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Pizza Hut aims for slice of mobile market

Pizza Hut Inc. has become the first pizza chain to offer both text messaging and mobile Web ordering options on a nationwide basis.

The Dallas-based company's "Total Mobile Access" service adds a mobile component to online ordering, which is already one of the most popular segments of Pizza Hut's business. The news comes less than two weeks after rival Papa John's announced a texting promotion for the Super Bowl, a major pizza-consuming occasion (see story).

"It's critically important for Pizza Hut to be where our customers are," said Bernard Acoca, digital marketing director for Pizza Hut.

"From online ordering to text and mobile access, consumers are increasingly seeking faster and more flexible ways to access our restaurants," he said. "It's important for us to offer new and exciting ways for our customers to order from Pizza Hut."

Pizza Hut is using Internet ordering software and service firm QuikOrder Inc.'s ClickOrder product to help with its mobile efforts. The Chicago company was last year awarded a patent for its Favorder one-click ordering technology -- Amazon has a patent for one-click online checkout -- via Web sites, mobile phones and PDAs.

A subsidiary of Yum Brands, Pizza Hut is the world's leading pizza chain with more than 6,200 restaurants nationwide and 4,000-plus overseas. The company competes with Papa John's and Domino's in the $37 billion U.S. pizza market.

American pie
The Internet is the starting point for Total Mobile Access. Consumers log on to the site at to create their Pizza Playlist, a compilation of up to four favorite orders. They also enter their payment information. Once registered, they can order either through text or mobile Web.

The text message process requires a couple of steps. Consumers simply text an order to 749488 (749HUT) and then receive a confirming text from Pizza Hut.

Those with a Web-enabled mobile phone can order directly from the Pizza Hut mobile site. That site will be automatically modified to fit a phone's screen. As expected, the mobile site has a simple menu with a popular orders listing and a store locator.

The Pizza Playlist can also include Pizza Hut's latest offering -- Pizza Mia, a low-priced pie for $5 that is topped with whole milk mozzarella cheese with a hint of cheddar and sauce from California tomatoes on dough made from Great Plains flour.

Total Mobile Access is currently offered to U.S. consumers.

Pizza Hut has worked out how to route mobile orders to the local Pizza Hut restaurant for fulfillment.

"We have an extensive infrastructure in place that recognizes customers' cell phone numbers and attaches that number to their online registration," Mr. Acoca said.

Papa John's currently offers national text ordering and national online ordering, but not the nationwide mobile Web option. Domino's offers national mobile Web ordering and national online ordering, but not the nationwide text option.

Market research supported Pizza Hut's latest foray.

"Our audience wanted a mobile option that was user-friendly and convenient," Mr. Acoca said. "Pizza Hut's Total Mobile Access -- encompassing online, text and mobile ordering -- does just that."