A month has passed since my initial conversation with Pizza Rossa founder and CEO Corrado Accardi. Since then, we have continued our exchange about the fast casual dining industry. Because I was keen to see him in action, Corrado and I met at his restaurant in the City of London and started going through our agenda items, which included, this time around, third-party delivery companies as well as marketing and social media. Naturally, we also had some time to share a couple of slices of his delicious, newly developed 100% organic pizza. However, as an important and large, last-minute order to cater a co-working space came in, Corrado decided to deliver it himself, and so we finished our conversation in a London black cab. Try to imagine 20 to 25 18-inchcartons of square pizzas stacked up in the back of a car, windows steaming from the heat of the freshly prepared goods and two guys talking shop whilst trying to direct the cab driver through the maze of London’s East End… That’s what I call being a true hands-on entrepreneur!
Talking About Industry Disruptors
At a recent industry briefing, Peter Backman, Managing Director at Horizons, asked delegates to think about whether the industry considers third-party delivery companies its partners in crime or its competitors. What is your view on this? In my opinion, third-party delivery companies have allowed restaurants to gain access to a much larger target audience – increasing potential billings by capitalising on a restaurant’s (kitchen-)capacity without the requirement of increased square footage to accommodate these additional customers. In theory, restauranteurs are thus able to report higher revenues whilst incurring only marginally increased costs, resulting in higher profit margins. Additionally, it is important to keep in mind that by using such third parties, restaurants themselves do not have to invest the capital needed to setup their own delivery service – we actually tried this in the past but the monthly costs to hire a van, to employ drivers and to pay the unavoidable parking fines (and the congestion charges in London) were just crushing us. I therefore consider the Deliveroos, Amazon Restaurants and UberEats of this world as our partners.
Corrado, I understand your point of view, but we are in the back of a black cab delivering pizzas to one of your customers. You therefore seem to be selective in your use of the delivery companies and industry disruptors. Technology has opened up the ‘home market’ for us, the restauranteurs. So, Pizza Rossa is happy to do business with the delivery companies when it comes to gaining access to those customers – including, for smaller orders, which would otherwise require expensive logistics. As long as our business makes money from the customer after deducting our own costs and after paying the commission to the delivery firm, I welcome this incremental revenue. However, I obviously prefer that the larger corporate accounts within a relatively small radius around our premises not go through those third-party intermediaries. If that were the case, then our business would be leaving money on the table. We therefore are taking good care of our existing customers and paying special attention to potential clients in our neighbourhood. So far, this has paid off, because we are receiving most of our larger orders (from 80 to 2,000 people) direct. I might, however, also add that some companies have expressed concerns about ‘big data’ and who ‘owns’ the customers – for us, this is not (just yet) a big issue. Yet, I can see how this might be a concern for the ‘bigger fish’ out there – the larger companies that have a very strong high-street presence, well established brands and a loyal customer following. These firms have already invested a lot of resources into ‘securing’ and getting to know their customers. So, from their perspective, any firm that is trying to ‘interfere’ with their customers and might suddenly be regarded as a ‘representative’ or brand extension of the restaurant brand could be regarded as a threat.
Talking About Social Media
Mustafa Aslandag, founder and CEO of What’s Beef, made the bold statement, “Brands don’t belong to us; we own them together with our customers.” He thus cautioned everyone not to forget that we are in the people business, and if we don’t listen to our (internal and external) customers, it is them who can very easily tarnish our brand and bring down our business. What are your views on that? Consumer behaviour has definitely changed. You must educate your customers about who you are and what you stand for. And if you don’t manage to get the message right, it is easy for the business to suffer from that. For our business, our brand is a promise of Italian quality, and we have noticed that word-of-mouth, especially driven by the Italian community working in the City, is incredibly valuable for us. Consumers talking to other potential consumers are generating a lot of ‘buzz’ on our behalf. From that point of view, it is really them who are your ‘brand ambassadors.’ No matter what your business’ marketing campaign tries to communicate to the consumers, he consumers talk amongst themselves, and they will make their own judgement call as to whether they like your brand and if they would want to recommend it to their friends and family. So, yes, we as business owners may not be in full control of our brands, but we are in control of the promises we make. If customers are talking positively about you, it is worth a lot more than traditional marketing or even social media.
Corrado, what is your strategy, then, relating to social media, and how does it support your business plan going forward? We have just recently hired a social media consultancy firm because we decided it was the right time to restart investing in our social media presence – I will let you know how it goes! Initially, we were planning to have this expertise in-house through my business partner Luca Magnani,who has a marketing background. However, he could not dedicate sufficient time to this, so we decided to let the professionals handle it. The idea is for social media to be fully integrated into our business plan since our reach is starting to extend beyond the small radius around our venue. It will focus on engagement, lead generation and brand building. At the same time, we are planning to move deeper into the organic food sector and have invested heavily into developing the first 100% organic margherita pizza in London, for which it took us more than four months to source the right ingredients from Italian-certified suppliers. Hopefully, our already loyal customers are helping to spread the word! Lastly, we want to make sure that customers in general understand what we are all about – and going forward, this might slightly change. Pizza Rossa 2.0 will not only be a consumer brand but also a firm that moves into the catering business and concessions inside office buildings and public spaces. A push into supermarkets might be in the cards in the mid- to long-term future. It may sound a very long shot, but I believe that the versatility of our products will allow us, further down the line, to develop a quality offering, even from automatic self-service machines. Although, the market viability of this is to be proven: call it a gut feeling! Follow us on the various social platforms to stay tuned!
To contact Corrado Accardi, please connect with him at [email protected]