In 1995, Pizza Hut became the first pizza company to stuff its crusts with cheese—the opening salvo in a stuffed crust arms race that continues to this day. Six years later, in 2001, it became the first pizza company to deliver to the International Space Station.
Both are emblematic of a longstanding commitment to innovation that on Monday saw Pizza Hut Canada announce it is testing robot delivery in Vancouver.
The chain is partnering with the autonomous sidewalk delivery company Serve Robotics on a two-week pilot project that will see it use a “robot” to deliver to select customers within a two-kilometre radius around a store on Robson Street (somewhat disappointingly, it’s a robot more in the short, squat R2-D2 mold than a humanoid figure like C-3PO).
Initiatives like these help shape consumer perceptions of the Pizza Hut brand and strengthen its reputation as a delivery specialist, said Pizza Hut Canada’s innovation manager Daniel Fingerote.
There appears to be a Pizza Hut delivery robot in the West End. The future is now. pic.twitter.com/jXbHK1vUHo
— Andy Cole (@AndyCole1984) September 22, 2022
“It’s super-important that you come across as being the most innovative, having the newest technology, and really pushing the envelope,” said Fingerote, who has previously held brand/marketing roles with companies including McCain Food and L’Oréal. “We’re the first pizza company in Canada to be doing this, so we’re super-excited about that.”
The Canadian test is a global first for Pizza Hut, the world’s largest pizza company, with more than 18,000 locations in over 100 countries. Pizza Hut’s rival Domino’s also tested robot delivery in 2021.
“There’s no question that we absolutely want to test it out as a potential complement to our current delivery service, but from the marketing side of things, there is of course going to be the buzz aspect, getting people eyes on the robot, and getting them to come to the website and hopefully make a purchase.”
Pizza Hut is relying primarily on PR to promote the initiative, although Fingerote said there is also some paid social. It’s also getting buzz on social buzz with people posting videos and photos of the Pizza Hut-branded robot as it goes out on delivery.
The tamper-proof robot is capable of carrying multiple pizzas, and is designed to keep customers’ pizza hot on the ride to their house, though there are some limitations—such as not being able to carry the chain’s oversized Panourmous pizza, said Fingerote.