LA CROSSE, Wis. -- Quillin's here traded on the "luck of the Irish" this month with a sweepstakes that involved shamrocks, pizzas, a "pot o' gold" and big boosts in deli sales.
Quillin's, whose owners are of Irish descent, always makes a big deal of St. Patrick's Day, said Nancy Rand, deli supervisor for the nine-unit independent. The March festivities at Quillin's even include a visit by the company's leprechaun mascots, Quinn and Molly, a married couple with leprechaun children.
But this year marked a first: hiding shamrocks underneath the crusts of Quillin's signature Emerald Gold pizzas.
For the first three weeks of March, deli associates had the leeway of adding the shamrocks to over-wrapped, chilled pizzas at random. They placed them between the bottom of the pizza crust and the cardboard circle the pizza sits on.
"It was truly the luck of the Irish. They could add the shamrocks to any size and any variety of chilled pizza. They made the decision. We had 1,000 printed up, so each of our nine stores had a little over a hundred of the shamrocks," Rand said. Customers who found shamrocks beneath their pizzas were instructed to bring them in so that they could enter their names into a sweepstakes drawing, Rand said. The green shamrocks, Rand was quick to explain, were printed in federal Food and Drug Administration-approved green ink on 4-inch square cards. The tagboard-type material for the cards was also FDA-approved, she added.
The first prize in the drawing was a "pot 'o gold" consisting of $500 cash. Three second prizes, each a $150 shopping spree at any Quillin's store, were awarded.
The first week after the launch of the promotion, which ran March 1 through March 22, one Quillin's unit posted pizza sales that zoomed 33% over the same week a year earlier. Total deli sales at that store were up 12%, Rand said. The second week of the sweepstakes promotion, the same store had a 28% rise in pizza sales over last year and a 17% boost in total deli sales.
Corned beef and cabbage dinners and new corned beef wraps helped push total deli sales up that week, Rand explained.
That particular store, whose deli manager, Tony Doering, is known to take sausage carts into the parking lot for tailgate parties in midwinter and to create other attention-getting events, advertised the pizza sweepstakes drawing at the store's hot-pizza kiosk.
A sign at the kiosk informed customers that they might find a lucky shamrock, worth $500, in any chilled pizza they bought in the deli. Also, Doering secured huge bouquets of green and white balloons to both sides of the kiosk in an effort to grab customers' attention.
Such in-store hoopla, plus a pizza promotion subsidized by the company's pizza-crust supplier, in combination with the sweepstakes offer, served to push deli sales up dramatically companywide, Rand said.