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Pizza Hut tops off mobile ordering with pizza-tracking feature

Pizza Hut is following in Domino’s footsteps by rolling out a mobile-enabled order navigation platform that allows customers to track their pizza orders from the oven to delivery at their homes, proving that quick service restaurants must innovate digital ordering to stay competitive in the sector.

Pizza Hut’s pizza navigation system is currently being rolled out to consumers in the Dallas area before a nationwide introduction occurs later this year. The digital ordering platform speaks to the increasing “Uberfication” of fast-food chains, referring to the instant gratification that consumers can receive by simply pressing a few buttons on their smartphones to order menu items and watch them be delivered in a timely manner.

“If you look at what a company like Uber has done, not just in disrupting the transportation industry but commerce potentially, they’ve changed the way you order and pay,” said Baron Concors, global chief digital officer at Pizza Hut, Plano, TX. “The experience has reset customer expectations of what they expect with the type of transactions they do with a company.

“That inspired us to bring that ease of use, transparency and peace of mind when you order from Pizza Hut.”

Raising the bar
Quick service restaurants are continuing to raise the bar when it comes to bolstering their mobile strategies. After fellow pizza brand Papa John’s hit the milestone of 50 percent of all sales coming from digital platforms, other food and beverage marketers are taking note and are tapping mobile to reach the widest audience possible (see story).

“Any time a prominent QSR restaurant does something to differentiate from the competition, particularly with regards to customer service, there is a scramble to either assess or implement, if not both,” said Eric Fischgrund, founder of FischTank Marketing and PR, New York. “Pizza Hut is providing transparency with respect to the delivery of their product, as customers are now going to have a better idea of how long their food has been in transit, and cognizant of any stops along the way.

“This puts pressure on drivers to focus on efficiency, and restaurant owners to put a greater emphasis on hiring qualified drivers.”

Pizza Hut’s technology will enable users to place orders via their mobile devices and watch their pizzas as they leave the bricks-and-mortar restaurant and make their way to the doorstep, similar to how ridesharing application Uber functions.

Users will receive the precise coordinates of the delivery vehicle, and can even view a photo of their pizza’s driver. An order confirmation number, along with the estimated minutes until arrival, will also be visible.

Drivers will have their mobile devices on hand while delivering orders, and can tap their finger to view order details, receive navigation help or manage their next delivery. The pizza marketer believes it will help manage its fleet of drivers to maximize efficiency.

“With everyone having the technology in their own hands, we see a huge benefit in getting smartphone technology in the hands of our team members,” Pizza Hut’s Mr. Concors said. “It overall raises the bar in not just providing consumers with the experience they expect, but also our team members as well.”

Consumers will receive push notifications alerting them of delivery status so that they may be prepared to dig into their meals upon arrival.

Pizza Hut’s technology was first implemented in markets in Israel and Russia last year. Dallas, the home of the brand’s headquarters, will be the first United States market to test out the platform.

Staying competitive
This type of digital ordering technology is becoming a requisite rather than a perk for food marketers to be leveraging if they seek to stay afloat in the competitive sector.

“Mobile is the number one priority,” Mr. Concors said. “Mobile continues to grow at staggering rates for U.S. year-over-year, and it’s a natural byproduct of consumers’ behavior in general. How we can make it easy and simple for people to interact with us is a number one priority.”

Pizza Hut’s technology also asks for reviews and feedback after each delivery is completed, a tactic that may help with gathering valuable consumer data.

QSR restaurants are also foraying into the wearables industry, as smartwatches lend themselves well to tracking apps.

This past March, Domino’s rolled out a historic innovation by making ordering available on wearables, giving customers the ability to place pizza orders from their Android Wear and Pebble smartwatches, suggesting that smartwatch ordering will be a tactic to watch in 2015 (see story).

The brand also allows consumers to easily track orders from the time they are taken to the point of delivery by integrating its Domino’s Tracker application with the Pebble smartwatch (see story).

Other food and beverage marketers, especially those that already offer mobile ordering capabilities, would be well-poised to follow in Pizza Hut and Domino’s footsteps by rolling out an Uber-like tracking platform.

“I think in today’s millennial and digital age, customers are going to be increasingly focused on not only the speed in which a product is delivered, but in their ability to track it for planning purposes,” FischTank’s Mr. Fischgrund said. “As chain restaurants strive to stand out from the competition, more and more will roll out mobile platforms with new services, that while not necessary, present the opportunity to make a customer say, ‘this is really cool.’”

Final Take
Alex Samuely is an editorial assistant on Mobile Commerce Daily, New York