Thursday, 17 January 2008

Pizza Hut Plays Catch Up and Finally Rolls Out US Text Ordering

Pizza Hut has deployed a mobile ordering system that ratchets up the competition in the industry's battle to sell more pizzas using the latest technology.

The unit of Yum Brands Inc this week introduced new cell phone services that let customers order from any of its 6,200 outlets nationwide via text message or the mobile Web.

All the top U.S. pizza delivery chains -- Domino's Pizza Inc, Pizza Hut and Papa John's International Inc -- have invested in online and mobile ordering as a way to boost sales in one of the restaurant industry's most competitive segments.

"We wanted to provide maximum accessibility," Bernard Acoca, Pizza Hut's director of digital marketing, said on Wednesday. "We have a core group of customers that is very tech savvy. They use their phones for everything ... We want to be where the consumers are."

Within five years, Pizza Hut aims to earn half its revenue from orders placed via computers and mobile phones, he said.

Pizza Hut is not the first to offer mobile ordering services, but the Dallas-based company says its service is the broadest and most comprehensive.

Domino's in September gave customers with Web-enabled phones the option to place mobile orders at nearly half of its 5,100 U.S. restaurants.

"We're glad (Pizza Hut is) offering this. We think it's good for the pizza category," Papa John's spokesman Chris Sternberg.

In November, Papa John's was first to offer a text ordering option for customers at all its 2,700-plus U.S. restaurants.

Sternberg said the third-largest pizza chain has offered, but not marketed, mobile Web ordering for about two years. He said the service has been limited by older technology in many cell phones.

Papa John's was first to offer online ordering in 2001 and such orders now account for some 20 percent of sales, he said.

"Online users are the sweet spot now," said Sternberg, who said text messaging will be the next big thing, led by people aged 14 to 25. "We definitely think that's where folks are heading. We think we're on the front end of the text wave."

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