Co-Owner of Old Town Pizza, Reese Browning, has always been willing to network and share best practices, so we jumped at the opportunity to snag an interview and share his advice on how to navigate the restaurant industry during COVID-19. Now more than ever, we are embodying the phrase “we’re in this together,”— in conversation, social hashtags, and banners that stretch across downtown streets nationwide. Although the restaurant industry has tremendous challenges to overcome, there are countless incredible stories of resilience, support, love, and community. It’s undoubtedly a trying time, but there’s a lot of goodness shining through.
Old Town Pizza radiates the power of togetherness. They continue to have a booming business during COVID-19 while providing communities with a sense of family and comfort through their menu offerings and customer service—an impressive feat when human contact is limited, and service is restricted.
The Evolution of Old Town Pizza
Staying true to form, Browning began our interview with gratitude, stating, “We feel fortunate that we have always offered takeout and delivery. Additionally, we have also benefited from being well-rooted in our communities for many years; quite a bit of loyalty has built up.” Old Town Pizza has taken extensive steps to ensure that their devoted customers continue to feel safe and supported. They modified many of their business practices to comply with national, state, and local public health recommendations and have been consistent in their communications across multiple platforms.
Old Town Pizza’s Top 5 COVID-19 Adaptations:
- Accept orders via phone or online—discouraging ordering inside the restaurant
- Order-by-text implementation with the option of counter or curbside pickup
- Cashless takeout and delivery, as well as omitting credit card signature requirement
- Contactless delivery with text communication regarding order retrieval
- Upgrade soap, towel, and sanitizer dispensers to be touchless and automatic
Browning notes, “We have also benefited from the relaxed ABC rules,” adding, “…we introduced some new menu items and promoted our ‘Take & Bake’ options, including build-your-own pizza kits.” In addition to selling from the bar and changing up menu offerings, restaurants can (and should) also offer promotions and incentives to drive sales. “We actually offer incentives for our customers to order online and continually work with our technology providers to [keep] improving the systems,” said Browning. When the COVID-19 lockdown began, 15% of Old Town Pizza’s orders were generated via online ordering; less than eight weeks later, this percentage has jumped to 30% and continues to grow.
Staying ahead of the technological curve is now more crucial than ever. “We’re about to roll out another large improvement to our online ordering system, as we believe it’s critically important to value [our] customers’ time. It’s about building loyalty based on both food and service,” said Browning. While customer service is always a priority for Browning, Old Town Pizza has also created incredible employee loyalty. The structural pivots they’ve had to make as a result of COVID-19 has allowed them to increase demand for take-out and delivery, enabling them to keep everyone on staff. Browning emphasizes this point, stating: “the majority of our team members have wanted to work, and we have allowed [and encouraged] that.”
Leveraging Social Media
Without a doubt, Old Town Pizza’s social media presence is impressive. They feature boast-worthy food pics, employee highlights, and customer service announcements. Several employees spearhead their in-house social media production team, which adds an authentically curated touch to every post. During COVID-19, Old Town Pizza has done a fantastic job using social media platforms to communicate with customers regarding various safety precautions being taken, such as wearing face coverings and monitoring social distancing at the entrance.
Fostering relationships is a consistent theme in Browning’s message for success and sustainability. Businesses supporting each other is the name of the game, and nothing proves this better than Old Town Pizza’s collaboration with local wineries. “We have developed good relationships with the local wineries and sell our bottles at 50% off to help them move their inventory. They appreciate our partnership,” said Browning. This community-spirited effort has resulted in both local wineries and Old Town Pizza selling more product and keeping people employed, while providing customers a great deal.
Browning continues to be amazed at the support and generosity of their customers during this time. “The average tip has gone up significantly, with some customers tipping 100% of their order value. Some of our team members have joked that they don’t want to go back to normal because they are making more money now,” said Browning. It’s no surprise that pulling together makes us stronger, but the real power in Old Town Pizza’s story is the sense of community, deep relationships, and loyalty they have fostered since 2002.
About Old Town Pizza
Old Town Pizza (OTP) has three locations—its original in Old Town Auburn, Old Town Lincoln, and Historic Roseville. Old Town Pizza is proud of the dining experience that’s been created since first opening in July 1999. Always striving to provide a fresh experience for customers, Old Town Pizza offers a unique full-service, relaxed, fun environment.