Freddie Wehbe, operator of the Gator Domino's franchise in Gainesville, Fla., knows college marketing backwards and forwards. He has won numerous awards for his dedication to Domino's including three National Manager of the Year titles and four Gold Frannies.
These are Domino's highest honors. His campus store has posted weekly sales of over $40,000. He shares some of his best ideas for college marketing with PMQ.
Freddie began as a delivery driver when he was in college majoring in mechanical engineering. "I didn't decide on Domino's until after college. I pursued a degree as an undergraduate and a master's degree. I went to working in engineering and found working 9 to 5 very boring. I decided to go back to work at Domino's, first as a store manager and later opening my own stores."
Freddie became a manager at the Gainesville location, which is where the University of Florida's main campus is located, in 1995. He was a semi-partner, and in 1999 he bought his partner out. Since then he has grown his franchise to five locations with the fifth opening just a few weeks ago.
Knowing Customers – Especially Students
Freddie says that he has learned about marketing to college students through research. "I've analyzed that college students are not very loyal," he says. "There are a million things you have to look at. They are looking more for price. Students look at what you do not what you have. One way to show them what you do is to show involvement in student groups."
He says there are certain characteristics in college students to look for such as their likes and dislikes. "Students don't like multiple topping pizzas," he says. "They don't like to share. They would rather order a smaller pizza than share."
With the uproar lately over fast food causing obesity, Freddie says that students are leaning more toward healthier orders. "They are ordering salads and pizzas with vegetable toppings," Freddie says.
The University of Florida has an enrollment of about 48,000 students. Most of these students were in the top 10 percent of their high school classes. They come from affluent, upperclass families. According to Freddie, the students are from strong politically-involved, educated and community-involved backgrounds.
Freddie operates two stores on either side of the Florida campus. The other three stores are residential. Most of the students at the Florida campus live in off-campus apartments with about 8,000 living in residence halls and on-campus apartments. Freddie says the campus itself is not that big, but many students take online classes.
Smart Mail Marketing
One of the major ways Freddie targets students coming to Gainesville is a direct mail letter before they come to school. "We mail a letter addressed to the student back at home telling them about Gator Domino's and our commitment to the university, it's students and the community. This gives them an introduction to us," Freddie says. The University of Florida, being a public institution must provide addresses to anyone requesting them.
One of the more innovative ways Freddie has attracted students to his business is with the use of phone numbers. "We have easy to remember phone numbers such as 333-3333, FRE-BEER, 37-PIZZA and 36-PIZZA."
The franchise also strives to make the students feel important by offering them their own menu in the school paper. The menu gives students the option of having a complete meal for $6.99. Freddie started using this menu in 1996. He says it is now at almost every campus Domino's store in the country.
Sports and Organization Marketing
Most of the promotions that Wehbe does are related to sports and school organizations. "We try to do more outside the box marketing related to sports," he says. "For instance, we offer a special based on the football or basketball game score. If the Gators win by three points they get a discount coupon, if they win by ten points they get a free small pizza, and if they win by 60 they get a free Domino's franchise. That puts some humor into it." These specials appear in the student newspaper, on box toppers and in other print advertisement.
Another innovative promotion that Wehbe does is related to politics. Around election time on campus Gator Domino's seeks the vote of students. "We run a political campaign just like any other," Freddie says.
They use a platform similar to that of a person running for local office. In advertisements, they use slogans like "Vote Domino's for dinner," "Gator Domino's is locally owned and operated," and "Gator Domino's is a proud sponsor of UF student government."
Gator Domino's is a sponsor of more than 100 student organizations at the University of Florida. Freddie even has a spot on his website that lets students sign up their organizations for sponsorship. They get about 10 requests a day for sponsorship. The most appropriate requests are honored. "We follow what's going on," he says. "We give free pizzas to groups to show our support. I think that if the business helps the community, the community will come back and help the business. We donate lots of pizzas, time and effort because the return is amazing."
Freddie has done all this to grow his stores' reputation in the Gainesville area. "You have to know what you want and where you want your business to go," he says. "You have to build your reputation, let people know who you are and what you do best. You have to give your business a certain mark so people can recognize it."
Having Staff Support
Freddie attributes much of his success to having a great staff. "The key component of a business is the employees," Freddie says. "I motivate my employees in three ways: leading by example, explaining the priorities and finding their positive aspects and building on them. For everything negative that I find in my stores, I try to mention it with a positive attitude. I try not to compromise, so I will mention the positive aspects of an employee in front of everybody and discuss the negative ones in private. This way you get respect and build motivation."
As a result of his very straightforward management strategy, Freddie thinks his employees feel good about working for Gator Domino's. He says that with all the community involvement his staff gets "a boost and motivation."
Advice for Success
Freddie's formula for success is simple: clear vision and achievement of goals. "I studied many success stories of entrepreneurs and the all followed the same principle: They work hard, they have goals and they achieve those goals. Most people have dreams, but very few turn them into reality. A lot of energy is wasted on the non-important details. A clear vision is key."