Pizza and Technology: More than a Gimmick?
Domino’s, Papa John’s, and Little Caesars are three of the largest pizza delivery and take-out chains in the world. In recent years, both have pushed the boundaries of what it means to be a food services business by developing new technologies to make pizza delivery more convenient than ever for both the customer and the company. However, Domino’s has been the most committed of the three to advancing technology, leaving Papa John’s and Little Caesar’s to play catch up.
In recent years, Domino’s has expanded its virtual pizza-ordering capabilities beyond simply a website. There are now numerous easy ways to order pizza on a computer or smartphone, including via text, Tweet, and a “zero-click” app that orders a pizza upon being opened. In addition, the Domino’s app now utilizes an AI chatbot and Siri-like voice-ordering service called Dom. Domino’s is also experimenting with more high-tech delivery methods. Drones have already been tested for delivering pizza in New Zealand, and Domino’s is developing a pizza delivery robot called the Domino’s Robotic Unit, or DRU for short, that can learn to navigate and avoid obstacles (see image below). By continuing to commit itself to high-tech methods of pizza ordering and delivery, Domino’s can expand its consumer base and reduce the costs of human interactions.
Papa John’s became the first pizza company with online ordering for every store in the nation in 2001 and was the first to offer text ordering in 2007. However, in recent years, Papa John’s has been playing catch-up with Domino’s in terms of technology, with varying success. Papa John’s created an Apple TV app similar to Domino’s Dom where a customer can order pizza with their voice. However, by limiting this feature to Apple TV, Papa John’s is limiting the number of customers they can reach via this method. That being said, 60% of Papa John’s sales do come from digital channels, of which 70% are from mobile devices. However, Papa John’s hasn’t been as bold in its use of AI or automation as Domino’s.
Like Papa John’s, Little Caesar’s has tried been trying to “out-tech” Domino’s. In August 2017, Little Caesar’s unveiled its Pizza Portal app, which allows a customer to assemble a pizza online without ever speaking to an employee. At some locations, that same pizza can be picked up from a glass “Pizza Portal” by entering a code into a keypad, further minimizing human interaction and reducing costs. Recently, in March 2018, Little Caesar’s patented a pizza-making robot, though this has yet to be implemented in any stores. If it can be implemented efficiently, it will likely save the employment costs of a human making a pizza.
While ideas like pizza-making robots and robotic delivery units may seem like gimmicks, if implemented properly, they could save these pizza companies a lot of money. Along with enhanced mobile feature, these automation technologies will reduce human interaction and employee costs. Plus, if they are just gimmicks, they can still attract customers. Of the three pizza chains, Domino’s was the first to start adopting this type of technology, and has been the most effective at implementing new mobile features like Dom. It will be interesting to see if Domino’s DRU or Little Caesar’s pizza-making robot take off in the next few years. If they do, they will likely have big cost-saving effects on each company.
Written by Jack Vasquez & Edited by Rachel Weissman & Alexander Fleiss