New To The Business - Curious About A Couple Things

A couple months ago I bought a little mom and pop store that has been open about 15 years. Great food and solid business, but the owner moved away a couple years ago and it was getting run into the ground and he was getting robbed blind by employees (54% food cost last year!) I picked it up at a great price and have been making some really great progress and am excited about the future.

I’ve never worked in food service (owned a bar for a few years so the business side is comparable) and have really been trying to play catch up. Think Tank has been some great reading, but I have some specific questions.

1)Seasonal - Where are the typical peaks and valleys during the year? The previous owner kept terrible records, so all I’ve been able to find month-to-month is from a few years ago and it says this should be my slow time.

2)Demographics - Where could I find information about customers? i.e. “when someone is involved in X activity, they are more likely to buy pizza” or age groups to focus on. I’m trying out some new ideas for marketing here, like targeted ads on Facebook.

Welcome Indie,
First off, I hope you turned over that old staff and got new people. By keeping any of the old staff, they will: a) keep stealing from you; just in a sneekier way 2) resist your change. 3) ruin your new staff.

As for seasons, my strongest months seem to be in the winter and spring; although this past fall has been very good. I just think Summer has too many eating options (i.e. BBQ, fairs, picnics, etc.) My sales seem to dip June-Aug.

I think it’s best to target a specific age group and/or income bracket. This will depend on the makeup of your area, but some good free resources can be found at Melissa Data. For me, my sweetspot is the 30-55 age group, household income over $35K, usually married, with kids. This type of customer makes up about 75% of my business. By narrowing your market, you can better leverage your marketing dollars and not waste time and $$ on people that hardly ever come in.

Another thing… be involved with the community. Stay on top of local events and try to get your name tied to those. Do things with schools, churches, youth sports, etc. When people see you are interested in the community, they will show interest in you. Just my 2 cents.

Good luck.

My only comments about peaks and valleys is that most of your competition expects them…So for them it becomes a self fullfilling prophecy…If you stay busy with your marketing you can take some of their market share and smooth out the peaks and valleys…

Old staff is gone for sure, except for the morning prep woman who has been there for years and 2 others that I know are ok. Still keeping a close eye on things though for sure.

I thought summer was probably the slow season, for a lot of your reasons, plus people just don’t want to eat hot meals as much. But, I do agree with you royster13, that just because it slows down for everyone else doesn’t mean you have to let it happen to you. Got a new baby on the way this summer, so it’ll actually work out better to let this summer slow down (just a little though).

We’re in a smaller town, so it’s easy to know what demos live in what area. I’d love to be hitting your demo pizzafanatic. Right now we’re mostly delivering to households in the 35K-50K range with younger children. I’m a few blocks from a campus of 3K and have virtually none of that market share right now, and don’t have much of the share of families with tweens and teens either. Also in the middle of a downtown business district and next to the city auditorium, but small lunch crowd. So a lot of work to do, but that also means that, since I’m doing just good enough now, that there is still a ton of potential for growth.