Campaign Spotlight: how Pizza Pilgrims moved with the times during lockdown

As lockdown hit, serving up fresh-out-of-the-oven pizza wasn’t an option for Pizza Pilgrims anymore – so they handed over the chef whites to their customer base, delivering over 20,000 DIY kits across London and beyond.

Leveraging the unknown

Like many small restaurant chains across London, Pizza Pilgrims was hit hard by the lockdown announcement back in March. “When we first closed our sites we shut everything down – it was an ovens-off situation”, explained Nish Bhattari, who heads up Marketing at Pizza Pilgrims, speaking at YMS:Online earlier this month. “I remember thinking: ‘well that’s it – what are we going to do for the next however long?’ But our founders are very innovative and decided we had to do something.”

People across the world suddenly found themselves spending more time at home – and cooking a lot more for themselves. It was the perfect time for Pizza Pilgrims to try out an old idea they had – Pizza in the Post.

What is it?

It’s as simple as it sounds – Pizza Pilgrims mailed out enough ingredients to cook two pizzas: freshly-proved dough, mozzarella, tomato sauce and even parmesan. “I genuinely thought we’d do about 50 a week – but so far, we’ve sold over 20,000 kits,” said Nish.

When it came to making the leap from sit-down restaurant experience to e-commerce site, the brand had to embrace the whirlwind – but once it was up and running, their marketing strategy did the work. Pizza in the Post went beyond delivery – literally. “You can only deliver hot, fresh pizzas so far within a delivery radius – but you can send a DIY kit to Edinburgh!” said Nish. Pizza in the Post opened up their product to a whole new market.

How did they reach Gen Z?

One of the main pulls for Pizza in the Post was their use of influencer targeting – Spice Girl Emma Bunton and Bake Off winner Nadiya Hussain were among the famous faces serving up Pizza Pilgrims’ at-home creations. “We’ve worked really heavily with a lot of foodies in London – so we decided to just go crazy and send it to as many people as possible”, said Nish. Targeting TOWIE and Love Island cast members paid off – Pizza in the Post made it onto BBC News and appeared in the pages of the Evening Standard, the Daily Mail and more.

Another key point of engagement for Gen Z is Instagram – and utilising social amidst a global pandemic helped Pizza Pilgrims to recreate the communal, interactive feel of a real restaurant. “Somebody would buy a DIY kit and post a picture to Instagram, and we would rate it”, Nish explained. “We saw that engagement shoot up – people were sending us more DMs, and we found ourselves having far more conversations than before when we were just posting what our pizzas looked like.” Over the 12 weeks of lockdown, Pizza Pilgrims’ Instagram grew by around 5,000 followers.

Why did it work?

Gen Z is adaptable – they very quickly made the adjustment to staying at home, evolving everything from exercise to entertainment – and, of course, food. The concept behind Pizza in the Post goes further than just pivoting to takeaway and delivery only options. Putting the customer in charge of the cooking process gave back an element of control at a time when things could not have been more uncertain. There’s also an element of exclusivity to giving people the “top secret” tools to recreate a delicious recipe at home. For repeat customers, it served as a reminder to return once lockdown ends – and for new customers, it’s a strong introduction that will spark loyalty. No doubt, Pizza in the Post recipients will be heading in-store to see how their home-made version compares to the real thing.

The future looks very uncertain right now – but one certainty is that over two million students will start or return to uni this autumn. Are you ready for them? Prepare a strategy that will capture Gen Z’s attention with our Freshers 2020: Ultimate Guide.