A Pandemic, A Food Holiday, and a Vault Release Pie Walk Into a Bar
By Lauren Bolden, Owner, Pie Bar
My Grandma called me recently and said “Did you know pie has its own day?” She had just learned about National Pie Day (January 23rd) and told me she could not wait to celebrate.
Of course I knew about National Pie Day and the other 320+ Food and Beverage Holidays that happen over the course of a single year. I love food and my calendar reflects that.
The idea of using Food & Beverage Holidays to drive revenue and increase foot traffic to a business is not a new one. Large companies and chains regularly use these holidays to promote a free or heavily discounted item in exchange for large volumes of customers visiting their stores on that specific day.
They hope that by incentivizing a person to visit their store for a free item, they will entice them to come back again and again and make paid purchases in the future. They are going to spend mass amounts of money on marketing anyways, so why not build the cost of the item into the marketing promotion and then use that data to sell to you later? (genius, btw.)
But, what does this mean for small and independently owned food businesses?
*Pie Bar waves from the corner of the room. Hi guyssss!!!!*
As a small food business, I can tell you that our marketing budget is quite pitiful. We can look to the “big guys” and see what they are doing, but we have to be scrappy and resourceful when it comes to connecting with potential and current customers.
It means that we have to consider things like: how can we use these National Food & Beverage Holidays to do more than just increase sales?
How can we utilize them to help us build our community, start conversations, and become even more connected with our guests while simultaneously increasing revenue? That way, you will want to come back again and again..because you loved the pie, the people, and the experience (and hopefully tell your friends about it, too!)
I started to wonder if any of my friends that also own small food and beverage businesses have attempted to utilize these built-in holidays, and if they had, were there positive benefits to doing so?
I reached out to Leticia Hutchins, one of the owners of Alma Coffee in Holly Springs. She and her husband, Harry, run their family coffee farm and roastery.
I brought up National Coffee Day (September 29th) and asked if they used that day to connect with new customers or promote a special product? Leticia said that Alma has used days like National Coffee Day to educate people about “where their coffee comes from and showing them the journey from bean to cup.”
You see, Leticia is a 5th Generation Coffee Farmer, and understands that in order to create a deeper relationship surrounding Alma Coffee, she first needs to cultivate a deeper sense of connection between her coffee beans and the people who consume them.
Alma Coffee believes deeply in improving lives by implementing sustainable practices on their coffee farms and in their roastery, so that when days like National Coffee Day roll around they can use that momentum to introduce new people to Alma Coffee and create a more rich connection with those who are already familiar with their story.
She was speaking to my lil' small business heart.
In 2020, like most businesses, we began to wonder how we would be able to survive. Stay at Home orders meant people could not walk around the downtown district where our Woodstock Shop is located, and later where our Marietta Shop is located.
Cody, Vivian, and I began to brainstorm, and looked back at years past.
“Well Pi Day (March 14th) has always been successful for us,” I said, and only a few months before the pandemic we had tried something we were calling a “Vault Release Pie.”
At the time, we had some extra graham cracker pie crusts, and instead of throwing them away (never!), we decided to bring back a beloved pie (S’mores Pie!) for a “one day only” scenario...we "opened the vault," if you will.
You see, we used to make S’mores Pie on a regular basis many years ago, but as I learned more about business and starting paying attention to things like cost analysis breakdowns (lame) I began to realize that although the S’mores Pie is ah-mah-zing, we could no longer afford to offer it on a regular basis (yikes!)
We quietly removed it from our regular menu, and did not have it in-shop again..until that one day only Vault Release.
We made 50 S’mores Pie and sold them all in less than 2 hours. Two weeks later we tried it again with a different flavor. This time we made more, and again, it sold out in a matter of hours.
The Vault Release was born.
Then, in April of 2020, we finally began to put the two together.
What if we paired a Vault Release Pie, something that had been successful for us, with a National Food & Beverage Holiday, something that is successful for the big guys?
So on Cinco De Mayo (May 5th) we released a Margarita Pie, on National Coffee Day (September 29th) we made our Coffee and Cream Pie, and on Chocolate Chip Cookie Day (August 4th), you better believe we brought back the Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Pie.
Pairing these two things together, a Vault Release Pie and a National Food & Beverage Holiday gave us an opportunity.
Yes, it increased revenue on those days (which as a business..Yay!) but also, it connected us with our community more than I anticipated. Suddenly, I was spending time talking with our guests not just about how the specific Vault Release Pie, but about pie flavors that they remembered from their past.
I realized that the marrying of the two ideas could be the things we needed to start new conversations and engage more with our community, especially during a time when connection with people was at a bare minimum.
For a small business, this was tremendous and because of the combination of these two things, it gave us an opportunity to grow both deeper in our connections with our guests as well as grow our reach a little bit wider (Hi, new Pie Bar Marietta shop!)
We are not far into 2021, but I anticipate that Pie Bar will continue to connect with first time guests and Frequent Pie-ers alike on National Food & Beverage Holidays through the excitement of a Vault Release Pie.
What may seem like a silly date on a calendar, means more, at least for now.
It means that as a small business, we have an opportunity to be creative, to choose local business partners that share our vision of bringing joy to people, and as always, it means we get to do what we love each day: bake and eat more pie.
Interested in hearing about upcoming Vault Releases + National Food Holiday Pies?
Our next Vault Release is coming up soon!