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Customers line up at an opening day event at an Uncle Maddios restaurant
Customers line up at an opening day event at an Uncle Maddio's restaurant.

Uncle Maddio's breaks down marketing tactics

Pizza chain uses new loyalty program and new-unit events to build buzz

Uncle Maddio’s Pizza Joint is using a multi-pronged marketing approach to attract new customers and keep regulars coming back.

On Tuesday, the Atlanta-based fast-casual chain launched its “Loyalty Love” loyalty program, which gives customers a free entrée after their 10th purchase of a meal. Membership is free and customers can register online, the company said in a statement.

Matt Andrew, 12-unit Uncle Maddio’s founder and chief pizza maker, said a company doesn’t have to be huge to reap the rewards of a loyalty program. When it’s simple, it’s about showing guests appreciation, he noted.

“It’s just smart business as you run a restaurant to have a loyalty program,” Andrew said.

The restaurant gives customers 10 points on each visit to use toward free items on later visits. One hundred points equal one free entrée, and customers can also save points up and get larger items or sides to accompany meals.

Part of what drove the company to offer a loyalty program was that it encourages customers to share their experiences online, Andrew said. “It integrates into social media,” he said. “They can also share with their friends. It’s really cool.”

Uncle Maddio’s integrates social media and the loyalty program strategy when it opens a new restaurant, aiming to build buzz by holding one of two signature events: The unit either offers the first 100 customers free pizza for a year, or it gives away free pizzas for a designated time on opening day.

Opening day events are all about building buzz, Uncle Maddio's founder says.

It’s all about creating buzz, according to Andrew. “It’s just great brand marketing,” he said. “It’s a vehicle that gets the word out. The local media picks it up. We’ve had local TV crews come in and talk about these deals.”

Uncle Maddio’s calls itself the “Chipotle of pizza.” Pies are made to order from a selection of six sauces, three types of dough and assorted toppings. When customers win free pizza for a year, they receive a card good for 52 nine-inch pizzas. The winners always come in to get their food, Andrew said — and their friends come back, too.

The single-day contests or promotions see huge turnouts — Andrew says lines often form outside restaurants before they open at 11 a.m. — and those customers often return. The buzz sustains because people like the food, he said, and because they share their experience on social media platforms. “We embrace social media,” he said. “Social media is probably half our marketing.”

When Uncle Maddio’s runs a contest, it makes an announcement on Facebook and counts down to the event on Facebook and Twitter. “Of course, on the day of opening, we encourage our customers to thank us — to give us a shout on Facebook,” he said. “And then they just naturally do it anyway.”

The chain plans to open eight to 10 restaurants this year, Andrew said.

Contact Erin Dostal at [email protected].
Follow her on Twitter: @ErinDostal

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