How to change long running special? Help desperately needed!

We are a family owned shop in a small town. As a customer appreciation day ,for the last 7 years, every Monday, we have run a special for a 16" cheese pizza for $6.00 . No limit on how many you can get and extra toppings are $1.50. We have made a mistake in keeping the special this long, now the town feels entitled to it- it’s a permanent fixture not a special anymore. We are about to lose 2 experienced staff members and don’t have any potential hires. Every Monday we prep our little hearts out and still take it in the teeth during dinner. It is a nightmare! We really want to change it but we aren’t sure how to do it without making our customer base angry. In the current economic situation, we are worried about offending people and it hurting our business more than suffering through each week. We have considered changing the special or just doing away with it all together. Does anyone have any experience with a similar situation or ideas for a new special?

Re: How to change long running special? Help desperately nee

Just change it.

Tell customers that ask that you have run the same special with no price increase for all those years and costs have risen. Your customer knows that costs have gone up over the last 6 years.

If you want to soften it somewhat, announce the week before that it is changing and be sure to tell every customer that orders that the change is coming and why.

“We have run this special at this price for the last 6 years. During that time our costs are up. We will be raising the price next week to cover those costs but will still be giving the very best deal we can.”

Re: How to change long running special? Help desperately nee

Push the price up. I had the same situation, and just raised the price. Only a few people complained.

Re: How to change long running special? Help desperately nee

Like you we had this kind of deal and boy did we keep it going too long. We finally decided to end it and we were scared at what the reaction would be. The first few weeks appeared to be a bit devastating…people would come in and walk out, people would call and hang up. But I can assure you it was the best thing to do. We would fully staff, we sold tons of them, busy all day, busy prepping day before and day of. After we stopped sales took a small dive. Kept wondering if we did the right thing…BUT what we realized once sales began to settle is we actually make more money now because we were throwing the money away on food and labor cost. So keep in mind it will take time. Our sales now almost a year later are just as good as they were then and a whole lot easier to handle. Most of those customers are fly by night…only coming because of the deal, the rest will remain loyal customers. What we find funny is even now a year later we still will get a call wanting the special…not much of a loyal customer.

I would come up with a different special. We added 2.00 to ours for a couple of weeks and then switched it to a smaller pizza again and a few weeks later switched it again.

You will be fine.

Kris

Re: How to change long running special? Help desperately nee

I agree, I LOVED IT WHEN my competitor started doing 7.00 large pizza on mondays, you know why?
because subconsiuosly you were telling your customers that your pizza is only worth 7.00 and training them to order on that day…lets say you are a loyal twice a week guy, you come in and pay 7.00 on monday, swing back in on wednesday and pay twice as much…how do you feel about that pizza on wednesday? from a customers stand point they feel like they are getting screwded
to answer the remedy I think if it was me I would do a special every monday (something different) BUT keep the 7.00 for one of the days…when people call in you can say oh that special is on such and such date we have new specials each monday…We like to keep things fresh. Then phase it out…they dont go cold turkey and its not as put offing, but when you do these domino pizza specials you have made your bed, its hard to get out of.
Thats why most of us never try to compete on price.
When I get the calls the calls from people saying I can get a large from Papa Johns for 7.99
I always tell then yep, I could get a Hyndia for 9000.00 some reason Honda wouldnt match that…
Then I tell them people who go to dominoes and papa johns dont care what they feed their family. they dont put effort into it. I do.
Good luck you do have an uphill to climb BUT it is one that HAS to be climbed

Re: How to change long running special? Help desperately nee

Oddly enough, she seems to have a problem with making enough pizzas to meet the demand rather than the food costs? If it isn’t breaking the bank in food costs, why not do everything possible to keep as many pizzas rolling out of there? Since this is a very straightforward special (Large cheese pizza) you can have tons of them prepped ahead of time right?

So which is it, is it a “tough economic situation” like you stated as the reason you are afraid to raise prices?

If it is truly a “tough economic situation” then it should be easy to hire an extra person right now. If it is impossible to find extra help, then perhaps your local economy can afford $7.00+. But are you still then having trouble keeping up with demand?

Re: How to change long running special? Help desperately nee

When one of our local chains here in Seattle had to raise prices for the first time in years, they made up a “dear valued customer” style letter, and mailed one to every person in their delivery database, along with a coupon. They also posted a similar notice in all their shops, a good 2 weeks before the price increases went into effect. They simply explained that the prices for cheese and flour had gone through the roof, and in order for them to maintain the quality that they were known for the prices would have to go up. I can’t see any reason why something similar wouldn’t work in your situation, just be honest with your customers and give them plenty of lead time before you change the special.

Re: How to change long running special? Help desperately nee

Why not do this…

Bump it up to 9 bucks for a 16’ cheese and any two toppings?

Then people can do the math, they see the base price is the same, the effect wouldnt be so bad and if someone wanted cheese only it is still 9 bucks.

It would keep a large ammt of volume, greatly increase profits and slow sales a little enough to handle it.

A shop down here had hooked the city on Wed 16’ pizza for 5.99, eventually they changed it to a medium for 5 bucks and their sales didnt slow much, they just made more money since the medium was a lower sales cost and easier to make.

Re: How to change long running special? Help desperately nee

Thanks everyone for the great suggestions! We actually did raise the price once, about 4 years ago. When we started the Monday Special it was only $5.00! Raising it to $6.00 actually dropped sales by about 50 pies, especially in the low income areas. This may be the route we go to lower demand. You are correct that we don’t make any money on that day, however, this special has been huge enough that it takes care of a lot of our advertising thus saving money there. The other days of the week are still strong.
Our biggest problem currently is not food cost but production. We have tried having a large quantity of doughs pressed, sauced and cheesed waiting to go. We run into problems with very limited space and if the doughs are pressed to soon before baking, they tend to bubble pretty bad when they go through the oven. Keeping up with the demand is a nightmare and we have problems staffing that night. I thought with a recession it would be easier to find people who WANT to WORK. All I am getting are people who want a paycheck. I have actually had new hires who have never swept a floor in their lives!
Our concerns about the ‘economic situation’ are more to do with the customers perception of this special ending. ie. “Every time I blink, prices on everything have gone up. Now we are getting screwed out of our $6 pizza too”. I am confident that we have a quality product and I do worry about devaluing it in our customers eyes. But, we operate in a small town (a rural area with 3 other pizza shops), and deal with the same people all the time. We have been here 11 years and I would say most of my customers are regular enough that I know them by name. We truly want to offer them a good deal without losing our minds. We want the transition to be as pain free as possible for our valued customers, but especially for those of us answering the phones the first few Monday’s it’s gone :slight_smile:
Whatever we do to change Mondays, we will absolutely communicate with our customers in advance. Most likely a "dear customer’ type letter.
Thanks again for the great feedback! I will take any suggestions anyone has. If nothing else, this has been a HUGE learning experience! Sorry for the long post.