mouth begins to water, an irresistible craving for your pizza kicks in, and, suddenly, he knows exactly what he wants for dinner. The only problem is, most of your customers may go all day long—or all week long—without hearing or seeing your restaurant’s name. Fortunately, there’s a simple and cost-effective technique for maintaining top-of-mind awareness with pizza lovers: promotional giveaway items that bear your restaurant’s logo, phone number and other key information.

These branded products can work wonders for your store’s visibility and create repeatable brand exposure opportunities. And the more useful the items are, the better.

Pizza-Themed Swag

Logoed hats, T-shirts, key chains, stadium cups, refrigerator magnets and pens rank among the most popular promotional freebies for restaurants. But there are other unique, pizza-related giveaway items that can provide considerable marketing impact for your restaurant. These include:

Pizza cutters. Have your logo imprinted on the handle or purchase a bunch of cutters from a local dollar store and tie a logoed bow around the handle.

Miniature rolling pins. Several suppliers carry this type of rolling pin. Simply add your restaurant’s logo, website URL and phone number for delivery, and whenever customers think of pizza, they’ll think of you!

Cutting boards. A cutting board is an item that many customers will use every day in their kitchens. Inexpensive wooden or plastic boards can be purchased online or at most dollar stores.

Red pepper and Parmesan shakers. These shakers, which are relatively inexpensive, make great gifts for loyal customers during the holidays. Simply fill them with red pepper and Parmesan cheese and tie a ribbon around the top with a small card that says “Thank you for being our guest.” Your customers will appreciate the usefulness of these little gifts.

The Gift of Functionality

Most giveaway items serve some function or another, but the ones that have everyday uses at home or in the workplace often deliver the best results. Examples include:

Tote bags. Give a customer a tote bag bearing your logo, and it will often go where he goes—to the shopping mall, the supermarket, after-work softball games, even on out-of-town trips—and your company logo will get viewed by all of the people that customer encounters along the way. Thus, large numbers of prospective guests will be constantly reminded of your restaurant—all for the cost of one inexpensive little tote bag.

Notepads. Notepads are another cost-effective—and extremely useful—item. A logoed notepad will prove useful for both work-related and personal business. Whenever your customer makes a grocery list, takes notes in a meeting or simply scribbles down a little reminder note and affixes it to his computer screen or refrigerator, your 
pizzeria’s information gets front-and-center placement. And the design doesn’t have to be complicated to be effective; just make sure it always features your logo, address, phone number and website.

Magnets. Inexpensive and easy to customize, a quality magnet can last for years. Anyone who owns a refrigerator or a car will find a use for your magnet. Again, just make sure that it provides your pizzeria’s name, logo, phone number, address and website.

In addition to the freebies listed above, look for unique items that will serve as conversation starters. Imagine how potential customers would react if a co-worker pulled a miniature rolling pin—bearing your pizzeria’s logo—out of her purse. A pen in the shape of a pizza slice would also draw attention and create a lasting impression. Is your restaurant located in an area known for its harsh winters? What about a logoed ice scraper? That customer will see your logo—and think about your pizza—
every morning before driving to work!

Spreading the Wealth

Your promotional items exist to be given away, so how do you get them in customers’ hands and make sure they see the light of day as often as possible? For starters, you could offer logoed T-shirts, hats, mugs and other items as prizes for a weekly or daily trivia contest, held online or in the store. This approach allows you to turn Facebook fans into brand ambassadors. But that’s just one idea. Here are some others:

Show your gratitude. Send a few promotional items—such as T-shirts, refrigerator magnets or key chains—along with every large to-go order, accompanied by a thank-you note. Your customers will love the freebies and will feel appreciated in the bargain—and that means they’ll be more likely to wear or use these items.

Turn on the radio. Tried-and-true, old-school techniques can still reap big dividends. Imagine, if you will, taking four extra-large pizzas and 10 logoed T-shirts to your favorite DJ at a local radio station just in time for lunch. The grateful DJ will very likely brag about your pizza on the air and give away the T-shirts to callers for the remainder of his shift.

Canvas the campus. One terrific way to get your promotional items into the hands of college students is to host a homecoming event and give out megaphones designed with the school’s colors and, of course, your pizzeria’s logo. Finals week also offers a great opportunity to host a contest and give away your promotional items as prizes. College students love beer koozies, for example, and will use them for months or even years to come. You can also host a pizza eating contest for sororities and fraternities, awarding your T-shirts to the winning teams. Make sure to provide these Greek groups with promotional flyers that can be passed out to their friends to ensure maximum turnout.

Show your true colors. Kids love to color! Fortunately, coloring sheets are inexpensive and can brighten any child’s day. The seven-unit Red Boy Pizza chain (redboypizza.com), headquartered in San Rafael, California, held a Tomato Festival recently and, while spotlighting its Margherita pizza with fresh tomatoes, also introduced a new coloring sheet. The sheet taught kids about tomatoes and allowed them to color in a small tomato plant. The kids loved it, and one of the franchisees even held an art contest, placing the children’s finished pieces on the wall. (Most pizzeria operators use the same coloring sheets for years and years. I recommend changing these sheets regularly. Between the low costs of black-and-white printing and all of the clip art and illustrations available for free on the Internet, you can create new coloring sheets each month without paying a fortune.)

Create a kid’s tour. Invite a class from your local elementary school to tour your pizza restaurant. Teach the kids how to make their own pizzas, let them try their skills with dough balls and serve them pies before they leave. At the end of the tour, give each child a miniature rolling pin and tie a coupon for a free kids pizza to the pin. The child will be sure to remember your restaurant and will come back again with the entire family.

With the proper design, slogan and execution, giveaway T-shirts and caps can become the latest fashion rage on a college or high school campus. Even if that doesn’t happen, logoed merchandise of all types provide high visibility for your pizzeria and serve as free advertising to the customers who own the products as well as to their friends, co-workers and even passersby. It’s nearly always money well-spent and, when freebies are used wisely as part of a broader, carefully planned marketing campaign, even the smallest pizzeria won’t stay small for long!

Linda Duke is the CEO of Duke Marketing and author of Recipes for Restaurateurs 
(marketing-cookbook.com), a “cookbook” of marketing ideas for restaurant owners. She publishes a quarterly industry resource, Restaurant Marketing Magazine, and an educational program, LSM-U, Local Store Marketing University. Find out more at dukemarketing.com.