Challenged to keep up with tech-savvy rivals, Pizza Hut is testing a new digitally powered pick-up system that allows consumers to order ahead and fetch their pizzas from a cubby without interacting with an employee.
The Plano, Texas-based chain said it is designed to be an easy alternative for time-strapped carryout customers who want to avoid waiting in lines.
“So many people live on-the-go and don’t have time to wait in line, especially in urban areas,” Nicolas Burquier, chief customer and operations officer for Pizza Hut U.S., told Nation’s Restaurant News in a statement. “And let’s face it, many of us welcome any opportunity to skip the small talk. So, we took it upon ourselves to introduce this seamless and innovative carryout experience that eliminates the lines, the wait and the conversation, allowing you to literally just grab a fresh, hot pizza and go.”
The division of Yum Brands is testing a 12-compartment digital cubby system by Brightloom, formerly Eatsa, at a restaurant in Hollywood, Calif. The franchise location, selected for the volume of foot traffic in the area, will supplement traditional in-store experience and not eliminate it, the chain said.
“This store will be fully staffed and still have delivery service capabilities,” Burquier said.
The cubby system works with orders made through the Pizza Hut app, website or in-store, the company said. It will also work with phone orders, which can be made and paid by speaking to a live employee over the phone.
“We wanted to provide on-the-go customers with the ability to pay through any channel,” said Burquier, adding that phone orders can be settled at the store.
Once orders are ready, customers can retrieve pizzas from a cubby with a latched door that has a digital display with their name on it. The cubbies, which are 20 ½ inches wide and 18 inches deep, are designed with special linings to keep food hot, but drinks cold.
Little Caesars Enterprises Inc. began rolling out automated, self-service pick up stations at restaurants in 2017.
Over the past year, emerging fast-casual concepts such as Wow Bao and Rōti Modern Mediterranean, both in Chicago, have adopted San Francisco-based Brightloom’s digital shelving system.
Pizza Hut is one of the first national chains to test Brightloom’s technology. The announcement comes a day after Brightloom, formerly Eatsa, changed its corporate identity. It also announced a major partnership with Starbucks that includes merging the coffeehouse giant’s leading customer engagement platform with Brightloom’s digital solutions.
The pilot Pizza Hut location opened July 23. Additional locations in West Coast cities are expected to roll out in 2020, the company said.
Pizza Hut has more than 16,800 restaurants around the world. Of those, about 7,500 are in the U.S.
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