In the major industry survey we conducted last fall, we asked pizzeria owners about investments in technology. As an industry, often times independents are slow to adopt new tech. Sometimes that’s because there’s a cost barrier that exists until the market ultimately ushers in some affordability. Other times it’s because we struggle to see the application on an independent level until many years down the road.
I can recall, many years ago, a debate on whether pizzerias should offer Wi-Fi. “Will it encourage customers to linger (this ain’t a coffee shop, after all!) and slow down table turns?”
Good luck finding a pizzeria today that isn’t offering free Wi-Fi to its patrons.
In a similar vein, we found in our survey that 26.4 percent of pizzeria operators say they do not offer online ordering. The good news is that means the overwhelming majority do offer what we now deem an essential service. Here’s the bottom line: a robust online ordering platform will increase your check averages, speed up your service and decrease mistakes in the ordering process. Plus, your customers expect it and want it.
We’ll have a seminar on “Maximizing Online Ordering” at Pizza Expo 2023 in Las Vegas for this very reason. It will be led by Melissa Rickman, a Colorado-based pizza maven who has written articles on the very topic for us here in this magazine.
Succeeding in the online ordering game really should be seen as a cost of entry to the business these days. Rapid advancements in tech are making online ordering quite pedestrian at this point, to be frank.
Consider this information from Technomic, Inc., which we included in a consumer insights section of the State of the Industry Report:
• 42% find an online ordering system where they can track their pizza order to be appealing.
• 23% of American consumers would like to order pizza from their smart TV. That’s a 20% increase from 2020.
Let’s look at that second piece of data. Nearly one-fourth of American pizza consumers would like to have the ability to order pizza from their smart TV. Think about that. What pizza companies are most likely to have the tech in place for that now? Do Domino’s and Pizza Hut and others of their ilk come to mind? You bet they do. You can cede that territory to them right now, only to have to fight and claw in a decade to take some of it from them. That’s what happened around 2000 when companies like Papa John’s were dominating the online ordering space and the vast majority of independents thought they’d never need to take orders via any method but a landline telephone.
What’s more revealing about that statistic is the fact that it represents a 20% increase from when the question was asked in 2020.
I received a press release the other day in which Jet’s Pizza announced it had crossed the $100 million mark in sales made utilizing AI technology. Admittedly, as an independent operation, you aren’t on the same playing field as a company that can muster $100 million in sales via artificial intelligence. But, according to the release, Jet’s first began exploring AI technology in the fall of 2019. That means in just three years via text ordering, phone bots and other AI, the pizza chain has become an industry tech leader.
Can you invest millions in new tech as a small business? Of course not. But you can seek out ways to fully embrace affordable tech and maximize your potential with it. Because, like it or not, avoiding advances in 2023 and beyond merely isn’t feasible if you want to stay relevant.
Editor In Chief