Papa John’s surpasses $1 billion in online pizza sales

“It’s pretty amazing not to hear a phone ring on a busy night,” said Freitas, an operating partner with the largest Papa John’s franchisee in the Washington, D.C., market.

The nation’s third-largest pizza delivery chain
trumpeted the $1 billion milestone Wednesday, noting that its U.S. online sales have been growing at an average clip of more than 50 percent per year. In 2001, the chain’s online sales totaled $20.4 million. Last year, its online sales approached $400 million.

“It took us seven years to reach our first billion in online sales, and at our current pace and growth rate it will take us less than three years to hit our next billion,” said Jim Ensign, vice president of marketing communications at Papa John’s.

Other chains in the fiercely competitive pizza industry are tapping into the technology craze to give customers ways to order pies other than through the standard phone call or trip to a restaurant.

Dominos Pizza Inc. put its own twist on online ordering early this year by introducing a “Pizza Tracker,” which lets customers keep tabs on the progress of their orders. Consumers can find out when their pies are in the oven, when they’re on the way, and even the first name of their delivery person.

Domino’s also lets customers place orders from Web-enabled mobile devices.

Pizza Hut said it’s online orders have grown sixfold in the last three years. Company spokesman Chris Fuller said the online segment is a significant part of the overall business, but he wouldn’t give specifics.

Pizza Hut, the nation’s biggest pizza chain, also allows customers to order via text messaging and mobile Web. The unit of Yum Brands Inc. soon will unveil a new method for ordering pizzas, dubbed “Pizza Hut Shortcut,” that it says will be the fastest in the industry. Customers will be able to download a “widget” onto their computers that will let them place their favorite pizza orders with just one click.

Since launching its Web-based ordering in 2001, Papa John’s said it has invested more than $15 million in online ordering technology. Customers can place online orders up to 21 days in advance. Another function lets consumers repeat their most recent orders with just one click.

Papa John’s said more than 20 percent of its sales come from online or through text messaging, an option it introduced last year. The company said text sales are meeting expectations, but it didn’t provide specifics.

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