Bye, bye telephone line?

Are phone lines becoming obsolete? Online ordering is about to overtakeover-the-phone ordering as the most popular method of ordering a pizza according to a tweet by Amy Kurtz.And as customers get more native in a digital environment, independents are pitted against the big guys in a battle oftechnological Darwinism.Online ordering and apps were quickly developed and adoptedby the major pizza chains leaving independents at a technological disadvantage. Installing a system for online ordering can be daunting to the independent, but numbers show that it’s well worth it. Online ordering has shown to consistently render a higher average ticket by about 15%. Additionally, when you have more customers ordering online you have less calling in on the phones, keeping phone lines clear and employees available to do other tasks.

DodoPizza just opened their first store in America without a phone line at all. The Russian pizza chain which opened last week in Oxford, MS (headquarters of PMQ) says itlets them save on labor.

"Phone orderingis a bottle neck for pizza delivery becauseduring rush hours people just don't have time to pick up the phone. Therefore sometimes customers have to wait 10-15 min on the line just to place an order for a pizza at PapaJohn's or Domino's." saysAlenaTikhova, Product and Marketing Director of Dodo Pizza."Online orders let the manager concentrate on managing people and controlling product quality instead of being on the phone all time. Moreover, people have smartphones nowadays and lots of things are ordered online. Why can't pizzabe one of those things? In other words, we cut outeverything which isn't related to quality."

Competition from all sides

The food industry is now experiencing a delivery revolutionmaking food more easily available to customers than ever.Independents are finding it challenging to not only compete with other pizzerias, but with a host of restaurants around town which are now able to offer delivery thanks to services like Caviar, UberEats, Seamless, Postmates and DoorDash. These companies specialize in making food deliveries which not only promise quick service but an entire range of meal choices from fast food to fine dining, ethnic or local cuisine delivered to your door, easily ordered through an app. Some of these apps even include GPS order tracking so customers can get a sophisticatedly accurate ETA of their eats.

What’s the solution for independents?

In the November 2015issue ofPMQ, we found that many independents are missing sales from not being online. What can you do if you can't invest the time/money/technical headaches? Should you sign up with a delivery company like Caviar, UberEats, etc. as a quick andeasy way to take orders online?

Members in the Think Tankhad concerns about hiring 3rd party delivery services like these, particularly because of lack of control.Once your food goes out the door it is out of your hands, into those of a 3rd party.The advantage, of course,is not having the stress of dealing with drivers, driverinsurance or liability. Hiring a 3rd party delivery service also frees you from any technical upgrades or obligations involved inmanaging an online ordering system.

Then there was one operator, Walter from Smiling with Hope Pizzawho said not to look at what the competition is doing. Whenasked about the threat from other companies who do online ordering he replied:

All this may be true for the chains and shops trying to compete with them but we are finding the complete opposite. We are so busy we can't answer the phone much of the time, have no POS, 1 phone line, no delivery, no online ordering, no alcohol, no TVs, customers come from an hour or more away regularly, [we have] no music playing in the background, waits of an hour [are] not uncommon, do a split shift schedule, [we have] no specials, no coupons, no wings, no sandwiches, very limited toppings, 2 sizes of pizzas. We are succeeding beyond our wildest dreams and have nothing but 5 star ratings on Yelp and Facebook. Mom and pop shops can make a killing today if one is willing to use only the best ingredients and have a deep knowledge of pizza making. What I have seen over and over again are shops that really don't know much about pizza making and do not care to learn the art side of it. The art of dough, balance, ingredients, makes one rise way above the chains and they are no competition so to speak and these studies have no effect other than to polarize the customer base of what is considered a great pizza and that is great news for shops like ours.

Anyway you slice it, competition is getting tougher as chain pizza and other food items are increasingly more available to the consumer. There are many companies out there who can help you set up online ordering fairly painlessly to avoid loss in sales. Check with your POS orconsult the Think Tank.