Boston Pizza turns pizza savers into patio sets

How comedic one-off stunts fit into the casual dining chain's recent pizza- and experience-centric shift in strategy.

Boston Pizza is on a mission to become the go-to gathering place for meals, and a stunt this week is aiming to get people to think about visiting one of its patios after their next take-out order.

Working with John St., the restaurant created tiny patio chairs that match the little plastic pizza-saver that keeps a box from dipping down and ruining your food – which most people have noted looks like a little table at some point in their lives.

The concept was announced on Boston Pizza’s social channels, and the chairs will be included in take-out orders from select locations for a limited time.

The stunt is part of a broader summer push around the patios at most Boston Pizza locations – a unique proposition among pizza chains – and its $5 Corona offer that runs summer-long.

Boston Pizza has spent the last year shifting its marketing strategy and positioning from being a sports-centric restaurant to a more inclusive gathering place for millennial families. That has also included a greater emphasis on its food – namely pizza, which is not only in its name but is also a meal option well-suited for people to “gather around” and was reflected in a spring campaign promoting new thin-crust additions to its menu.

Adrian Fuoco, senior director of marketing at Boston Pizza, says a major reason for committing to that shift was getting back to its restaurant’s roots. It has a track record of fun, well-received one-off stunts, from April Fools Day campaigns to selling t-shirts made to look like they were stained with rib sauce.

Last month, Boston Pizza created a pizza box for Father’s Day that could fold out into a table so that dad could eat pizza in bed. But Fuoco says executions like these aren’t just about “being funny for funny sake,” and ladder up to the same goals as the rest of Boston Pizza’s marketing, which in this case is to get people to associate the restaurant with pizza and the patio season.

“One of the ways the new strategy is coming out is the big integrated campaign,” he says. “The other layer is what we would call the pizza conversation. We’re doing things that make our brand part of fun things related to pizza, so when people think about pizza they think of Boston Pizza. People get a bit of chuckle when they see it, but they organically pick up a lot of traction so people also connect us back to the things we want to be associated with.”

One of the main insights that informed the brand shift was that customers saw Boston Pizza as a place where they could have an experience, not just a pizza place where you place an order and take it home. Fuoco says the restaurant has been trying to find the right balance between talking about food and experience, and that its spring campaign leaned towards the former, while this campaign for the summer months leans more towards the latter. In either case, Boston Pizza is building off of consumer insights that show what makes it unique for consumers, and what kinds of messages they want to see from the restaurant.

“We’re not trying to stretch ourselves beyond what people expect from us,” Fuoco says. “We had campaigns in the past that did well, but we had to work twice as hard. If we were trying to sell burgers, we can do that. Our burgers are great. But it’s just a bit more work because burgers aren’t the first thing that comes to people’s minds when they hear ‘Boston Pizza.’”

The big, integrated campaign has been Boston Pizza’s traditional marcom approach, and it will continue to do that as part of its new, long-term strategy. But Fuoco says there are several “levers it can pull” to push those brand goals forward.

“When you’re doing a big campaign, you’re buying media and pushing your message out and hoping it will drive that visit or order online,” he says. “But at the same time, what is something a little more conversational? Things like this are less about our message and more about something fun that can be a little more organic and real, and having both of those things live together.”