How New York's Legendary Grimaldi's Pizzeria Adapted to the Crisis

CEO Joseph Cioli shares the secrets of overcoming this crisis without compromising quality.

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Restaurant and hospitality brands nationwide have had to adapt their service models, operating procedures and more, virtually overnight. 

New York's Grimaldi’s Pizzeria, with its roots dating back to 1906, turned into a national chain with more than 40 stores known for its traditional coal brick-oven cooking methods, the utilization of New York water at every location, and Grimaldi's famous dough recipe.  

Like many others in the foodservice business at this time, industry veteran CEO Joseph Ciolli has pivoted Grimaldi’s Pizzeria from a full-service restaurant to a solely carry-out and delivery service model.

“We have always been focused on providing the highest quality experience for our customers,” Ciolli says. “Under the current circumstances, we’ve refocused our efforts on continuing to provide the safest and healthiest experience for customers, which has resulted in a shift in our operational model. Above all, great customer service will go a long way to continue building trust and rapport with the brand.”

Related: Blaze Fast-Fire'd Pizza Franchise Information

During this time of change in the face of this pandemic, Ciolli suggests asking yourself these questions:

What can you do to adapt your business models to meet the needs of your clientele in a safe and effective manner?

How are you making yourself available to the community while abiding by social distancing and sanitization needs? 

How are you staying connected through digital media? 

What goals do you have for you and your business during this time?

How will you do things differently after the pandemic is over?

The Grimaldi’s team quickly built out the brand’s online infrastructure to accommodate increased telephone and website orders for its 40+ locations, enabling online payment for website orders to provide contactless payment. Grimaldi’s expanded its delivery partnerships to include availability via DoorDash, UberEats, and GrubHub. In addition, individual Grimaldi’s locations have created separate carry-out and delivery pick-up areas to implement socially distanced service, with many stores establishing curbside pick-up service as space allows. 

While Grimaldi’s menu hasn’t changed as a result of the shift in the service model, the company has implemented a number of special packages and promotions to provide ease of ordering for its customers. These include two different family meal bundles, offered at $25 and $40 based on providing either two or four-person family meals. In addition, Grimaldi’s has leveraged its inventory to offer 50% off bottles of wine, single beers for $6, and six-packs of beer for $15 for carry-out with food purchase only to round out its beverage offerings during this time. 

On Easter Sunday, Grimaldi’s offered a sweet treat to its customers with a free slice of cheesecake with carry-out orders of $40 or more. In the coming weeks, the company will also offer a “Date Night In” bundle for two, inclusive of a traditional cheese pizza, a house salad, a bottle of prosecco, and a slice of strawberry cheesecake to help create a special night at home.

From a communications and consumer marketing perspective, Grimaldi’s has maintained open and frequent lines of communication with its current and future customers via email and social media. Messaging has shifted from focusing on new and promotional items to letting customers know that Grimaldi’s is open for business and ready to support the local community.

Related: Papa John's Pizza Franchise Opportunities

To date, several locations have donated meals and supported programs offering meals to first responders and front-line workers.  In addition, Grimaldi’s has utilized social media to virtually connect with its customers to maintain strong relationships and provide a deeper brand connection to the carryout dining experience. 

Part of the Grimaldi’s brand ethos has always prioritized giving back to the community. As such, Grimaldi’s has continued to build on its partnership with No Kid Hungry – a non-profit for which Grimaldi’s has raised more than $1 million through various initiatives since first partnering with the organization in 2013 – to assist in supporting children in need of meals who have been affected by the school closures nationwide. 

In addition, Grimaldi’s will move forward with its much-anticipated, annual Teacher and Nurse Appreciation Week from May 4 to 8. Grimaldi’s stores across the country will offer 15% off all orders to teachers and nurses that week as a way to say thank you for their commitment and service, especially during these uncertain times. 

Related: Russo's New York Pizzeria Inc. Franchise Information

While the Grimaldi’s team looks forward to welcoming guests back into its full-service dining rooms across the country at the appropriate time in accordance with federal, state, and municipal requirements and guidelines, the company has made dedicated and thoughtful moves to adapt effectively within the current hospitality environment, ensuring the long-term success of the brand. 

Grimaldi’s is setting a good example of how we can all adapt and reach out to help keep our communities and businesses connected and active during these times of difficulty and hardship. Like them, we can find that this time is a defining time, and we can be all the stronger from it. Dig deep, work hard, and even enjoy a slice of pizza or two.

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