Crocodiles and free pizza

“With every drink order, you get a free pizza.”

It sounds crazy. Or at least backwards.

But that’s the deal at Crocodile Lounge in the Gramercy / East Village neighborhood of New York City. With every single drink order, you get a ticket for a free pizza. All the time.

It’s not just a story, it’s a story that spreads. Friends tell friends. Friends bring friends.

They tweet about it.

They Yelp about it.

They blog about it. A lot. Photo credit by Smack Factor.

They check in on Foursquare.
.

Crocodile Lounge isn’t even active in social media themselves. They gave their fans a story that is easy to explain and fun to tell and the fans are carrying the message in person and online.

People are incredulous when you tell them about the free pizza per drink deal. “That’s impossible?! How do they make any money?”.

This only helps the story to spread, of course.

For you spreadsheet and ROI jockeys (I used to be one) here is my take on the short version of how it works (I’ll guess conservatively on the #’s):

Costs
The two guys who make pizzas all night probably make $10 / hour plus tips. Call it 10 hours per day * $10 / hour * two guys = $200.
Dough is cheap. The raw materials to make all the pizzas in a night probably costs about $200.

So, being conservative, the incremental cost of Crocodile offering free pizza is $400 per night.

Revenue
A tap beer is about $5.
Cost to the bar = less than $1.

So at a profit of $4 per beer, once the free pizza gimmick brings in an incremental 100 drinks per night, it’s now making money, at a very high profit margin.

Plus all the word of mouth, social mentions and positive press.

Once you do the math, it’s no longer crazy. It’s not backwards. It’s brilliant.

[NB: They also have two skee ball lanes in back. Here’s the throwdown. I can beat any of my readers in skee ball. If I lose, I’ll buy you a pizza.]

What crazy and backwards idea can think up for your business? What story can you give your fans to tell?

Comments

  1. Have to chime in on this one, because I might be Crocodile's most successful recruit. Started coming there shortly after its transition from the old Cellar Bar, became a regular almost three years ago, and have been in on average of twice a week ever since. There's nothing really fussy about it, and as you pointed out there's not a huge social-media push for the joint. (Their Myspace page, like most of that site, is abandoned, there's no Twitter, and their Facebook presence consists of a group which exists to give out clues to the trivia nights.)

    It survives because it knows what it wants to do, and does that well. Free pizza, cheap beer, expensive games. It's like Chuck-E-Cheese, but for hard-drinking New Yorkers. There's no complex message, no layers of gimmicks, no overt attempt to pull you in through connections or a large amount of promotion. It's a bar done right, and that's why those of us who go keep coming back, and also bring friends…Not to mention come back so often that I can retain my Foursquare mayorship.

    (And I'm taking you up on that Skee-Ball challenge. The pride is worth the cost of the pizza. I'll offer up the same reward to anyone who can top our regular teams on Wednesday Trivia Night.)

  2. clayhebert says:

    Awesome. Thanks, Jimmy. Your comment is better than my post. "like Chuck-E-Cheese, but for hard-drinking New Yorkers". You summed it up perfectly.

    And you're the Foursquare mayor to boot.

    The Skee-Ball challenge is on, Jimmy. I definitely need to check out the Wednesday Trivia Night sometime.

  3. Please note their cousin in Brooklyn http://www.yelp.com/biz/alligator-lounge-brooklyn

    (Skeeball there, then bounce over to http://www.barcadebrooklyn.com/)

    Nice post.

  4. Jeff says:

    I accept your skee-ball challenge. You let me know when to be there.

    If you haven't been there for Wednesday trivia you should definitely check it out…even though it gets the most packed I've ever seen any place.

  5. Steve says:

    hi Clay,
    Are they still doing this (a free pizza with any drink)? I read through your economics analysis and I still just can't imagine this as a long term strategy… but sure is great for short term BUZZ.
    So is this offer still on? I may have to buy a plane ticket. :)
    Steve (in Southern California, where there is no free pizza :( )

Trackbacks

  1. […] and sell more pizzas from it, without having any corporate presence in social media. Read about Crocodile Lounge and their strategy here. The key is to craft a compelling story that people will want to share. I’m sure […]

  2. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Julia Roy, clayhebert, Jonathan D. Woods, hgitlitz, eliovale and others. eliovale said: RT @juliaroy: RT @clayhebert Buy a drink and get a free pizza. Not crazy. Not backwards. Brilliant. http://bit.ly/8CpHt5 […]

  3. […] Pizza places are doing good marketing. They’ve got me thinking here and here. […]

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