UW-Green Bay millennials serve up a marketing plan for pizza franchise
Owning and operating one of the nation’s newest pizza franchises is a hands-on experience — from making the dough to slathering on the sauce, spreading the cheese, adding the fresh-cut toppings and putting the pie into a high-intensity, stone hearth oven.
UW-Green Bay Assistant Prof. Vallari Chandna’s e-Entrepreneurship and Digital Management course approaches online marketing for start-ups with a similar hands-on approach. The class is an overview of how to create a new business, capture new markets and operate virtually in today’s competitive digital arena. Pizza and entrepreneurship came together in fall 2017 to deliver a high-impact learning opportunity for students and an actionable marketing plan for an up-and-coming business, proving that collaboration can be productive. And delicious.
Ingredients for success
“Vallari came into the restaurant in early fall 2017,” recalled Jeff McDonald, who with his wife, Jean, opened a Firenza Pizza franchise in Ashwaubenon, Wis. in early 2017. “While enjoying her pizza, we struck up a conversation and she asked us if we would give an introductory business presentation to her class.” After meeting with the class, McDonald, recognized an opportunity for some fresh marketing ideas, delivered by his target audience… and the collaboration was born.
Firenza, founded in 2015, is a new player in the quick serve, build-your-own pizza market and currently has only 16 locations in the United States. The McDonalds’ location in Northeast Wisconsin is the only one in the state and the Midwest.
“We call it fast casual pizza,” McDonald said. “Our employees hand-toss the dough for each customer, who builds his or her own pizza. They can watch the flames flickering and pizza baking in the open-hearth oven and then have it delivered to their table in about five minutes.” “From day one, the company has maintained the value of targeting millennials,” he said. “And, one of our main marketing objectives is advertising with social media. The company manages most of the advertising centrally from their corporate headquarters in Atlanta, Georgia, concentrating the majority of their efforts in maintaining our Facebook and Twitter accounts.” Together, Chandna’s students worked to create a 2018 marketing plan for the business. Collaborating with top management teams is something entrepreneurs do a lot. Students get to advise on social media marketing as well, conduct market and competitor analyses and learn more about a business and its operating environment.” To get a sense for the operation, Chandna’s class took a mid-semester field trip to the restaurant, with a perk. Pizza on McDonald.
“It was an awesome trip,” UW-Green Bay Business Administration major Wyatt Smet ’19 said, as students got to see all parts of Jeff’s operation at work. Some of us, myself included, even got to make our classmates’ pizza behind the glass.”
Chandna was pleased with the end results. “The recommended strategies for Firenza included a mix of traditional, digital and social media marketing tools and tactics,” Chandna said. “The students highlighted how Firenza needs to market to the “hip” adult crowd interested in fresh-made food, as well as the college student population.” Some of their recommendations included:
- Development of an app that integrates loyalty points, deals and in-app contests
- Specific social media tool utilization: Instagram for video reviews, Snapchat filters that have a pizza theme which activate in the vicinity of Firenza and Facebook contests like creating a signature pizza or weekly caption contests
- Recommended blueprints for area partnerships and celebrity endorsements Students also developed well-thought-out suggestions for enhancing the Firenza website, improving search engine optimization (SEO) and strategies for an improved Yelp and Google Review presence.
McDonald said he was excited to see the plan. I don’t have a background in marketing so I have to depend on others. The only way the restaurant is going to stay competitive is by marketing.” “The opportunity that the class has given me as a student is one that many people dream of getting from their college career,” said Smet, a native of Wrightstown, Wis. who is graduating with an emphasis in marketing and management and an entrepreneurial certificate. “The challenge that all start-ups have is being known. We feel like we are making a difference by pitching ideas.” Business Administration classmate Renee DeGrand ’19 of Luxemburg, Wis. concurs. “This project was extremely valuable because it gave us an idea on how to apply concepts we learn in class and use them in a real-world scenario,” she said. “We can experience the challenges entrepreneurs face when they decide how to market their business.” McDonald is looking forward to implementing some of the ideas and to increasing customer traffic and frequency in 2018. The results, of course, will be in the pie.
–Story by Jay Lillge