In this series, ActionCOACH Mary Ann Hauser (MAH) and team virtually sit down with business owners to learn how they are working through COVID-19. Check out their inspiring stories for tips on how to cope with and successfully recover from this pandemic as well as ideas on how to avoid making common mistakes. And be sure to look at special offers from these businesses – we can all use a little extra help right now!
MH: Coach Mary Ann Hauser
AD: Anthony DeBose, Owner of Papa’s Pizza
MH: Tell us a little bit about your business. What do you do, and how long have you done it?
AD: Papa’s Pizza is a pizza restaurant that offers carryout, delivery, dine-in, and a buffet. The franchise has been around for a while. My mother-in-law and father-in-law opened the franchise here in the 90’s— I came along and started working for them in 2006, and then took over 5 years ago.
MH: Awesome. Who would you say is your target customer, and how far out do you market your business from the restaurant’s location?
AD: Our target customers are families and kids. Yadkinville is not very densely populated, so the geographical area of our actual customer base is huge. In our marketing efforts, though, the area within about 3-6 miles from the business is our target group. Here in Yadkinville, we have all the major players: Pizza Hut, Dominos, Papa Johns, and all of your other mom and pop shops. Most of our calls are from customers that want to know our actual dine-in store specials because that is what makes us stand apart from our competitors. So my strategy to get my name out there, more than our coupon drops or anything else, is to focus on my in-store specials.
MH: What are two or three actions you’ve taken because of the pandemic, and how are they working?
AD: We changed our hours of operation, and we just recently re-opened the buffet with limited hours. The buffet used to be open all day, but now we’ve limited it to 11am-2pm and 4-8pm. We just want to make sure we’re doing our part keeping everything sanitized: we offer hand sanitizer, we change out our utensils on the buffet every 30 minutes, we’re constantly cleaning, and we all wear our masks. I think all of those measures are beneficial and have helped our customers feel more comfortable. Our sales are still down from last year, but the encouraging thing is that our sales mix has changed. The buffet used to be about 60% of our sales, but it is extremely labor and cost intensive. Because of the pandemic, we’ve seen our carry-out and delivery carry us pretty well. So now, even though the buffet is open again, carry-out and deliveries still carry the ship, which is great because there’s a much higher profit margin.
MH: What would you say is your biggest learning through all of this?
AD: Oh, wow. There’s a lot that I’ve learned through all of this. I’ve learned that you just don’t know what tomorrow is going to hold. This business is fairly unpredictable because it’s a cash-in-hand business. We don’t have contracts with customers, and we don’t have pre-orders, so it all comes down to who comes in today. I’ve learned not take things for granted, and not expect the sales to be there next week. The pandemic taught me that you’ve got to be able to pivot pretty quickly.
MH: What is most inspiring to you today?
AD: That a lot of my customers made it a point to order from us. Many of them have reached out to me to let me know they support local businesses like ours and will continue to order from us. I was really inspired by that.
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