Software // Enterprise Applications
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2/1/2008
03:15 PM
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GPS Comes To High-Tech Pizza-Delivery Tracking

One Papa John's chain lets customers track their deliveries street by street. Domino's, meanwhile, is making its own tracking technology push.

If you think Domino's new online pizza-tracking service is cool, check out what some Papa John's pizza shops are doing.

An 11-store group around Huntsville, Ala., late last year forged a relationship with TrackMyPizza.com, a startup company that lets customers track on an online map exactly where their pizzas are, with updates every 15 seconds as they're being delivered to customers.

Customers call their orders in or place them online. They then enter their phone number on TrackMyPizza to track their delivery. The drivers are equipped with GPS-enabled handsets that feed location data to TrackMyPizza's server. There, the data is coupled with the customer's phone number, allowing tracking data to be "pushed" out to the customer via the TrackMyPizza Web site.

Domino's just unveiled its tracking technology in advance of the pizza-frenzy that is Super Bowl Sunday, when it expects to sell about 1.2 million pizzas. Domino's system, in place in 3,400 stores, tells customers if a pizza is being prepared, baked, boxed, or en route. The company said the system will be up in all stores by June 30. The feature does not include GPS tracking of drivers, but Domino's says customers can expect their deliveries in less than 10 minutes from the time it leaves the store.

The Papa John's TrackMyPizza feature, for customers in that region, takes the arms race for pizza-tracking technology to another level, removing even that much uncertainty from a pizza buyer's life. Tracking the delivery street by street, Super Bowl viewers could know exactly when to leave their TVs to meet the pizza guy at the door.

The Alabama Papa John's group started working late last year with TrackMyPizza, a privately held startup founded by two telemetry scientists who spent 10 years tracking defense missiles for the U.S. government.

For the stores where TrackMyPizza is available, about 18% of all delivery customers in the last 60 days have gone online to track their pizzas, even if they ordered by phone, said Tom VanLandingham, operating partner for the regional Papa John's group. Online orders are up 100% since the service started, and that's a big advantage to a pizza shop. Not only does it save employees time answering the phone, online customers spend on average about $2 more with each order, since they can see the full menu, VanLandingham said. Papa John's also will soon begin using the tracking system for behind-the-scenes productivity gains, such as better plotting of deliveries based on location data.

TrackMyPizza itself relies on a mapping engine built by Randy Younger, the company's chief operating officer, and Ken Blankshain, its CTO, using geo data available from the U.S. government.

"Whoever said pizzas aren't rocket science?" said TrackMyPizza CEO David Neel. Domino's ambitious plans for its system suggest there could be a broad market for such consumer-facing tracking tools. Said Neel, "It's another example of how to empower the customer and improve the customer experience."

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