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Pizza for pesos

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KAI RYSSDAL: International travelers will sympathize with this. You get back from a trip, you're loaded down with foreign currency and there's nowhere to put it except at the back of your dresser drawer. If it's Mexican pesos you've got in your pocket and if you have a hankering for a pepperoni pizza, then Pizza Patron's the place for you. The Dallas-based chain began accepting pesos today. Antonio Swad's the president of the company. Mr. Swad, thanks for talking with us.

ANTONIO SWAD: Thank you, thanks for having me.

RYSSDAL: Busy day I imagine? Lots of press calls for you?

SWAD: Yeah, an unusual day, for sure.

RYSSDAL: Well tell us why you've decided to do this peso program.

SWAD: Well, you know, we're in a real tough, competitive business. And we're a small company, and we're going up against the big guys. We're trying to develop Pizza Patron as the dominant brand among the Latino community. We saw it as a way to differentiate ourselves by serving our customer a little bit differently than they do.

RYSSDAL: So how does it work? Somebody walks in, orders a pizza, hands your cashier a 100-peso note. Then what?

SWAD: Well, we would consult our chart, which we've printed up and we keep up by the cash register. And we would look at a hundred pesos as equivalent, according to the ratio that we're exchanging them, at 12 to 1, at $8.33 in U.S. currency. We would enter that amount into the cash register sa the amount tendered and you'd get your change back in U.S. currency.

RYSSDAL: Change back in U.S. dollars.

SWAD: Yes sir.

RYSSDAL: Now, 12 pesos to a dollar, that's not quite as good as what you can get on the streets.

SWAD: Well, there's a commission to be paid when we go to convert those pesos back to U.S. dollars. You know, we had to strike a number. You know, in order for this thing to work and to be smooth and efficient at the store level, we thought we'd do it this way, print the charts up. And keep in mind, too, that the program goes until the end of February. I don't think there's gonna be a lot happening with the fluctuation between now and then. So we thought it was a safe bet.

RYSSDAL: Why only the end of February? If it's convenient for your customers, why not keep it going?

SWAD: Well, it may be extended to be a permanent part of our operating system, but it was designed to accommodate those folks that maybe have traveled back to Mexico over the Christmas holiday and come back to the U.S. to their home where they live and have pesos left over. It gives them right around two months to get those pesos out of their pockets or the drawer and exchange them for a great pizza.

RYSSDAL: Anybody giving you a hard time about it?

SWAD: We've had some very hateful things written on our website, and I have to tell you that that's disappointing. But generally it's been well accepted. And we thought that the restaurant industry trade might find this story to be interesting, but to be truthful you know it's pretty surprising that it's found interest beyond the trade.

RYSSDAL: What are you hearing from the Dominos down the street? Anything?

SWAD: Well, we haven't heard much form them, you know. We haven't heard a word from them.

RYSSDAL: Antonio Swad's the president of Pizza Patron, they're based down in Dallas Texas. Mr. Swad, thanks a lot for your time.

SWAD: And thank you.

About the author

Kai Ryssdal is the host and senior editor of Marketplace, public radio’s program on business and the economy.

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