So is eating pizza really about eating—or about tweeting, texting and being able to use a smartphone in the car or a tablet at your table to order the pie?
Increasingly, it looks like the latter. Pizza Hut confirmed that it’s testing an interactive table that functions essentially as a giant tablet ordering app. This follows on a two-year effort by rival Domino’s to heavily invest in online ordering, social marketing and other digital applications to better capture the attention of mobile-centric consumers.
Pizza Hut said that the table-ordering app that customers will use to choose the size of their pizzas will feature the same pinch-and-spread motions they might use on a smartphone and allow them to pick their toppings by swiping through an interactive menu, according to Nation’s Restaurant News. It was no mistake that the concept’s unveiling happened just days before the start of SXSW, the annual digital confab in Austin, Texas.[more]
“The interactive experience will be a lot of fun,” a Pizza Hut spokesman wrote to NRN. “Adding toppings, taking away toppings, changing sizes, playing games—all of those things are at the control of you, the user. It’s a lot like ordering via an app on your phone on the table right there in front of you.”
Chiefs of all three major chains—Pizza Hut, Domino’s and Papa John’s—have said that, collectively, digital technology is enabling them to increase the market-share gap between them and regional and independent outfits that can’t play as effectively in that arena.
But there’s still the rivalry among them to differentiate each from the other by their digital prowess. Arguably, Domino’s has been working hardest on this front. It recently got help from Pitney Bowes, for instance, to improve its information management in the Australia market. Domino’s now relies on digital orders for more than 40 percent of US sales. And Domino’s CEO J. Patrick Doyle told brandchannel that such technology has become a primary focus for the chain this year after its successful launch last year of fresh pan pizza.
“We are redefining convenience and demanding more from every experience with us,” Doyle told investors on a conference call recently. Pizza Profiles, which enables consumers to store orders and information online, “is one of those innovations that’s not only delivering convenience and ordering speed for customers but also providing a building block for other technologies.”
Digital capabilities also have come to play a larger role for the industry in marketing and advertising. In the UK, for example, Domino’s recently conducted a promotion called Domino’s Meltdown in which fans were offered a year’s supply of free pizza if their tweet turned up the heat on a sunlamp enough to “melt” the arms of a Domino’s “delivery man” made of ice whose drip-drip-drip was featured on a web cam. The chain continues to utilize video streams through its “Domino’s Live” platform, which lets consumers watch pizza being made in real-time.
Sure, the pizza still has to taste good. But it’s a fun food that appeals mightily to younger generations who are most tech-savvy, and that truth is creating opportunities—as well as challenges— for the brands that continue to seek their favor.