Spend less on advertising and more on community outreach.

In a typical franchise system, the franchisor is headquartered in one city, while the franchise locations are in other communities throughout the country. This means our franchisees are boots on the ground; they know the schools, sports teams and charities to support. They know that success comes from becoming part of the heart of their communities.

In our 34 years of franchising, Ledo Pizza has learned that community-focused businesses tend to perform better. We’ve found that instead of simply being present in the community, successful franchisees are actively involved. When you’re known for making an impact in your community, people want to return the favor by visiting your brand. Our franchise locations that go above and beyond by supporting causes and organizations within their communities, whether they sponsor charities or participate in community events, are the ones whose results stand out in our system.

Here are three reasons why restaurants should consider a community-focused business approach:

Spend less on advertising and more on community outreach. About 15 years ago, one of our franchisees, Scott Taggart, approached us about getting involved in his community. We told him to go for it, and he started Spirit Night fundraisers supporting schools and sports teams in his area. Now, because his community knows him and his wife so well, Scott doesn’t have to utilize traditional advertising or coupon giveaways for his restaurants. He spends 50 percent less annually on marketing and advertising because schools and local families already frequently visit his two restaurants for Spirit Nights. They support him because he supports their community.

Community involvement helps with hiring.  When Scott hosts Spirit Nights, he has people visit for the fundraiser and end up applying for a job. Because Spirit Nights are so popular for friends and families in the community, the applicants usually add that they’ve been coming to the restaurant for years to participate in fundraisers. Now, if you want to get a job at one of Scott’s two Ledo locations, you have to be recommended for it. With so many people wanting to work there, Scott hasn’t actively tried to hire someone in 18 years. We think this goes to show that being a recognizable face for your brand in your community leads to a competitive and seamless hiring process.

Hosting community events at your location can increase traffic. While it’s not surprising that fundraising and other community events bring in traffic the day of, they also can increase traffic in the future. If your brand is known for consistently hosting fundraisers, then people acknowledge your location and remember it when they think about where to eat next. They may remember that they had a fun night with great food at a fundraiser a couple months ago, and now they want to return for another evening of the same high-quality service and products. Then, after you wow them again, you may get some new regulars. In the end, when you have a positive reputation of using your business to give back, you build goodwill, and that brings customers back again and again.

Connecting with our communities has always been, and will continue to be, among the key pieces of a winning restaurant strategy. Because of the pandemic, the sense of locality has gotten even more important. While we are currently taking a pause on promoting large gatherings, now is still the right time to focus on your community. Host smaller, socially-distanced events now and plan for bigger ones later on. You can even get creative and have events in the parking lot or other large spaces.

Our industry needs support from the community right now. We have to give our communities reasons to want to visit restaurants again and showing that you’re making an impact in your area is one fundamental way to do so. Community involvement will benefit your restaurant now, and the success it brings will continue long into the future.

With more than 25 years in the restaurant industry, James Beall (Jamie) serves as president and COO for the iconic Maryland-based pizza brand. Founded in 1955, Ledo Pizza is a regional pizza franchise that is dedicated to offering a fresh, affordable menu served in a family-friendly atmosphere. Ledo Pizza currently has more than 100 locally owned locations in seven states with multiple new restaurants in the pipeline.

Expert Takes, Feature