Business Builders

Memorable Visits

Meatball Jerseys

Like many Independents, Leonard DiBella sponsors teams in a variety of local leagues, including an adult softball team dubbing itself “Luigi’s Meatballs.” When they gathered at the restaurant after a game, Luigi’s servers fell in love with their jerseys and asked Leonard to make them matching T-shirts.

The resulting jersey style T-shirts say “Property of Luigi’s Meatballs” on the front, and “#1” on the back. Printed in athletic gray, Italian red, white, and green, or in pink, the jerseys are also a hit with customers, who snap them up at $7.95 apiece. Best of all, they are appearing all over town, providing plenty of free advertising!

Leonard DiBella, Owner Luigi’s Ristorante Old Saybrook, CT


Electronic Word of Mouth

Younger generations are keeping in touch via text message. So when grill owner Troy Johansen tired of paying $150 for each newspaper ad announcing upcoming entertainment at his place, he began texting invitations (e.g., “Join us Wednesday after 9 PM for a DJ”) to his friends for free.

While Troy is careful to text only those customers who voluntarily join a “contact me” list, list members often forward Troy’s announcements to their own friends. The results have been amazing. For example, recently over 300 people showed up to a party at Troy’s place which had been publicized only via free text message! Bravo!

Troy Johansen, Owner Tap’t Out Stein-n-Dine West Union, IA


Ultimate Challenge

Taverns without kitchens often collect delivery menus so patrons can order in a snack. To make his pizzeria menu stand out, John Nakashima created a pub version promoting his “Ultimate Pizza Challenge.” (Eat a sixteen inch pie in thirty minutes and win the pizza, a commemorative T-shirt, and a photo on the pizzeria’s Wall of Fame!)

To entertain the entire bar, John’s employee sticks around after delivering the pie to document the attempt and encourage others to cheer the contestant. By framing his menu as a fun pub challenge, he created a natural reason to display it on the bar, instead of tucking it away in a drawer!

John Nakashima, Owner Dwight Pizza Dwight, IL


Dumping Disposables

While many fast food joints serve their food on disposable plates or wrappers, Bruce Hink insists on presenting his fast, yet flavorful, pastas, sandwiches, and soups on real china. While this helps his quality stand out, buying fewer disposables (and reducing trash pickups) also saves Bruce money, even after paying for dishes and dish washing.

What is perhaps most surprising is that, for Bruce, it is more labor efficient (cheaper) to have his dishes rinsed in hot water and handwashed immediately after use. The key is never allowing dirty dishes to sit because leftover food becomes rapidly harder to remove.

Because this “just in time” soak and wash system is easy and handles dishes only once, it actually requires less labor than loading and later unloading a mechanical washer. (It also requires less detergent and electricity.) While Bruce’s strategy is strictly profit-driven, the idea of reducing waste also appeals to his customers, “green-minded” university students who like supporting restaurants trying to “minimize their impact on the planet.”

Bruce Hink, Owner, Za’s Italian Cafe Champaign, IL


Cutting-Edge Compost

Restaurateur Cindy Dalfonso is pioneering a truly unique way to cut her dumpster fees by nearly $200 a month. Her café in rural Maine has begun sorting out its cardboard, steel cans, and glass for recycling and burying (composting) almost everything else!

Guided by its local waste hauler, EcoMaine, Bistro 21 is experimenting with composting kitchen trimmings, food waste from plates (excluding meat products), and even the biodegradable “greenware” plates themselves, in an odor-free composting bin directly behind the restaurant. The eventual result will be rich garden mulch which can be sold or given away to patrons.

Between composting and recycling, Cindy slashed daily dumpster waste from two thirty gallon trash bags to one thirteen gallon bag. Beyond saving money, sales are up 20% as free publicity generated by EcoMaine has prompted more green-minded locals to try Bistro 21!

Cindy Dalfonso, Owner, Bistro 21 Westbrook, ME