Success Stories

Santo’s Pizza

Like many other successful Independents, Vic Rocca believes his success depends on great tasting food and personalized service. In fact, he says that despite rising costs and a soft economy, he has had one of his best years ever.

First and foremost, pizzeria owner Vic Rocca believes that it’s superior food, not cheap menu prices, which reliably attract repeat customers. “Small pizzaioli like me can’t buy business. We can’t skimp on food quality or quantity. Customers know. That’s why when sales reps try to push cheaper goods, I tell them not to waste my time.”

Beyond maximizing quality in the kitchen, Vic encourages his team to focus on making each guest feel special. Vic says the irony is that while this kindness costs him nothing to provide, “it’s something conglomerates just can’t do.”

To help new employees embrace this approach, Vic asks what they think customers look for in a restaurant. “We talk about how customers aren’t just here to eat. They could do that at home. Instead, they’re on a outing to here to feel good. Everyone has issues in their lives, so make them laugh, smile, and enjoy their meal. For example, if you are serving a customer breakfast, don’t just feed them. Make their meal a perfect send off for their entire day.”

While many owners feel most comfortable keeping everything running smoothly from behind the scenes, Vic believes that bonding with his guests is so important to the restaurant’s ongoing success that he dedicates much of his time to visiting each table to personally acknowledge old friends and actively work to make new ones.

Since Vic’s goal is to make customers feel special, he views guests celebrating in his place as golden opportunities to make those celebrations truly memorable.

For example, if he learns that a family is celebrating a special occasion, he often will congratulate the guests of honor with a spontaneous gift of his own, like a thirty dollar gift certificate good toward a future meal. Or in the case of a child’s birthday, Vic may surprise the youngster with a certificate entitling them to make their own personal pizza on their next visit.

What makes these gestures so powerfully memorable is that they’re: 1) genuine, 2) unexpected, 3) surprisingly generous, and 4) good for a future visit.

The “future” part of these gifts is important for several reasons. First, unlike a complimentary dessert enjoyed on the spot, the gift remains memorable by retaining its value long after the celebration. Second, whenever they see it, the certificate rekindles and reinforces warm memories of their party. And third, it gives the recipient something exciting to look forward to.

Vic’s habit of making others feel good isn’t limited to the restaurant. For example, in appreciation for always making him feel welcomed in their business, he recently thanked tellers from his local credit union by inviting them to lunch and by writing a letter to the branch president to say “you are a smart person for hiring such good employees.” While the genuine gesture wasn’t intended to build sales, Vic says that ever since, bank employees have reciprocated his generosity by eating at his place more often.

That’s why Vic says that besides buying top ingredients, the best “marketing” investment you can make is giving gifts because their value multiplies over time.