Innovative Pizza Bowls drive up sales and average ticket price

Marco’s Pizza meets consumer demand while helping franchisees strengthen bottom-line profits

Black rectangular trays filled with assorted pizza toppings are pictured, with a square photo of a pizza bowl superimposed on the center of the image. A green triangular corner banner in the smaller photo says “new.”

Bowls are big, and our Pizza Bowls have been no exception. Our Specialty Pizza Bowls became a permanent fixture on the menu in early 2020. 

Consumers looking to cut back on carbs or just longing for something a little different gravitated toward this new offering. And we noticed consumers saw this as an add-on to their order, which drove up the average ticket price, too.

“We saw that there was something unique here and something special,” says Marco’s Brand Marketing Director Alex Tokatlian. “Customers recognized, ‘Hey, this is a great option where I can have delicious Marco’s pizza, but I don’t need to have the dough.’ It made a lot of sense.

“And it made a lot of sense for operators, too, because it was really easy to make. They use existing items they already have in the store, and it’s actually faster than making a pizza because there’s no dough-stretching.”

The sweet spot

This year, we added Build-Your-Own Pizza Bowls to the menu. Five weeks in, Build-Your-Own had become our top-selling Pizza Bowl. It’s important to note that this extension of the Pizza Bowl line is actually growing sales for the whole pizza bowl category as well as average order size.

“It’s not taking away sales, it’s actually bringing people in. We’re seeing higher rates of new customers ordering Pizza Bowls than we see on an average Marco’s order. So everything’s working together really well: It’s driving sales, there’s customer interest, it works well for our stores because it’s easy to make. And because those checks are higher than the average Marco’s check, it boosts our store profitability as well.”

Marco’s was the first major pizza delivery chain to add bowls to its menu, and Sr. Director of Culinary Innovation Andy Dismore says the Pizza Bowls are a great example of what the Marco’s Pizza team is looking for in menu innovation.

“One of the things that’s really important is that when we create products, we’re creating solutions,” says Dismore. “The product is supposed to do more than just taste good. And everything we do starts with the consumer. In the case of Bowls, we already saw Build-Your-Own behavior out there because there were a lot of modifications to the existing signature Specialty Bowls.”

Dismore notes that the Build-Your-Own Bowls are “another instance of the guest leading us down the path of innovation. 

“The other piece is, this launch hits that sweet spot between product marketing and operations.” 

A franchisee’s eye view

The simplicity of building the Bowls and the fact that they use on-hand ingredients make this a dream product for franchisees. It should come as no surprise, then, that the idea for Build-Your-Own came from… our franchisees.

After the consumer response to the Specialty Bowl launch, franchisees were excited, too. “We were hearing a lot on the system calls that we have with franchisees, ‘Hey, what about Build-Your-Own bowls?’ And we kind of said, ‘Hey, we’ve got to do this thing; it makes sense,’” says Tokatlian.

Adds Dismore, “It’s critically important for us to look at things through the lens of the franchisee. We want to balance relevance for the brand with ease of execution, because the easier it is to execute, the more consistently it will be executed. And that is paramount, because as we all know, the negative impact of a bad experience in the restaurant is lasting.”

Our team acted quickly to get the new Bowls on the menu at the beginning of 2021. “We know to strike when the iron’s hot,” Tokatlian says. “There was a lot of interest in bowls right now, it was something our pizza delivery competitors hadn’t caught up to yet, and to my knowledge, they still haven’t.”

Two-way communication with our franchisees is the keystone of our success, because they’re having that one-on-one interaction with our customers — and communicating their feedback to us.

Innovation is one of the growth engines of our business, and the ideas have to come from everywhere. And since demands change, that means we’re always listening to our franchise community and our customers.

What’s good enough today won’t be good enough tomorrow.

“We are just getting started,” says Dismore. “Marco’s has made an investment in innovation that’s unprecedented for the brand, in terms of people, in terms of supporting that activity, and in terms of really leaning into it.” 

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