In lieu of making better food, the chain restaurant industry continues to embrace technology as the solution to its problems. The latest example is Pizza Hut, which is drawing comparisons to Uber as it updates its pizza delivery mechanisms.
According to Nation’s Restaurant News, Pizza Hut will now tell customers what time to expect their pizza even before they place an order, using algorithms that factor in the volume of orders and the location and availability of drivers. The company says this “Visible Promise Time” is a first for pizza chains (though I’ll note that my local pizza chain in Cincinnati, LaRosa’s, already provides similar estimates). Pizza Hut is also testing GPS location tracking for its delivery drivers so customers can find out exactly how close their pizza is, presumably through the Pizza Hut app or website.
The goal, apparently, is to make ordering a pizza kind of like requesting an Uber car. It’s a comparison Pizza Hut executives have embraced in recent months, and are reiterating now with the new features. “A lot of people think Uber really transformed the transportation industry, but I think they’ve really transformed commerce,” Baron Concors, Pizza Hut’s chief digital offer, told Business Insider.
Lest you think the lead sentence in this story is unfair, Pizza Hut really does believe that tech-enabled convenience trumps higher-quality food. In an earnings call this month, Pizza Hut parent company Yum Brands touted a new mantra that “easy beats better,” Business Insider reports. The result for Pizza Hut was 5 percent same-store sales growth in the United States last quarter.
Why this matters: Pizza Hut is hardly alone in turning to technology to win over customers. Corporate sibling Taco Bell now offers an app for creating complex menu items, and Domino’s has experimented with ordering by voice or Twitter emoji. McDonald’s, meanwhile, has a five-year tech overhaul in the works that includes personalized recommendations, phone-based ordering and table service via Bluetooth beacons. Still, you’ve got to hand it to Pizza Hut and parent company Yum Brands for really embracing their role. Instead of upscaling to compete with fast casual spots like Chipotle and Blaze Pizza, the big chains are using technology to double down on convenient mediocrity.