Pizzeria chain delivers comfort food during coronavirus lockdown
An EBRD advisory project helped a chain of pizzerias in Azerbaijan boost brand awareness and customer loyalty with funding from the European Union (EU). Pizza Mizza can now pride itself with increased sales, more staff and a larger customer base of admirers of its Italian cuisine.
When strict quarantine measures were introduced in Azerbaijan, Pizza Mizza was one of the quickest chains in the country to react. 24/7 delivery with a contact-free option and diverse discount campaigns allowed Pizza Mizza to expand, perfectly demonstrating how a small business can thrive amid a crisis by taking a sound approach and making timely adjustments.
Pizza Mizza was there when measures against the coronavirus pandemic were introduced in Azerbaijan, ensuring no pizza lover was ever left unserved.
A slice of determination
Kamran Mirzayev, Deputy Director of Pizza Mizza, can list all the reasons why pizza holds a special place in so many people’s hearts:
“With so many different toppings, pizza is arguably one of the most popular comfort foods out there. It is delicious, a great addition to a gathering of family or friends, and an invaluable ingredient for an evening in front of the television.”
The first restaurant opened in 2014 and the company grew its branches and employees steadily every year. But somewhere along the way, the management came to the realisation that growth, while always welcome, needs both an overarching concept and consistent delivery.
“Our sector is saturated: we are competing with established international brands. Pizza itself is a brand so not only should we offer customers amazing food but also create an identity and concept to remember,” says Kamran.
This necessity led Pizza Mizza to turn to the EBRD’s business advisory programme for help, and experienced consultants with EU funding assisted the company in identifying an optimal marketing strategy. Insights into customer preferences and analysis of the competitive landscape made the owners reconsider Pizza Mizza’s previous concept and adopt a different approach to its customers.
“The most important question for us was to identify our customers. By conducting profiling, we could gather information and devise a unified approach to deliver ‘one experience’ in all five restaurants in Baku,” notes Kamran. “One logo with distinctive corporate colours represents a top-of-mind restaurant with the best pizzas in town.”
A winning brand; a strong business
Since the end of the project, orders, turnover and employees have increased by 30, 50 and 82 per cent, respectively. During the pandemic, the company continued to perform well and even managed to launch a new branch.
“With ambitious growth plans on the horizon, we strive to become one of the leading pizza restaurant chains in the country and go international, bringing the best home-made pizza recipes to Turkey, Georgia, Ukraine, Kazakhstan and the UAE,” says Kamran.
Now the company is ready to break new ground and further go digital:
“By broadcasting our cooks making pizzas-to-go live online to mobiles, tablets and personal computers, we want to bring our brand even closer to our customers. What better way to involve everyone interested in the magic of pizza-making than bringing it direct to their screens?” concludes Kamran.
To date, more than 300 small and medium-sized companies have benefited from the EBRD’s Advice for Small Businesses programme with EU funding in Azerbaijan.