Service with a smile, or else

Not only is your pizza free if you are not greeted with a grin, but the offending employee is “history,” says Pizza Pizza’s executive director, Lorne Austin.

The Globe and Mail
January 12, 1993

Service with a smile, or else
Pizza firms chase market
John Heinzl


Pizza Pizza Ltd., Canada’s largest pizza chain, is dishing up a variation on its 30-minutes-or-free guarantee: Your order is on the house if the driver fails to smile.

Not only is your pizza free if you are not greeted with a grin, but the offending employee is “history,” says Pizza Pizza’s executive director, Lorne Austin.

“That’s corporate policy. It’s not cutthroat. It’s getting back to the basics. It’s service,” Mr. Austin said. All drivers and store personnel will soon wear buttons reminding customers of the new guarantee.

“Can a pizza guy be fired if he doesn’t smile? I thought I’d heard everything,” Toronto employment lawyer David Harris said. After being warned, “if he repeats it there might be cause” for dismissal, Mr. Harris added.

With the recession and the goods and services tax eating into the fast food delivery business, pizza chains are pulling out all the stops in the battle for market share.

Pizza Pizza, for years the dominant player in the lucrative Toronto market, suddenly found its position threatened by upstart 241 Pizza, which, as its name implies, delivers two for the price of one.

241 Pizza started in the Toronto market more than five years ago, but it wasn’t until it launched a boisterous radio campaign last year, taking direct aim at Pizza Pizza, that they began making a name for itself.

So intense is the competition that this summer 241 went so far as to buy a pair of powerboats to deliver pizza to residents of Toronto Islands. The boats typically made between 50 and 80 deliveries a week.

Pizza Pizza’s new campaign, including contests and other promotions, will be launched with a series of print and radio ads in about 10 days, Mr. Austin said. It follows the introduction this week of an expanded menu at the chain’s 227 outlets across Ontario – more than half of them in Toronto.

But not everyone is smiling within the Pizza Pizza empire. Franchisees in Montreal have watched “their investments go up in smoke,” according to an internal letter circulated to employees by chairman and founder Michael Overs.

As a result of the weak economy, the company closed down its eight Quebec stores earlier this year, Mr. Austin said.

241 Pizza has no stores in Quebec, but it is going head-to-head with Pizza Pizza in Toronto.

“I don’t think their product’s very good,” Gregory Johnston, president of Tanis Productions Ltd., said of Pizza Pizza. His marketing firm helped develop 241’s radio ads and boats-to-the-Toronto-Islands concept. “I think they have a visibility problem. I think they’ve had it their way for a lot of years.”

With 118 stores – 85 in Toronto alone – and projected sales of $60 million, 241 estimates it has taken up to 30 per cent of Pizza Pizza’s business in Canada’s largest city, a claim its rival flatly denies.

241 doesn’t intend to take Pizza Pizza’s latest salvo lying down.

“Whatever campaigns or ideas they have up their sleeve, I always have something better,” Mr. Johnston asserts.

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