Newly opened Long Island City Pizza Factory boasts that it is the world's first "full-digital pizzeria," an accomplishment its owners hope will send it right into the hearts of fast-talking, no B.S. New York customers. The operators already have two other popular Big Apple-area pizzerias — Uncle Paul's Pizza and Paul's On Times Square brands — but the Pizza Factory is a new age pioneer, which company leaders said breaks new ground as the first pizzeria to combine a family owned business that handcrafts its food with the up-to-the-second tech tools most widely used by larger chains.
The decision to accept only online orders sprang out of the restaurant's team's experience working with the pizza ordering platform — Slice — said Owner Dino Redzic. Pizza Marketplace recently chatted with Redzi about how he, along with an eight-person crew, worked with founder and CEO Ilir Sela, to make this digital dream a restaurant reality.
Q: Why was this decision made to go all-digital?
A: Pizza has been around for a long time, but the industry hasn't innovated much, and we like to be pioneers of something new. We want to be the first digital pizzeria, to show the industry how it's done - and that it can actually be far more efficient.
Q: So does that mean you're like a virtual restaurant with no physical storefront or is that the plan?
A: No, the key is to maximize your business, not change it.
Q: What type of research went into this decision, if any?
A: Thirty years ago, nobody had a cell phone. Now, imagine someone without a cell phone. We know that more and more orders are moving to digital, and soon, it will be a learned behavior that everyone will use. Whether its one year or five years down the line, we want to stay ahead of the curve.
Q: What's your delivery area, and is this something you plan to take to other large metro areas?
A: (It's a) 10-block radius (delivery area). We are giving our pioneer Pizza Factory 48 months to be fully established. By 2020, we anticipate to be laying out a plan for national and potentially international expenditure. But first, we want to make sure we get this right.
Q: Do any special accommodations need to be made in your ordering and payment systems to account for all-digital ordering?
A: No, it's just about getting customers to download the Slice app. Slice is helping us by providing our restaurant with in-store marketing, coupons that give $5 off a customer's app order (covered entirely by them), and pushing our shop to their current customer base in their marketing.
Q: What about provisions in the kitchen and for delivery and pickup? Do you have to make special accommodations in that area of operations?
A: Orders are received & tracked via (the) SliceOS (tablet) ... a POS system provided to us by Slice. By partnering with the Slice team, we can concentrate on preparing the food vs dealing with order taking. It cuts down our labor so we can focus more on preparing, packing, delivering and taking care of our clients. They handle all the digital, we just focus on the food.
Q: Catering appears to be a heavy emphasis.Why is that?
A: Yes, catering is a major component of our business. We prefer large orders to go through Slice because they take care of all the processing and digital receipt, which is what these big companies want. In NYC, companies are happy to provide meals for their employees to encourage them to work more hours. So together with Slice, we make ordering easy and convenient for them - they want pizza, we give them pizza easily.
Q: What plans are being made for outages both along the power grid and in online access?
A: Unfortunately, we've had many issues with power outages at my previous pizzerias. The gas never went out though, so we always continue cooking. ... (Slice has) a backup plan for every power outage. If they can't transmit the orders to us via internet because our power is out, they call it into us directly, so we're always covered. If we managed our own online ordering, we'd lose business because we could never handle outages and tech operation the way they do.
Q: Does this increase or decrease costs and how?
A: Overall, it decreases cost and maximizes our potential — these orders come from customers we wouldn't normally have if we didn't have a world-class online presence from Slice. Digital orders help us prevent mistakes that can happen when we take down orders over the phone too (when) we're busy and it's loud in our shop, so it's hard to hear. Plus these online orders are a lot larger than our typical phone orders due to the ease of placing an order for groups online. Which is great for us.
Q: Where do you see this going, if successful?
A: We are giving ourselves four years to establish Pizza Factory and make it successful. From there, we would love to continue expanding.