Hats Off!

Tasteful Idea

By C.M.

Customers got all the pizza they could eat, charities got donations, and pizzerias got a slew of new customers. The setting for this win-win-win situation? The first Buffalo Grove Chamber of Commerce Pizza Challenge in Buffalo Grove, Illinois.

Michael Jonas, a sales representative for direct-mail advertising franchise Coupon-Cash Saver in Deerfield, Illinois, came up with the idea as a way to help charities and businesses at the same time. The all-you-can-eat tasting, held in February, gave local pizza restaurants the chance to showcase their pizzas. Attendees either paid a $3 entry fee or donated six cans of food--then chowed down. Both cash and food were later distributed to five local food pantries; and at the end of the day, consumers placed their votes for the town's best pizzas.

"The purpose was to help the charities out, but it was obviously a very good value for consumers who wanted to try all the pizzas in town," says Jonas, who is also a chamber member. "Win or lose, the pizzerias had a great time and earned a lot of new customers." Approximately $1,000 and 1,500 pounds of food were collected at the event, which drew about 800 more people than Jonas expected.

The second annual Pizza Challenge is again set for February. "I want to help raise money during a [slow] time for the food pantries," explains Jonas. "They get inundated with food during the holidays, but when spring comes, there's no real push to donate."

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This article was originally published in the December 1996 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: Hats Off!.

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