Little Italian Pie’s reaches out to two target markets. The first target market is business oriented middle class men and women looking to get lunch. They cater to this market by providing exceptionally fast service in order to accommodate for their short lunch breaks. Their second target market includes families who are looking for a casual environment so they can visit and enjoy dinner. Italian Pie’s maintains customer loyalty by recognizing their customers and making them feel like regulars. This is easier for the dinner customers because they have more time to talk and get to know each other. Italian Pie’s believes that it’s the little things that count and those are the things that the customer is going to remember. Remembering their favorite dishes ….For their core customers, Italian Pie’s offers discounted prices on habitually purchased items and even the inclusion of free items such as bread. The owner abides by her statement, “if you are here all of the time and I know you are coming back I’m going to take care of you.” The owner believes that the main reason customer’s give them business is because they have good food and it is always consistent. She believes consistency is key and always having the same look, portion size, and making sure it always tastes the same makes them dependable in the customer’s eyes and it’s reason that the customer will always be pleased every time they visit. She always believes a way to attract and keep customers is to let them know they are always right. Even if it means losing a little money, keeping them happy and keeping their business is best in the long run.
Little Italian Pie’s uses a par list in order to select the inventory they need to satisfy their customer’s needs and wants. The list keeps track of how many items are selling per week, so they always know to have that many on hand. The par is adjusted based on a checks and balances system. If something isn’t selling or they are running out of a particular item, they adjust their par for the following week. Most of their suppliers were set up with the previous owner and continued to do business with them once they took over. Dole and Robinson are their main food distributers with some other vendors that had come and personally asked for their business. Their retail strategy for their inventory focuses on price and quality. When they took over they lowered the price of several of their items because they believe in keeping things fair with their customers. Quality also plays a big part with what they choose for their inventory. The only thing that is not homemade is their pasta. In order to forecast their merchandise needs, they use their par system and take inventory twice a week. They believe it’s always hit or miss and you just have to know your town and the time of year in order to know what merchandise you will need.
Little Italian Pie’s has a varying pricing strategy; different things cost them different amounts to make. Their usual markup for food is 300%, while this sounds like it’s a lot, it really isn’t. It gives them what they need to efficiently and effectively run the restaurant and make a profit. This markup can vary, depending on the food item. More expensive (in time and labor) items may have less overall markup. Little Italian Pie’s does run specials or sales throughout the week on certain menu items. On Monday nights, they offer all you can eat spaghetti with a Tech I.D. On Wednesday nights, they have half price wine with the purchase of an entrée. Something that they consider when coming up with specials and sales is what will it cost them. The half price wine deal is not to help them make money on the wine, they do it to get customers into their restaurant. Mrs. Kaitlin stated that, “If you are going to do a sale, you have to have things that people bring in, not a sale on things people don’t like.” Little Italian Pie’s pricing strategy is very competitive; they try to stay right with or just below the competition. Little Italian Pie’s staff knows that their customers are very price sensitive. The customers are quick to gripe about any change in price, or an upcharge for a menu item such as a $2.95 salad.
The owener of Little Italian Pie’s do not consider the other Italian restaurant in the area direct completion- however, Roma's is taking business from them. Their strengths include customers who consider their food to be a different type of food, more homemade type; whereas the other is more bistro, Americanized Italian. Another strength is their ability to keep loyal customers who love home cooked and authentic cuisine. The opening of What-a-burger heavily impacted their business for about a week, they handle situations like this by just pushing through and knowing that people will come back if they continue to offer superior service and food. Little Italian Pie’s does have competition though, sWuch as, fast food chains, other sit down restaurants, and home meals.Consumer’s choose Little SItalian Pie’s over the competition because of the homemade, true Italianquality to their food and their friendly fast service. Oppurtunities include the ability to expand into other cities in addition to having an increasingly stronger prescence among college students. Another oppurtunity, is the fact that many
Threats include other restaurants and a small town economy fueled by college students who don't like to tip. In addition to slow summers, college students often will not tip so this is why their core customers are so important.
Finances and Little Italian Pie's: A Strength or Weakness?
Little Italian Pie's competes fiercely on price, but lucky for them, they already have complete ownership of the building and have one less worry to deal with on a frequent basis. When figuring out how much money would be needed to run their business, it came as a huge strength to have a prior-relationship with the previous owner, who was anxious to sell because of an on-going tense relationship with the landlord. They were able to pay for the building all at once, which has been a weakness in that the owners feel they should have talked them down to a lower price now, a realization that set in after thinking about all the effort they had to put into cleaning the place and not helped by the fact that the owner Mrs. Kaitlin does not like the “splatter paint” and other interior designs. A very clear piece of advice offered to entrpreneurs who need a location for their business was that they should buy the building all at once, or borrow from friends or family, and generally try to avoid the banks, interest rates, and other obstacles that are avoided after a one-time purchase or borrowing from trusted friends and family.
Little Italian Pie's utilizes social media to promote their business. The co-owner takes full advantage of the reach that Facebook has. Facebook allows promoters to target specific geographic locations and also consumers. They have sales promotions throughout the week including a five dollar spaghetti night for Louisiana Tech students as well as a half-off wine specialty on Wednesday's. They also promote on the television which was an area the owner, Mrs.Kaitlin Hanna feels their television advertising is a serious strength for Little Italian Pie's. They do not use a marketing agency. The co-owner, Mr. Eric Hanna, feels his specialty is in marketing and he takes control of the stores advertising and promotion.
They owners would certainly do everything again, Being a 22-year old and owning her own business is one of the greatest rewards Mrs. Kaitlin gets from her business. There are some changes they felt would She feels her greatest success as a company has been the ability to keep loyal and happy customers. In the future, Little Italian Pie's hopes to expand into Natchitoches Parish and possible Monroe. The future is bright for this small, home-style store and their owners are excited looking into the future.
After meeting with the owners and living in Ruston as part of their target demonstrates to me that they are competing well in the market despite many peers feeling their competitors are superior or at least garnishing more attention for their business. Competition is very fierce among small business owners in this area especially as it relates to local food. Their ability to create home style Italian cooking and a smooth transition from Monjuni's Italian Food into Little Italian Pie's has proven to be successful.