Keep your operation agile and focused on customer satisfaction.
Nick Charles, Alive and Kickin’ Pizza Crust
Crafting a premium, on-trend pizza program can bring some unique challenges for convenience stores. But with the right knowledge and strategies in place, it's entirely possible to craft a successful pizza program that keeps customers coming back.
Here are five tips that will keep your operation agile and focused on customer satisfaction:
1. Your Oven Matters
When it comes to crafting a successful c-store pizza program, the pizza oven is probably one of the most valuable tools in your plan — yet it's often the most overlooked.
Consistency is the key to a happy, loyal customer base. When a customer buys a slice at one location, it needs to provide the same experience as the slice they bought three weeks ago at your operation across town. While standardizing the recipe across all locations is necessary to deliver the same taste and texture your customers expect, variation in equipment can also alter the outcome.
Oven variation between stores can throw off standard bake times and influence the coloring, texture and other crust characteristics. If you're struggling to provide consistency across all store locations, or you're thinking about starting a new pizza program, don't forget how your oven can influence the product. Oven standardization can help enhance crust performance, ultimately enhancing customer satisfaction and strengthening your bottom line.
2. Rising Crusts Can Optimize Your Operation
Being adaptable within the foodservice industry is vital to staying competitive and fresh. Considering the particularly unpredictable product and labor availability, the efficiency and convenience of food products can make all the difference. C-store operators who want to take their pizza program to the next level can benefit from rising pizza crusts, with enhanced simplicity of operations and improved consistency for a variety of menu items.
Self-rising crusts are a great way for c-stores to provide a high-quality pizza with ease. These crusts combine leavening agents with yeast to create a dough that rises as it bakes, giving each pie that fresh, pizzeria-style experience that customers desire with easy preparation. With no kneading, proofing or resting necessary, c-stores can stay agile by benefiting from freezer-to-oven convenience.
Customers want and care about having the same positive experience in flavor, texture and quality of their food products. For many grab-and-go options, quality may decline the longer a product rests under a warming unit. With excellent performance in a warming station for extended periods of time, rising crusts can help c-stores exceed expectations and provide the uniform taste and textures customers rely on. Additionally, rising crusts are adaptable to a wide range of recipes, helping you do more with less.
3. Multiple Merchandising Is Vital
There's a lot more to running a successful pizza program than simply offering hot and ready slices. Customers have busy lives, and every individual is different; some like to plan ahead, while others make decisions on the fly. Satisfying a variety of customers in their time of need is important to establishing long-term loyalty.
In addition to offering hot, grab-and-go pizza by the slice for the individual to enjoy, whole pies that are prepared, boxed and ready to go can please larger groups and families at mealtime. Alternatively, a traditional frozen pizza or a take-and-bake pizza can provide a helpful mealtime solution for those who are thinking ahead.
Your customers' lives are busy and often unpredictable, and multiple merchandising provides the versatility they want and need, quickly. If you're crafting a pizza program, providing your customers with a variety of options to fit their lifestyles should be a given.
4. Adapt Your Purchase & Service Options
Customers always enjoy how new technology eases their lives. The growing surge in online and remote ordering since the pandemic has emphasized the importance of last-mile fulfillment, and how this piece of the experience is handled can greatly influence customer satisfaction.
While delivery is a well-established practice in the world of pizza, it's not always a viable solution for convenience stores. Offering delivery through third-party services commonly results in dissatisfaction for convenience retailers due to high fees, data sharing difficulties and the unanticipated burdens that fall on convenience store staff. Add in the potential for these third-party delivery services to negatively affect a customer's experience and the cost-benefit analysis of partnering with these providers may not be worthwhile.
Instead, c-store operators should carve out opportunities for customers to place mobile orders that can be safely and quickly picked up on premises. Taking orders through a proprietary mobile app comes with the advantage of lesser cost, plus more data capture that can leveraged to make decisions about last-mile fulfillment options.
With modern customers navigating hectic lives, they typically know exactly what they want and when they want it. Your c-store operation offering the convenience of a mobile order paired with a curbside pickup service could spare the headache of relying on a third-party partner to deliver the same high-quality service that is expected of your own staff.
5. Limited-Time Offers Can Encourage Action
Pizza's popularity makes for a consistently competitive market. To ensure your convenience store pizza program remains a top choice for customers, encourage them to act with a limited-time offer, new promotion or even a loyalty program.
Who doesn't love a good deal? Limited-time offers are effective because they create a sense of urgency. Placing a deadline or quantity limit on your pizza products compels customers to act immediately, incentivizing them to buy now to avoid missing out on deals set to expire.
Increase the odds of a successful promotion by using these tactics:
Timely promotions: As the seasons change, so do customers' desires for certain comfort foods. Keeping a pulse on what customers want and when they want it can help keep your menu fresh year-round and prevent customers from getting restless with the same offerings.
Bundles: Customers may love your pizza, but maybe aren't aware of your other innovations like breadsticks or cinnamon rolls. Promoting a bundle can incentivize them to try new things and get them hooked on your other menu offerings.
Charitable donations: Limited-time offers that include a charitable component generally help customers feel good about supporting something meaningful. Plus, in their eyes, your operation will benefit from the halo effect when your store donates a portion of its proceeds to a worthy cause.
Are you ready to serve up quality? Starting or revitalizing your current convenience store pizza program could be a satisfying investment. With these five tips and strategies, you're now ready to refine your offerings and attract loyal, pizza-loving customers.
Nick Charles is president of Alive & Kickin' Pizza Crust, a full-service manufacturer of premade and custom dough balls, and par-baked crusts. For more information, visit akcrust.com.
Editor's note: The opinions expressed in this column are the author's and do not necessarily reflect the views of Convenience Store News.