Slice keeps local pizzerias thriving through digital apparatus

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NEW YORK (WCBS 880) -- This tech company is on a mission to empower independent pizzerias.

Slice is a digital platform tailor-made for small pizza shops. Ilir Sela founded the company in 2010 when he saw local pizzerias being squeezed by delivery app fees.

"Slice exists to keep local thriving," said Sela on the WCBS Small Business Spotlight, sponsored by Dime Community Bank.

His love for the pizza business is personal, growing up visiting the pizzeria his grandfather and uncle owned in Manhattan, and later, Brooklyn. That's also where his father worked.

Sela chose to pursue computer science at the City University of New York and used his expertise to introduce technology to an old-fashioned industry he knew best.

"When you apply technology to a business, it becomes a lot more turnkey, becomes a lot more automated, and the more turnkey a business can become, the less reliant it is on actual human labor," he said, adding, "That's one of the biggest challenges that these operators have is access to part-time labor in this really challenging environment."

Sela said over time, Slice helps to increase revenue, keep costs down and allows blue collar pizzeria owners to spend more time with their families.

It's a big change for pizzeria owners who are used to taking orders over the phone, but Sela notices that customers of his 20,000 pizza shop clients are generally placing larger orders and ordering more frequently. Plus, there are fewer mistakes and returns.

"Most pizzeria owners, they will mail menus, physical menus, to these households in order to remind them to reorder. It's sort of this old snail mail kind of operation. But if you move that customer online, you have a direct relationship with the customer in real time," he said.

While the pizzerias are responsible for their own deliveries, Slice provides upselling and marketing tools.

"We can send them text message notifications, push notifications, email marketing," said Sela. "You kind of know who the customer is, you know their behavior, and you can personalize offers for this customer to come back more often."

"The real opportunity for every business is how to make your existing customers more valuable."

"So the combination of these things, we've seen in many cases, double the business of a pizza shop through the same customer base."

Sela told WCBS 880 he sees tremendous growth potential for local pizzerias that use the Slice technology to market to existing and new customers.

"A Domino's location on average makes $1.2 million a year in sales. Most of that is digital. An independent pizza shop does about $500,000 a year, and the delta of that $700,000 difference, that's all online volume."

Slice began as a New York tech startup. It now has a staff of more than 900 local representatives, coordinating orders and marketing for small pizzerias across the country.

See what's behind Slice's software and get sales and marketing ideas on the WCBS Small Business Spotlight video above.

Featured Image Photo Credit: Ilir Sela