- Southern California-based Pieology conducted a drone pizza delivery test last month in Connecticut. The build-your-own pizza brand delivered a pizza to kick off Stamford Innovation Week, according to Nation’s Restaurant News.
- The drone carried the 11-inch pizza six blocks in four minutes. The drone was outfitted with clasps to carry the pizza box, which allowed Pieology’s branding to be visible in the sky during the delivery. Backed by a $2 million grant, Pieology is aiming to launch drone delivery permanently from its Stamford, Connecticut store.
- Drones are just one example of delivery innovations that have emerged in the pizza space throughout the past five years. Companies have also experimented with driverless vehicles, pizza emoji orders, voice automation orders and more.
The top-your-own pizza category has become remarkably crowded since making its way onto the fast casual scene about 10 years ago, with the likes of Blaze, MOD, Pie Five, PizzaRev, Uncle Maddio’s, &pizza, Pieology and more jockeying for market share. An added challenge is the fact that these brands also have to contend with the much larger pizza category, and heavyweights like Domino’s, Pizza Hut and Papa John’s.
For consumers who just want a pizza — and that is a vast majority of them — differentiation is quite the challenge in this space. What will ultimately win is convenience.
For years, pizza companies have been meeting this consumer demand for speed with delivery. Now, as seemingly every quick-service, fast casual and casual chain plays catch up with delivery services of their own, pizza companies are diving into the next wave of delivery. Pieology’s drone test is just one example. There’s also Domino’s Hotspots delivery, which allows consumers to order pizza to areas without a street address, such as parks, stadium lots and beaches. Domino's also launched a pizza emoji ordering capability through Facebook , and Pizza Hut even developed pizza-ordering shoes.
These experiments aren’t just gimmicks. They’re legitimate efforts to win the war over share of stomach as more consumers demand food on their own terms. Pieology’s drone delivery should score the brand points for convenience and speed, in addition to novelty. And, although the company’s anticipated drone rollout may ignite a spark among the bigger, deeper-pocketed pizza chains, it isn’t anything new in this space.
Fast forward five years and pizza companies seem to be competing over technology more than pepperoni quality. Domino’s has even referred to itself as a "technology company that sells pizzas.” Coincidentally, Domino’s has emerged as the market share leader, surpassing Pizza Hut earlier this year with a 17% piece of the pie, and doubling its market share since 2009, which is when the company’s digital transformation began.
Among Domino’s other technology-forward initiatives is a custom delivery vehicle with a heating oven, driverless delivery cars, artificial intelligence-driven delivery via its “DOM” assistant, voice ordering and more. These innovations are helping Domino’s win for obvious reasons — customers no longer want friction and tend to spend more when they order digitally. Those are two pretty big incentives for other companies to explore technology-driven conveniences.