EDGEWATER — Fewer calls from customers can mean reduced hours for staff during the pizza delivery business' "dog days of summer," said Pizzeria Aroma owner Jim Dababneh.
But Dababneh, facing a summer slowdown, said he doesn't want to go that route with his pizzeria, which has sat at 1125 W. Berwyn Ave. since 1999.
That's why Dababneh sent an email to Aroma customers Tuesday morning that said: "We have no one else but you."
"It is as simple as that. It is as real as that," said the email, pleading with customers for their support and offering discounted online delivery orders through Friday. "In good times and in slow times, it is you, our core customers that we lean on. We need you now."
A 10 to 20 percent drop in delivery sales at Aroma is "typical," during July and August; there's no cold weather or snow to keep people from venturing to dine out, and no football or basketball to keep sports fans huddled around televisions and prone to call for a pizza, Dababneh said. The 37-year-old employs about 10 people, part time and full time, to help run his restaurant throughout the week.
"I'm trying to generate calls, generate orders so I don't have to cut the hours of my staff," the owner said, standing at the cash register Tuesday.
Beverly resident Keith Smith was at Aroma Tuesday chomping on calamari and buffalo wings. He said he has been coming to Aroma for six years, ever since the south sider "happened to be in the area one day," and popped in for a bite. He said he visits Aroma several times a month.
"The food is pretty good. Every time I'm in the area, I stop by," said Smith, 29.
But about 80 percent of Aroma's customers "never set foot," inside the restaurant, Dababneh estimates. Most delivery orders come from Uptown, Edgewater, Andersonville and Rogers Park, he said. The pizza and pasta joint touts "Downtown quality," for "Uptown prices," on promotional materials. A majority of the sandwiches, burgers and pastas at Aroma are under $10, and you can typically order a pizza for anywhere between about $8-$20.
Dababneh's background in small market radio journalism and corporate sales has made him comfortable communicating with his customers. He sends text message deals and conversational, direct emails, like the one customers received Tuesday.
His father, a small grocer in Evanston for nearly three decades, helped him buy the business in 2002 from a previous owner by putting up his house as collateral for a loan — for a son who had never worked in the restaurant business a day in his life.
"This area has been very good to me and my business," Dababneh said. "It's provided me with a good livelihood; I'm extremely grateful, and I don't take it for granted at all — not ever."
To encourage more deliveries, Aroma is offering $6 off online orders of at least $27 through Friday for customers who use the promo code "6off27." In another promotion, customers who order and mention the promo code "Tweet," can save 15 percent off orders of at least $20 through Sunday.