Five ways Pizza Hut is serving up better customer experiences

In terms of digital innovation and use of online and mobile technology, Domino's Pizza has been blazing a trail in the fast food space. Whether it's one-click ordering, voice-activated purchases or tailored mobile push notifications to customers, the global food retailer is moving forward with a DevOps infrastructure.

For Pizza Hut, the customer-facing tech has arguably been less forthcoming. There are a number of ways, however, that Domino's big rival is investing in its infrastructure to meet the needs of demanding, time-poor modern consumers.

Essential Retail has picked out five examples that show the restaurant chain is investing in and experimenting with new technology, in the name of the all-important customer experience.

1. Robots in disguise

Pizza Hut in Asia is to pilot a commerce-based application of SoftBank Robotics' humanoid robot, Pepper, in an attempt to deliver a range of new in-restaurant consumer experiences.

The application, built by Mastercard Labs in Singapore, will be powered by the card scheme's digital payments service, MasterPass, and by the end of 2016 will be used in some restaurants to take orders and engage with visitors. Consumers will be able to initiate an engagement by either tapping the Pepper icon within the MasterPass wallet or by scanning a QR code on the tablet that the robot holds.

Pizza Hut Asia will be the first retail brand to use the Pepper robot

After pairing with MasterPass, Pepper will provide personalised recommendations and offers, additional information on products, and assistance in checking out and paying for items. Pepper will be able to initiate, approve and complete a transaction by connecting to MasterPass via a Wi-Fi connection, all from within the digital wallet.

"We are excited to welcome Pepper to the Pizza Hut family," Vipul Chawla, managing director of Pizza Hut Restaurants Asia, explained last week.

"Core to our digital transformation journey is the ability to make it easier for customers to engage, connect and transact with Pizza Hut. With an order-and-payment-enabled Pepper, customers can now come to expect personalised ordering at our stores, reduce wait time for carry-out, and have a fun, frictionless user experience."

2. Touchscreen technology refresh

Pizza Hut relies heavily on its IT systems to support chefs and kitchen staff providing meals for restaurant and takeaway customers alike, and this year it installed Box Technologies' Cielo solutions for both kitchen and front-of-house tech operations.

The aim of the project was to install more flexible technology that would support the company's existing software while providing independence from a proprietary software partner in the future. The Cielo 22-inch All-in-One touchscreen PC system placed in kitchens displays orders to chefs and helps them synchronise the cooking of dishes, while separate models of the equipment are used for takeaway orders at the front of the restaurant or from a dedicated takeaway window, and are enabled to take payments.

The step up in size from the 14-inch touchscreens previously used have provided greater memory capacity and more display space, allowing Pizza Hut to have a better visibility of orders. Some 160 Pizza Hut restaurants now have Cielo systems in their cut areas, while 250 restaurants are using them at the front of house.

Will Broome, head of business systems at Pizza Hut, commented: "Cielo systems are now at the heart of our kitchen operations and have proved highly practical, carrying twice the amount of information compared to our previous screens."

3. Joined-up marketing approach

Earlier this year, the restaurant chain agreed a three-year contract with Inspired Thinking Group (ITG) for marketing campaigns. ITG will look after content creation and distribution for Pizza Hut's digital screens in the UK, as well as overseeing conferences and events, printing of menu and point-of-sale material and management of online menus linking to the company's ordering app.

4. Anytime support

24-hour tech support from Retail Assist is present across Pizza Hut's 270 restaurant locations in the UK, a move that has reportedly been particularly beneficial for the company's outlets trading late into the night to service online orders.

The service allows each restaurant to report and have resolved any IT-related issues as well as access to a single point of contact for logging calls, while removing the need for the food chain's internal IT team to fix problems and find third-party support.

The partnership has been in place since 2014 and has helped improve customer experience, according to Pizza Hut's service delivery manager, Bill Parker.  

5. Remote IT management

In addition to the aforementioned changes in operations at Pizza Hut, prompted by its work with Box Technologies, the IT team can now monitor PoS performance remotely. Because the Cielo touchscreen systems are Windows-based, the tech department can use remote management tools to monitor the system from afar and – according to Pizza Hut – take any necessary remedial action more efficiently. 

Broome stated: "For front-of-house use, the Cielo systems are a proven success that will give us the flexibility to consider their use for a broader range of applications."

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Box Technologies

Retail Assist

Inspired Thinking Group