Thursday, October 15, 2015

A Giant Inflatable Pizza Meets the Wired Up Crew

One of the great perks of my job as associate editor with PMQ is going to food shows. From Oct. 3-4 our crew was in Atlanta for the Sofo Foods event at Cobb Galleria Center. As everyone in the pizza business knows, The Toledo, Ohio-based Sofo family runs an Italian food distribution business that is tops in quality and employee morale. Speaking of upbeat sales energy, a major highlight of the show was the PMQ-sponsored Wired Up, Fired Up Online Ordering Fair that featured presentations by five of the top companies in the online ordering universe.

Proud-to-be-called tech geeks from Chow Now, EZ Dine, PDQ Signature Systems, ArrowPOS and Microworks showed up. They informed and persuaded restaurateurs—including some curious pizzeria operators attracted, no doubt, to their corner of the Cobb Center by PMQ’s 20-foot-high giant inflatable pizza—that implementing online ordering is a no-brainer. Oh, the brains who came up with the technology that is revolutionizing pizzeria marketing are as big as they come. The guys and gals I talked to representing PMQ’s wired-up partners in Hotlanta throw around terms like cross-platform, bandwidth and cybersecurity with the same confident precision that U.S. Pizza Team members spin dough behind their backs and between their legs.

But the systems they showed off at the Sofo show were elegant in their simplicity. Most importantly, they work. The software effectively captures sales and highlights menu options to food consumers on the go. If millennials—those iPhone-wielding 18-34-year-olds—hold the keys to pizza delivery success,online ordering integrated with POS, website and social media buttons, is the only ride in the lot that remotely turns them on. The fact is, says restaurant demographic experts who I met at the NRA’s Chicago food fest in May, millennial control junkies increasingly demand you bring your specials and gluten-free options to them if you want their business. And they’re carrying around a chunk of change, by the way.

My new tech buds in Atlanta told me that even pizzerias that don’t specialize in delivery can benefit from online ordering synched up with a thoughtfully designed web site and engaging Facebook, Twitter and Instagram accounts. And no, you don’t have to be a big chain to afford the latest technology, they say. Of course they say that. “They want to sell us their products,” I hear some of you shouting back. Look, as I’ve conceded in this blog, I’m a pizza industry novice, just trying to tell some amusing stories. So don’t take my word for it when it comes to how you market your pizzeria, or spend your hard-earned cash.

But in my research for November’s PMQ Pizza Magazine cover story, I did come across independent, one-location pizzerias, like Slice of the 80s in Detroit, who are thriving with customized online ordering systems that target their market and business model sweet spots. And I found objective sources, like the Wall Street Journal, who say there’s no sugar-coating the truth. Independent pizzerias are being stomped in many markets by Domino’s, Papa John’s and Pizza Hut stores who benefit from the pizza giants’ online footprint. The big toe on that foot? Digital ordering.

So none of that may be very amusing, but I think it’s convincing. Might as well end this by beating a metaphor to death. Hope you find these photographs of the 30-foot (I know I said 20-foot before, but it was HUGE) gigantic, monster PMQ pizza amusing. No one was crushed but it took four of us to keep it from rolling away while we blew it up.


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