In the past few years, GPS systems have changed the way people fi nd their favorite pizza and, in some instances, how pizzerias fi nd new customers. While up until recently this technology may have been a delivery driver’s tool, you can also think of GPS as a tool to enhance customer loyalty and satisfaction. In the age of the smartphone, this technology is being built into ordering applications and can be a useful tool for operators with mobile units. And, with the right equipment, equipping your drivers with GPS systems can save money and speed up deliveries.

Got an App?

Last August, Hungry Howie’s Pizza (, a chain based in Madison Heights, Michigan, with 500 stores in 24 states, joined the growing ranks of small-to-medium-size chains unveiling new iPhone applications. However, beyond providing easy ordering, incorporating a GPS system for customers was a key function in the design. Only days after making the app available for download, the orders started trickling in. “We’re targeting the Generation Y demographic—that’s about 80 million people,” says Al Newman, director of training for Hungry Howie’s. “This group prefers to do things without person-to-person contact, so they can get directions to the nearest store with just one touch of the screen.”

Even some consumer apps using GPS are being marketed to pizza lovers today. In October, New York food blogger Jeff Orlick’s Real Pizza of New York app was released for download for 99 cents. The first of its kind, this application lets New York pizza lovers search, browse and locate famous pizzerias; see order recommendations; and read a little history behind shops in all five boroughs. The app even breaks down pizzerias into categories, such as coal-fired, bar, new-wave and old-school.

Some operators are also finding resourceful ways to use the integrated GPS systems in their smartphones and other technology. Pi Pizzeria (, which has four locations in St. Louis and another slated to open in Washington, uses an iPad as a POS system. However, beyond tracking credit card transactions, Pi founder Chris Sommers studies customer patterns to better utilize Pi’s pizza truck, reinforcing the efforts with Facebook and Twitter to generate sales. “Every time we make a sale, the GPS makes a note of it,” says Sommers. “It’s a great way for us to see what and how much we can sell where. We try to identify those places and push more people there with social media.”

Savvy Drivers

When it comes to delivery drivers, many operators have expressed the woes of lost employees, no thanks to GPS. And of course, it’s not safe to have your employees thumbing their cell phones while driving. But experts recommend rejecting consumer GPS systems in favor of an industrial product. Depending on how important delivery is to your operation, some of the latest technology can save on fuel coasts, monitor employees and increase productivity. “I don’t think any smartphone application is as good as a dedicated GPS device,” says Rich Owings, founder and editor of, a website dedicated to tracking the latest GPS technology. “You want a system that will let a fleet manager monitor drivers and send addresses and new assignments. Some systems can even predict traffic jams in urban environments.” Owings points out three clear advantages of a dedicated GPS system: Drivers can deliver more pizzas per shift, increasing both sales and tips; with shorter and/or faster delivery routes, fuel costs go down; and by monitoring your drivers’ location and speed, you can eliminate inefficient delivery staff.

Keeping Up

As smartphone ordering applications become standard, independents and chains alike can take advantage of GPS technology. Early adopters of technology have found that if you’re targeting a younger generation, GPS is a great way to tap into the tendencies of Generation Y. If you operate a mobile unit, you can strategically use this technology to increase sales. While up until a year ago, this technology influenced the industry only for delivery driver purposes, more specialized consumer applications are likely to appear, making GPS also a matter of improving publicity. However, if you just want to streamline your delivery operation, do some research and invest in the proper tools for you. If you can eliminate wandering drivers and save on gas costs and time, you could make your money back one drive at a time.

Andrew Abernathy is PMQ’s associate editor.
Marketing, Technology