Mattenga’s Pizzeria Brings the Pizza Party Home during COVID-19
Restaurant owners are accustomed to putting out fires and making decisions on the fly. Under normal operating circumstances, swift and decisive action is an absolute necessity.
As restaurant owners, Matt and Hengam Stanfield are no strangers to making quick choices. They’ve owned and operated Mattenga’s Pizzeria in the San Antonio, Texas area since 2014 and opened a second location in 2017. However, once the coronavirus started to hit close to home, the Stanfields knew they needed to quickly adapt in order to survive.
Hengam Stanfield recently spoke with xtraCHEF to share the story of how Mattenga’s has been able to survive—and even thrive—during the COVID-19 outbreak.
Finding Footing in the New Normal
As soon as the coronavirus outbreak was top-of-mind for her community, Hengam immediately went into problem-solving mode. “It’s common to have problems as a local restaurant. You have to get up the next day and figure out, ‘What are we going to do about this?’” she says.
Hengam, in partnership with her husband Matt, knew she wanted to focus on two key areas for the business. The first was to be “incredibly aggressive” about controlling restaurant food costs, which she knew would be vital for Mattenga’s ability to sustain operations. After vetting several solutions, the Stanfields knew that xtraCHEF’s suite of tools and best-in-class data accuracy would be the software that would give them the information they needed in order to keep their doors open for the long term.
The second, more difficult task, would be sustaining sales without on-premise dining. But luckily, Hengam’s marketing strategy helped her find a path forward.
“One of the things that [Mattenga’s has] always tried to do is to be in close contact with our customers,” says Hengam. “I personally respond to every comment and sign them with my name. People are quick to send us messages.”
Because Mattenga’s followers were already used to having a dialogue with one of the owners, requests for a “Build Your Own Pizza” (BYOP) delivery kit came pouring in right away.
A Reimagined Pizza Party
Mattenga’s was already well-known in the community for their BYOP nights on Tuesdays and Saturdays. Families could come into the restaurant and order a pizza kit that includes a 10” ball of dough, sauce, and cheese so kids could build the pizzas themselves. Mattenga’s then baked the pizzas for families to enjoy onsite.
The BYOP nights were an undisputed success; Mattenga’s even expanded the option to BYOP birthday parties, where each kid in attendance could make and eat their own pizza. Sounds like a good time, right?
Parents desperate for entertainment for their stir-crazy kids (and probably a respite for themselves, too) came directly to Hengam to request a delivery option for the BYOP kits their families had come to love at the restaurant.
Hengam was more than happy to help. Each BYOP delivery kit contains Mattenga’s standard 10” round of dough with sauce and cheese for $5. Toppings are also available at $1 per item, an easy upsell. By keeping the dough rounds to a small, personal-size pizza, the kit is priced right for both customers cooking at home as well as Mattenga’s bottom line.
The BYOP kits are packaged in styrofoam for delivery to keep costs low, and because no actual cooking is involved, labor costs are minimal as well; the only prep necessary is making mass quantities of dough, which is already made for prepared pizza, and actual assembly of the kits, which is done every afternoon before orders open at 5 pm.
It could be argued that the BYOP concept is more successful than ever for Mattenga’s. Hengam shares that, on their average delivery, each household purchases 3-4 kits. In the first 2 weeks of offering the kits for delivery, they sold more than 400.
And it’s not just homes that are ordering the kits. At the beginning of social distancing measures, one local teacher ordered 20 kits from Mattenga’s to deliver to her students as a surprise alongside their homework. More recently, bulk orders have come in from churches: on April 19, Mattenga’s fulfilled over 400 kit orders for 2 different congregations.
At a time where much of the news is doom-and-gloom for restaurants, Mattenga’s story is a bright spot. Their sales on Friday, April 17 were 40% higher than their next-best day in business, a record high for the pizzeria.
Hengam attributes Mattenga’s success to quick decision-making and the power of community. Because Mattenga’s listened to their customers’ needs and acted accordingly, they continued to drive brand loyalty, entertain and support their community, and keep their business afloat.
For restaurateurs who are struggling, Hengam stresses the importance of social engagement. To encourage BYOP kit purchases, she created a Facebook video showing families exactly how to use it so there would be no guesswork involved. But she didn’t stop there.
To demonstrate how adaptable the kits are—and drive more sales—Hengam also created videos showing how they can be used to make calzones, garlic knots, pizza rolls, and even zeppole, small, Italian-style donuts. The videos were all promoted on Facebook to drive interest from potential customers.
“When people see a small business that’s putting in the hustle and doing their best, they appreciate it,” says Hengam. “The exposure they get to our brand is exactly who we are. It’s my face on the videos.”
In turn, Mattenga’s takes special steps to ensure their customers know how much they’re appreciated. Once a week, servers sit down to write thank you postcards for customers who placed orders the week before. The servers include notes about where they live or where they go to school, personalizing the message so customers know that they’re having a direct impact on peoples’ lives.
“Businesses are just people,” says Hengam. And by taking such an active approach to customer outreach and support, the Stanfields have shown their community that, as both people and a business, they’re a trusted source of support.
If you’d like to share your experience running a restaurant during the coronavirus outbreak, please reach out to us at COVIDfirstname.lastname@example.org.