I’ve got a brand new take-and-bake pizza start-up, we opened in early Februrary and we saw a 90% sales increase over our first three months of trade to get us into a teeny bit of profitability.
It’s now getting slightly trickier with improving summer weather, sales are off about 15% from our peak. New customer acquisition per day has also gone down steadily as weather has gotten steadily better in the opposite direction!
I’m 99% certain this is not related to our pizza quality, as many of our customers say it’s one of the best they’ve ever had, which is exciting to hear.
A bunch of questions:
a) Is this “summer slump” normal?
b) Can anyone please suggest what percent sales reduction expect in the summer months versus colder months?
c) Any key differences to the marketing strategy for summer months over winter months? I’ve heard there should be a shift from blanket flyering to more targeted direct mail efforts. We’re currently distributing about 10k flyers per week and sending direct mail offers to our existing customer database.
Anyhow, it would be great to hear your thoughts on this, thanks in advance, everyone.
Its so hard to predict your sales pattern - I’m sure as quick as I tell you my predictions someone will come in and say they’ve had positive %'ge growth month on month all through the summer, and some who have really bad summers ‘blues’.
I’d predict that as a new store you’ll get two sales drops:
the novelty ‘drop’ - hard to predict when this will happen but people will have tried you and some will not try you again and some will try you in a while (maybe quite some time off). %'ge drop, well depends how hard you marketed initially - I’ve had 30% drop after a few months in one store and then build back off. in another about 15%.
Then there is the summer sales drop - yep it will get quieter - lighter nights, hot weather, people on vacation - peoples eating habits change - I’ve usually done some form of aggressive promotion in the summer so I’ve managed to keep sales level (sacrificing a few %'ge of food cost). Any I’m doing the same again this years starting in 2 weeks.
Bearing in mind you’ve new, I’d guess you could suffer from from both so who knows. Keeps the quality, keep the service and watch the labour. Now is the time to really react quickly as the night progresses.
There are few trends in this industry that are true for every market and every concept. In my town summer sales slip a fair amount. In some towns pizza shops thrive in the summer. I don’t pretend to know a thing about take and bake, but it would seem to make sense that sales drop in the summer as people don’t want to turn their home oven on and heat the house up any more than it already is.
Your honeymoon period has ended. People have tried you and they’ll either come back or go back to the place they were buying from.
Its like being married… after 6 months, it just ain’t the same as it used to be.
Of course, I wouldn’t have put it so bluntly using marriage as an example but he’s right on. Actually, you’ve been a little luckier than most. The average “honeymoon period” in my experience has lasted an average of about 6 weeks before sales started to “settle in”.
Sure, summer might have a little to do with it but it’s actually your customers who’ve been frequenting your place once a week have now slipped back to once every two weeks or even once a month.
This is the time for you to get out there and start pushing your business. You’ve been blessed with your business starting to fade right when the weather has started to get really nice. Take advantage and pound the pavement with some doorhanging. It’s great excercise and it’ll create new customers who have never tried your place.
Your focus over the next several months is to create new customers each and every week. If you can create at least 100 new customers a week your advertising is working and you shall be well on your way to ensuring continued success.
Thanks to everyone for your thoughts here, much appreciated.
To one of my points, do any of you fully switch up the style of your marketing in the summer, i.e. abandon flyer drops and instead spend your money cultivating sales from the customers you’ve already got?
It seems like aggressive discounting becomes the name of the game … I’d rather offer higher transaction value “meal deals” to pass the value to customers but still keep our net cash take as level as possible. Thoughts?
I have been in the business for 10 years now and used to work for some of the chains. We Always slowed down in the summer. In fact there was a write up about it in a recent pizza mag. Look forward to August for renewed sales.
Everyone who is surprised j_r0kk suggested doorhanging, please raise your virtual hands . . . . anyone? . . . . Buhler? Buhler?
Us old-timers never get tired of hearing him suggest doorhanging because it WORKS. He sings the same song over and over with different verses/variations on the theme because it is a time-tested valuable means of getting word out into the marketplace economically. Return On Investment (ROI) is pretty good on these, too.
They have to be part of a comrehensive planned, managed and reviewed marketing strategy for them to be effective. Dropping some little hangy things on people’s knobs once isn’t too very useful. Now is the time to develop an ongoing marketing scheme to get your name and offers in front of people repeatedly so that they get into the habit of thinking of you when they think of going out to eat.
It’s like Pavlov’s dogs . . . they get hungry, salivate and think of your pizza place. One disadvantage you may run into in Summer months is that people often go out to eat to avoid heating up the oven and kitchen. Your message could include a way to downplay or turn that situation around with a “line of dialogue”.
Something like “Our pizzas take only 10 minutes to bake, so you’re in and out of the kitchen before you even break a sweat”.
Lots of people push bundled deals rather than discounts. I am one who focuses on selling everyday at the best prices I can manage, and put some “Meal Deals” or “buy something and get something from us” together when we want to offer more value to the customers.
If you can figure out how to bake your pies on a grill, then you may have a huge wave of sales headed your way when you market the new food for pool parties and family cookouts. (I’d suggest indirect heating in either gas or charcoal grill, BTW).