Diana's Gourmet Pizzeria

In two years, she has tripled her sales, become an award-winning pizza chef and marketing expert, and established herself as a magazine columnist.

Diana Coutu in her gourmet pizzeria.

“Just about every single [marketing] piece I send out, I use the database on our SpeedLine system.”

Diana's Gourmet Pizzeria

“Time is the greatest gift our SpeedLine POS has given us.”

Diana's Gourmet Pizzeria

“SpeedLine is just very powerful—it streamlines order taking and helps us manage our entire delivery system.”

Diana's Gourmet Pizzeria

“I knew that if I won, I could use the awards and positioning in my marketing.”

Diana Coutu, owner of Diana's Gourmet Pizza in central Canada (now Diana's Cucina & Lounge), has been dubbed in the national press "Canada's pizza queen." Her story surely has the allure of a fairy tale: In two years, she has tripled her sales, become an award-winning pizza chef and marketing expert, and established herself as a magazine columnist.

What propelled the meteoric rise of Diana Gourmet Pizzeria in the pizza world? Diana does not hesitate: "Dedication to a great product and service, and direct marketing are the keys to our growth. But we couldn't have done it without SpeedLine in the store. There is no way we could have been doing the kind of sales we have been doing with paper and pen tickets."

Like many fairy tale princesses, Diana did not inherit her crown. For many years, while going to university, she worked as a lowly pizza delivery driver. Prince Charming came along, a man of many talents but lacking in fortune. Pierre and Diana started dating in 1994. Together, they dreamt of owning a franchise. However, things did not pan out as they hoped.

In 1998, they struck out on their own and started a small delivery/carryout pizza shop called the Pizza Stop. They soon found themselves head to head with the pizza giants that dominated their city's marketplace.

"It was 2003," Diana recalls. "We knew we had to do something: at least twice a week, we were getting complaints from customers who thought they were calling Pizza Hut, but we were Pizza Stop. It was a clue that we were getting lost with the giants."

Emphasizing Marketing

Around that time, Diana received some sound marketing advice. She developed a strategy to reposition herself as a cut above the usual cheap pizza joint. And that's when the magic started.

First, she changed their restaurant's name to Diana's Gourmet Pizzeria to highlight the fact their pizza is not run-of-the-mill: "We use olive oil in our dough, instead of canola," Diana explains. "We make our own signature marinara sauce with crushed tomatoes and a blend of six herbs and spices, and we use only the finest meats and cheeses."

But great pizza won't sell unless people know about it. In June 2004, as part of their strategy to make waves in the pizza market, the Coutus purchased a SpeedLine POS: "Buying a POS was part of the overall plan to help systemize operations and streamline marketing," Diana says. "Marketing my pizzeria is the most important job I have."

"Time is the greatest gift our SpeedLine POS has given us," Diana adds. "With SpeedLine, I no longer have to spend time on data entry. I have more time to focus on marketing, which has in turn increased our sales. In our first year with SpeedLine, our sales more than doubled. And now, since our install date in June '04, our sales have tripled."

With the data she gets from her POS, Diana targets her customers and sends offers that keep them coming back. Her direct marketing initiatives include welcome letters for new customers, follow-up offers, thank-you coupons, a birthday club, monthly newsletter, gift certificates and more. "Just about every single piece I send out," Diana says, "I use the database on our SpeedLine system. I pull a report, export the list, then mail merge it with Word or Publisher. My customers look forward to receiving mail personally addressed from me." 

She also gets creative around holiday time with fun promotions. Her SpeedLine POS helps her personalize her mail: "For Canada Day, I sent out 'Get Out Of Cooking' certificates ($5 off any large) in a little card with the person's name on it. The card said 'Happy Canada Day from Canada's Best Pizza Chef 2005' and gave a fun top 10 reasons to get out of cooking. We got a great response!"

Diana has done such a great job of marketing her pizzeria that her advice is sought after: "I love marketing," Diana enthuses." I have of lot of pizza operators calling me and wanting me to consult, so in the next while, I'll be making time in my schedule to help others grow their businesses like I have mine."

Solid Operations

When Diana's savvy marketing brought in streams of customers, they were ready to handle the volume. "SpeedLine is just very powerful—it streamlines order taking and helps us manage our entire delivery system." Diana says. "Originally we had 3 terminals. Within a few months we needed a fourth for a dedicated driver's dispatch station and to occasionally take some orders."

Without a doubt, the favorite SpeedLine feature is the delivery zones. "Before SpeedLine, we would guess where our customers lived based on our knowledge of the area," Diana explains, "and then charge them something we thought would work. But fees changed all the time. When we installed SpeedLine, we set up delivery zones and charges in the computer. All we have to do is press Delivery, and the computer charges the right amount. Customers are happy because they do not get overcharged. And we're ecstatic because we've collected an extra $40K in delivery fees."

Diana also loves SpeedLine's scheduling tools. "We love the fact that we can define job positions," Diana says. "It is very easy to put it all together and see who is available for what. And then pull the report every two weeks for payroll and just simply transfer that information to our payroll company's website." 

"Right now, we have 20 employees," Diana says. "And if the five right people showed up today, we would definitely bring them on the team."

Branching Out with New Products

Why so many staff? The Coutus are not content with simply making more gourmet pizzas. They have also developed a whole line of frozen pizza products to satisfy the needs of busy families. Moreover, they've added take-n-bake as well as pizza kits and dough patties to their product line. "As our sales have grown," Diana says, "we've had to schedule prep shifts during the day before the restaurant opens."

Diana's frozen pizzas and panzerotti are very popular: They even sell wholesale to a company that ships as far away as eastern Canada. And they are also seeking to develop their off-site sales in the local market in video and convenience stores.

They use SpeedLine's house account feature to handle off-site sales: "There is quite a demand for the frozen pizzas and panzerotti in the convenience market," Diana says. "What we do is set up a new customer's house account for each location and depending on the arrangement, they either pay us upfront or at the end of the month."

Diana, the Gourmet Pizza Queen

Developing new frozen products was a natural outgrowth of Diana's passion for food experiments. She is always on the lookout for new dishes to feature flavorful food. Her restaurant is not called gourmet for nothing!

A couple of years ago, armed with new, unique recipes and a handful of secret ingredients, the plucky pizzaiola decided to enter culinary competitions. "I knew that if I won, I could use the awards and positioning in my marketing," Diana says.

The wager paid off. Diana won the grand prize at a national competition sponsored by Canadian Pizza two years in a row. Her famous Moosehead beer crust recipe earned her free publicity from coast to coast.

Her national title secured her a place on the Canadian pizza team as the gourmet pizza chef. She competed in Las Vegas at the Pizza Today's 2006 Italian Chef Wars. She lost by a mere 10 points to the United States' pizza champion. Later she placed fourth in America's Plate competition, a prestigious international culinary contest held in New York, and traveled to Salsamaggiore, in Italy, to take part in the World Pizza Championships. And in 2007, Diana was selected to compete in the Pizza Festiva gourmet competition in Las Vegas.

And so, she earned her crown as Canada's pizza queen.

Ever After

And how does this fairy tale end? Diana has big plans. After a yearlong search, she's just found a new location in their neighborhood that provides the space they sorely need to accommodate their amazing growth. "We are going to move our store to our new space and set the groundwork so it can support at least two locations in the city," Diana explains. "From there we'll be expanding outwards. Our goal is to have 100 franchises in five years."

Diana is planning to install SpeedLine in each of these new franchises. "It's an integral part of running a good store and keeping it all together," Diana says. She will divide her time between franchising, marketing, consulting and winning culinary awards. "I'm a very busy girl," she laughs. Such is the fate of royalty.

An interview with Diana Coutu from Diana's Gourmet Pizzeria.