not getting that back to school spike

maybe i’m not alone…but we usually start an upward trend or spike this time of year…doesnt seem to be spiking this year…very flat line… talk to me

I suspect you’re not alone. I too have been looking for it and haven’t really seen it.

This is my 15th year into it and it has been like no other.

I suppose this is the time for those of us who have never had to spend much on marketing (I’ve always focused on satisfying the loyal customer so that they would do the “dirty work”) to invest a bit in it.

Add to higher fuel prices (and availability issues here in the Southeast after hurricane Ike), higher food prices, and election year angst, and I think you’ll find your culprits.

For me, the answer is to focus on the successful strategy which has carried me this far, while looking for ways to increase sales (and keep food/labor costs in line) without compromising that strategy.

This too shall pass.

thanks for your insight…what would be your 1st line of offense…couponing…door hanging…cause i don’t want to discount myself out of business…what would you say is the most effective game plan

We spend 5% of gross sales on marketing.

The majority of it concentrates on “who we are”, “where we are” and “what we do” and does not mention price. We do this advertising mostly on the radio but also in hotel and other lodging properies (resort market). We have a full color page in one local yellow pages and the back cover of the other. No special offers are made on the radio or in the yellow pages.

We have a few standard offers that are available all the time that fit into our pricing structure. Mostly they focus on driving the ticket average and value added rather than discounting, but we do offer a deal on two 16" pies. Box top fliers offer modest deals as a come-back.

Twice per year we offer really good discounts for a limited period of time. The goal is to reach first time customers with a “try me” offer. We do it by direct mail. Yes, our regular customers get them and use them too.

Sales this year are up. September is tracking up 8-9%. About half of that is the price increase we did last December.

Marketing, Marketing, Marketing. Half of it works, too bad you can’t tell which half.

Steve, do you do 5% of sales for the entire year or just during the seasonal rush there?

Charles, our budget is 5% of annual sales.

i better up my advertising…what gives you your best bang for the buck?..and what is your hook…buy something get something or discount your product down

This is my first full year open and we are seeing a very modest bump. I am introducing “special” nights and that really boosts sales. we have a larger kitchen and a fuller menu than most, but my friend is doing a rib night in his pizza shop out west and its a crazy hit. I gave him my recipes and he roasts them in one of his deck ovens and he sells out every Tuesday, which is my rib night too. Since then I’ve added Sunday brunch which tripled my Sunday sales and now I’m looking at all you can eat pasta Thursdays. I’m learning very quickly how to survive. The most important thing to me is to retain your best employees for the busy times, because sooner or later our economy will turn around.

On a different note, a few opportunities are arrising for us to buy smaller shops that arent faring to well. I wonder if its time to expand by buying up the competition? They don’t have POS systems, they have old equipment and are stuck with old pricing. I will introduce our menu, setour own prices and retool them and install our POS and expand our delivery area. Hmmm Hannah Bananas for everyone! lol, have a great day everyone.

Our “hook” is why we are different. We are local, one of a kind. We use quality ingredients and have unique products. We support community efforts.

Name recognition, who we are, what we do, how to find us is the main message.

Advertising is a long term project not a short term fix. Concentrate on reaching new customers and giving them a reason to buy from you. That reason should be something other than price, ESPECIALLY starting out. If you advertise nothing but price you are telling the consumer that price is the reason to buy from you. There is no bottom to that game.

Think Chinese water torture… drip, drip, drip the message falls; quality, different, local, quality, different, local, quality, different, local…

With all that said, the special offers I like best are value added or ones which drive a higher ticket average. We give a free pint of Ben and Jerry’s with a 16" two topping pizza or a six pack of 12 oz sodas. We also have a $2 carryout special.

bodegahwy, do you have a website, or somewhere I could check out how you market yourself? I would love to see. Thanx muchly!