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A look at pizza chains' latest ordering technology

Papa John's adds iPhone app; Domino's sees good results from app overseas

Pizza's Big 3 chains continue to innovate their mobile ordering strategies as consumers grow more comfortable picking up their phones to place an order.

Here's a look at what Papa John's, Domino's Pizza and Pizza Hut are up:

Papa John's Pizza
Papa John's released a free iPhone app Dec. 21, which executives at the chain heralded as representing “a better digital experience” for customers. The company said its current mobile ordering website has “flourished since its 2008 launch,” but added that the new iPhone app was “expected to significantly grow the company’s already strong mobile presence.”

Papa John’s officials cited the latest statistics from research firm International Data Corp. indicating there are now more than 50 million Apple iPhone users and that more than 11 billion mobile apps were downloaded in 2010

“That is why Papa John’s designed a stand-alone app, providing a full menu selection of Papa John’s pizzas, sides, drinks, desserts and our customers’ favorite extras,” said Andrew Varga, the chain’s chief marketing officer. “The app also includes our newest and most popular offers, mobile order functionality, account login and even access to the Papa Points Loyalty Program to reward our returning customers.”

Papa John’s iPhone app comes with a link to an online ordering loyalty program, something lacking in the offerings of its two largest rivals. The chain introduced Papa Points earlier in 2010 and characterized it as the only national online pizza loyalty program. Once enrolled, patrons earn one point for every $5 spent online, with a free pizza with up to three toppings awarded to participants each time they accrue 25 points.

Papa John’s International Inc. of Louisville, Ky., operates and franchises about 2,848 domestic and 753 international restaurants.

Domino's Pizza
Domino’s in the United States, to date, has eschewed such dedicated mobile apps in favor of mobile-device-optimized ordering pages accessible from any Web-enabled smart phone or wireless device. It wouldn't say, however, if positive results from ordering apps used by some of its locations overseas might change that approach.

“All we can say at this point is that we are constantly looking to develop new technologies, enhance our existing applications and improve the ordering process for our customers by allowing them to order with their preferred device,” said Tim McIntyre, vice president of communications for Domino’s Pizza Inc. “We don't discuss anything that's in development or under consideration until we're ready to release it.”

Officials of Domino’s master franchisee in the United Kingdom and Ireland were more than willing to talk about the success of its iPhone app for online ordering from the company’s 665 restaurants. Domino's Pizza UK & IRL PLC said in a news release that same-store sales increased 10.3 percent for the Dec. 26-end fourth quarter and 11.9 percent for the year in part because of “excellent growth in e-commerce sales during the year, supported by the introduction of our iPhone ordering app and increased activity in the social media arena.”

Those officials said UK sales of about £1 million pounds, or $1.6 million U.S., came through the iPhone app in the fourth quarter. For the year, they said, online ordering from all channels in the UK and Ireland grew 63 percent, on a year-over-year basis, to £128 million pounds, or $198.4 million U.S. Online orders now account for some 35.8 percent of delivery sales in the United Kingdom, the company said.

“With the impending launch of an ordering app for Android [operating system] phones, these figures are expected to continue to rise,” Domino’s Pizza UK & IRL PLC said in its release.

Executives of Domino’s Australia operations told in early 2010 that $2 million in online order sales in Australian currency moved through the chain’s iPhone app during its first quarter in distribution. They said the software generated more than seven times the anticipated volume of sales in that period, given it was initially seen as more of a marketing tool than sales builder.

Ann Arbor, Mich.-based Domino's operates or franchises 9,169 restaurants worldwide, around 4,900 of which are located in the United States.

Pizza Hut
The pizza segment leader led the pack in the summer of 2009 when it debuted its iPhone ordering app, through which users can find nearby Pizza Huts through the phone’s location functions and scroll, tap, pinch, stretch, drag, drop, tilt and shake their orders. The app surpassed 100,000 downloads within two weeks of its introduction, Pizza Hut said in August 2009.

Pizza Hut, a division of Louisville, Ky.-based Yum! Brands Inc., operates and franchises nearly 10,000 restaurants worldwide, including about 7,600 in the United States.

Contact Alan J. Liddle at [email protected].

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