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Unlocking the Power of Pizza

A restaurant industry veteran offers tips and tricks for delivering a great-tasting, consistent and profitable pizza program.
A person putting a pepperoni pizza pie into a box

In a survey conducted by The Harris Poll just last year where 2,000 adults were asked what their favorite food is, pizza ranked as the No. 1 answer. It's no secret that the pizza market holds great potential. The dish only continues to grow in popularity in the United States. 

According to the National Association of Pizza Operators, 3 billion pizzas are served in the U.S. each year. As the director of marketing at Hunt Brothers Pizza, I have come to learn what makes a truly successful pizza program. With such a popular food in a crowded space, delivering a reliable and consistent option that tastes great but remains at an affordable price is imperative. Pizza is a profitable foodservice option that holds the power to drive traffic at your convenience store. The following are tips and tricks I have learned for delivering a great-tasting, consistent and profitable pizza program: 

First, incorporating quality ingredients from trusted suppliers is essential. It is important to partner with suppliers that exemplify consistency, reliability and safety to ensure every pizza will be of the same quality. Delivering a consistent product will help build consumer trust over time. This aspect of the process might seem obvious, but it can be overlooked more than one would think in this industry in favor of convenience.

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Create a menu with recognizable favorites as a go-to option for your customer. In addition to these offerings, continue to excite and engage your customers with new and different flavors through limited-time offerings (LTOs). LTOs are a great avenue to test new flavors while generating more reasons to choose your c-store. 

A reliable way to hone in on a taste your customers will love is to simply request their feedback. According to Datassential, customers are most interested in voting on new flavors (60%) and a majority (55%) would also be willing to give feedback at a taste-testing event or to offer comments another way, including through social media. 

If possible, employ a c-store program that provides store owners options that fit various dayparts, including both made-to-order for the customer looking for a meal replacement option and grab-and-go for the customer looking for a quick snack or lunch option.

Next, a pizza program must be consistent, in both taste and profitability. At Hunt Brothers Pizza, we have found that it is imperative we make the program as turnkey as possible for our partners. A pizza program should offer a product that utilizes quality ingredients but is easily duplicated for mass sales and production. Some pizza programs offer regular in-store training, while others only provide the ingredients. 

All in all, don't overcomplicate things in your kitchen. Pizza in its nature is not an overly complex dish. Keep things simple. Simplicity will result in consistency.

Nonetheless, for a pizza program to remain great-tasting and consistent over time, it needs to be profitable. There are multiple routes to achieving profitability. First, utilize existing staff to manage your pizza program. Pizza programs do not need to require additional labor and should not be cumbersome. It should be possible to implement into your business and your current staffing plan. 

In addition, a small footprint can help maximize profitability as it will free up space for other vendors. A pizza program's footprint should be manageable. It does not need to alter the space. Many pizza programs can work with the space you already have available.

Another avenue to increasing revenue is by offering LTOs. As mentioned earlier, LTOs are a great way to test out new flavors, but they also give prospects a compelling reason to make a purchase by driving urgency. They push customers to make faster purchasing decisions and buy now instead of later. If done right, this approach can boost sales and build brand loyalty. In a study done by WhichTestWon, products sold online with a limited time offering availability timer converted sales at a 9% higher rate than those without it, reported Shopify. 

It is important to invest in marketing your LTO. According to Datassential, three in 10 consumers are driven to try an LTO because it looked good in advertisements or in photos in the store, so it's important to consider color, texture and presentation when building out a new LTO. It's also necessary to keep in mind that millennials are huge pizza-eaters and limited products are highly coveted by millennials, as data shows they can be attracted to products that make them feel unique or special. 

Finally, consider partnering with a nationally branded program that is already a household name and has an existing fan base. Partnering with a nationally branded program gives local stores the potential to compete with large chain c-stores, with marketing typically provided by the pizza brand. 

Overall, there is a huge opportunity for profitability with foot traffic at convenience stores only increasing. According to a new report, foot traffic data indicates that not only are convenience stores becoming dining destinations but they're also gaining in visit share. Between 2019 and 2023, convenience stores' visit share relative to the other discretionary dining categories jumped from 24.2% to 27.1%.

In summary, a convenience store has the potential to deliver the same great-tasting pizza, resulting in significant profits, through partnering with a branded program or trusted suppliers. For the second year in a row, pizza is the most popular food in the United States, and the demand for hot food at convenience stores is on the rise. 

A successful pizza program in the convenience store industry will be turnkey, low cost and, of course, deliver delicious, quality food. Additionally, LTOs are a great way to experiment with new flavors and increase revenue. 

If in need of hot foodservice options at your c-store, a straightforward pizza program could be the right fit for you.

Dee Cleveland currently serves as the head of marketing at Hunt Brothers Pizza. She joined the company in 2015. Cleveland boasts more than 30 years of marketing experience in the restaurant industry, beginning her career at Olive Garden in 1992 and subsequently holding a variety of marketing positions across Darden Restaurants, Quantified Marketing Group, Longhorn Steakhouse, Denny's, Cracker Barrel and American Blue Ribbons Holdings LLC.

Editor's note: The opinions expressed in this column are the author's and do not necessarily reflect the views of Convenience Store News

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