Pizza chain &pizza opened its first 300-square-foot pizza making kiosk on April 24 at Washington D.C.’s Union Station.
“The kiosk is a very exact reconcepting of the brand and experience,” explains Kevin Blesy, head of strategy from &pizza tells Hospitality Technology in an exclusive interview. “The thought is that not all &pizzas will be 1,500-2,000 square feet locations in the future. We are not the first brand to think that. In large urban areas … commercial rents and build outs are not cheap propositions. As we played with different footprints over the years, we realized we don’t need 2,000 square feet and build costs to fulfill our guest commitment.”
The rise of off premise dining and on-demand delivery also “got us thinking about shrinking the model without sacrificing quality,” he adds.
The brand worked with Load King to design the Cube using off-the-shelf equipment. “Nothing is proprietary. Nothing is space consuming. We shrunk it down to 300 square feet,” says Blesy.
With a ventless pizza oven and a diminutive footprint, the unit can be dropped into spaces previously off limits.
The Cube retains “the walk-the-line experience,” he explains. “You walk up to the counter just like traditional &pizza location or order on phone or website. The staff does all the piemaking and finishing. “How we are making pizza is not changing,” Blesy emphasizes. In the future, &pizza plans to iPads into the Cube for self ordering.
&pizza embraces technology that eases order and reordering; however, “there’s always a place for the human connection,” explains Blesy. “That’s what we’ve built the brand around. Our tribe members bring the brand to life as much as the technology. “
In the kiosk, the staff uses an iPad KDS and is alerted when to start order based on pickup time. When the order is starting to be prepared, the staff member selects start the order, and that triggers a text message sent to customer, ’We’ve started your order.’ When the pizza is complete, the staff member keys in the order number to print the box label. That triggers second test to customer telling them their order is complete and ready for pickup, Blesy explains.
Ultimately, the roll out of the Cubes will allow for a smarter, faster brand expansion at a lower cost, as each Cube costs half of what is takes to build an &pizza brick and mortar shop.
“The idea of a hot, custom pizza is exciting for folks. And now they’ll be able to pick up in places where it turn heads,” he says.For &pizza, future plans include adding more Cubes. &pizza will “start having fun with location and beacon technology,” which is built into their app. The brand can “surprise and delight” guests by “taking over the digital menu board to greet the guest by name,” says Blesy.
&pizza recently revamped its digital platforms in-house using white-label products.
The pizza brand has moved all of its guest communications to text messaging. “We know that's how most guests communicate. It's the most effective way to get in contact and interact with our guests,” says Blesy. The text messages are consistent with the brand’s reputation for irreverent humor, he adds. “We do them in a way that our guests know it is us, that we are on the other end of that digital pipe.”
"Now with our digital ordering environment … there are a lot of interesting ways to make things more frictionless and seamless.
"We are bringing it all in house allows us to play with things on an ongoing basis and see what sticks,” says Blesy.