Free pizza -- if you order en español

Beyond Pizza Patron’s marketing gimmicks, a plan to reach Hispanic customers.

Olivia Barba owns a Pizza Patron store in Los Angeles.

Jeremy Hobson: Tomorrow the Dallas based chain Pizza Patron is giving away free pizzas to customers who order in Spanish. That plan has drawn some criticism.

But as our Wealth and Poverty reporter, Shereen Marisol Meraji, tells us -- the restaurant sees the gimmick as part of its mission to focus on the Hispanic community.


Shereen Meraji: Antonio Swad left the Midwest for the Southwest 26 years ago.

Antonio Swad: Yeah, Midwestern boy, grew up in Columbus, Ohio, you know. I came to Dallas, Texas, to pursue my dream to be in business for myself.

And with $11,000, he started a pizzeria called Pizza Pizza in a neighborhood he knew nothing about.

Swad: It was sort of news to me that I was in, probably, the second largest hispanic community in the Dallas metroplex.

Don't be fooled by his name. Anotonio Swad is not Hispanic; his roots are Lebanese and Italian.

So he hired bilingual employees...

Swad: ...changed the name to Pizza Patron...

...and has been focused on the Hispanic consumer ever since.

Pizza Patron worker: Hola bienvenido a Pizza Patron.

Today, there more than a hundred Pizza Patrons in seven states. This one is in Los Angeles. Olivia Barba opened it with her husband a year and a half ago.

Barba says there are strict rules to be a Pizza Patron franchisee.

Olivia Barba: We do have to have bilingual employees.

The store has to be in a majority Latino area or one headed there soon; store managers must live in the neighborhood; and the owners have to "get" the Hispanic community.

Barba: My parents are Mexican descent, his parents are from El Salvador, and then we have a partner as well, they're Mexican and from Guatemala.

Marketing expert Juan Tornoe says brands hungry to capture the Latino market should look to Pizza Patron and ignore brands like Purina -- the dog food company advertising a fiesta flavor.

Juan Tornoe: They're saying how this food has all these Latino elements that will get your dog in the party mood, it's like, really?

Tornoe says Pizza Patron focuses on the hispanic market without patronizing -- and that's why it works.

He adds that he just might take part in tomorrow's free pizza offer.

Tornoe: I'm gonna say 'quiero pizza porfavor' and I'm going to get a free pizza for my mom, she'll get a kick out of it.

I'm Shereen Marisol Meraji for Marketplace.

About the author

Shereen Marisol Meraji is a reporter for Marketplace’s Wealth & Poverty Desk.

Olivia Barba owns a Pizza Patron store in Los Angeles.

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