In the business world, to pivot means to change directions away from something that’s not working towards something that is. In practice, it’s a survival tactic to stay at least a few steps ahead of death by prioritizing forward motion over getting stuck in a rut. COVID-19 has been causing businesses everywhere to pivot. Distilleries making hand sanitizer, call centers shifting from sales to community telephone support, lanyard companies turned mask manufacturers – it’s incredible. However, perhaps the most curious pivot of them all is a restaurant known as Pasqually’s Pizza & Wings.
It started on a Philadelphia Reddit. A regular guy orders a pizza for his family from what he believes to be a new local place. The pizza comes and he realizes, to his horror and amusement, that it’s a Chuck E. Cheese pizza. A little research reveals Pasqually is one of the kitchen characters at the children’s birthday party restaurant (one Pasqually P. Pieplate to be specific). His post leads to others reaching the same conclusion. Chuck E. Cheese had pivoted. In an effort to garner a level of takeout their brand would never allow, they changed their name on GrubHub. They made posters to put in the Chuck E. Cheese windows to make it look like a new restaurant had moved in. And it worked. Kind of.
There’s really no argument in favor of their pizza being good. Any adult who has survived even a single party there knows their food is only to be eaten in an act of desperation as one waits for the festivities (and birthday memories!) to end. Pasqually captures the essence of the pivot. There’s a Peter Drucker quote that goes, “The entrepreneur always searches for change, responds to it and exploits it as an opportunity.” Maybe those singing robots are dead inside, but the entrepreneurial spirit of this chain is alive and well.
They took what did work, their ability to make food, they rejected what didn’t work, no group parties, and they did a rebrand. By using GrubHub they could advertise as Pasqually’s Pizza & Wings. By hanging a few signs in the windows, drivers may or may not have noticed which restaurant they were actually picking up from. Customers placing orders online would only see the new name and we’re unlikely to recognize the address or phone number. Respectably they made the name connectable, demonstrating some self-awareness over blatantly claiming to be unrelated.
The pandemic playbook is to do what’s necessary to survive. The Chuck E. Cheese example may not be as outwardly inspiring as others, but it is a reminder that even they did something. If they can figure out a way to make things with what they’ve got, we can too. Pasqually’s pivot is a reminder that anyone can make a small change or try something new. We simply have to run an experiment and see where the results take us.