Maintaining loyalty by shifting from price to experience

Louise King
08 May 2019

When was the last time you went into a high street pizza restaurant and paid full price? It’s Friday night and you want a pizza, and so you go to an area, and find somewhere you like, looking up the voucher code even as you sit down and order a drink. It doesn’t really matter which restaurant it is – because you know there will be a voucher or deal of some sort. It wasn’t always this way. It used to be the case that we wanted a pizza, but we liked some restaurants more than others. Slowly, the lure of the discount blinded us to brands and merged the chains into one. The average number of visits was low, because everyone got a couple, and so the need for larger footfall was exacerbated.

Unfortunately, the chains had devalued their brands by giving so many offers that discounts became an expectation. For the chains, there was an enormous risk in not providing an offer. The result was that we became so habituated to vouchers that eventually it determined which restaurant we visited. And this behaviour has spread now so that we have the same expectations for take-away pizzas, too. There is a deals website that has developed a tool to search for Domino’s pizza vouchers. 

This led me to consider what these chains were doing wrong and how they might reverse this trend.  The mistake that they make is to focus more on driving traffic than they do on the experience that the customer has when they get there. We pay full price for pizza in local restaurants, where we feel our experience is authentic. Is this a family visit or a food on the way home? Is it a romantic night out, or something you do weekly before the theatre. Loyalty is about having an experience that we value. And so as marketers, we can’t engender loyalty unless we offer experience. These restaurants could move away from discounting by being less worried about competing in the voucher market, and concentrating more on making their pizza the focus of attention.?  Chains that have successfully managed to not discount have taken to having pizza menu that provides a choice of tomatoes, a less diverse menu or just focusing on pizza; thus fulfilling the customer’s desire, that itch for a pizza that needs to be scratched.