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Background: Jim King retired from the IT profession and decided to indulge his lifelong dream of opening a pizzeria.

I tried to talk him out of it. Why? Because I've seen the carnage first hand when people get into the biz without a reality check. Your friends and relatives will all tell you what a good idea it is. That's because it's not their money (or 16-hour days).

Anyway, after pointing out the risk, long hours and pitfalls... Jim and his wife Joy hired me to help find a location and design the pizzeria.

They've had long-running success and Jim was kind enough to share a sales-building promotion.

Listen to Jim's Big Island Pizza promotion below...


 

My November 06, Pizza Today article on Big Island Pizza follows...

 It dawned warm and sultry on March 17th in Hilo, Hawaii. Jim King’s left eye popped open. Then the right. This morning would be like no other. Today the smoldering embers of a lifelong dream would… just hours from now – reach the flash-point. Today would be the realization of a long-held desire or… the beginning of a cascading nightmare.

Today, Big Island Pizza opens its doors.

I chronicled the first 60 days of Big Island Pizza in the May issue. To recap, they opened with monstrous sales approaching $14,000 a week. They scooped a multi-page feature article in the local paper. They were the talk of the town. But, where are they now? I called Jim the other day to find out.

The first thing that struck me was – that his shaky grasp from the first few weeks has now given way to a confident iron-grip. He’s weathered the typical meltdowns… Oven problems, thieving employees, he even had a regular customer (although a little kooky) who urinated on his money before handing it to the delivery driver (they don’t deliver to that guy anymore).

Sales are about 15% off the opening highs. Food cost and labor have come down (hitting the magical sweet-spot of 55% combined) as Jim and Joy have seized control of suppliers and scheduling. And, with very little debt – Big Island Pizza is floating on a sea of profits.

Here’s some statistics:

  • Sales have stabilized at around $45,000 a month
  • Ticket average is $19.78
  • Food cost 34%
  • Labor 21%
  • Menu-mailer pulls 27% to database, 8% with saturation mailing
  • #1 selling pizza – Big Island (combo) 2,976 sold to date
  • Most expensive pizza – 28” Northwest $78
  • Monthly profits averaging 22%

Hot and “not…”

Hot Marketing: Million Dollar Letter from the Black Book. Mailing a simple one-page letter inviting people to get some free side items when they place an order for a large pizza. Enormous response.

Hot Follow-up Marketing: Insert in the local Hilo newspaper. Jim cut the top off 7,000 door hangers and then used them as inserts in the paper.

Hot Promotion: Kid’s National Pizza Cook-off, October 7th, 2006. Brainchild of Tony Gemignani (World Pizza Champions) and sponsored by Lindsay Olives. Posters went up all over town. A dozen kids participated, lots of press coverage.

Biggest challenge: No shocker here. Employees.

I’m not at all surprised by Jim’s success. He opened Big Island Pizza with military detail. Everything in its place. The right equipment. A POS system. A years worth of marketing printed and ready to go. He’s followed a very specific marketing plan. Letters, thank-you cards, follow-up menu-mailers, door hangers, database marketing. Then, after getting a handle on the volume – he’s focused on reigning in food and labor costs.

To be sure, Big Island Pizza is certain to become a landmark business as Jim polishes the image, and burns the name into the public’s consciousness.

Would he do it all over again? Without hesitation Jim said “yep.”

 

 

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