Press button. Receive pizza.
It’s basically that easy, now that Papa John’s has become the first national pizza brand to offer instant ordering via Facebook’s new “Start Order” button. Users don’t even have to open the brand’s national page — just type “Papa John’s” in the search bar on Facebookand the restaurant will come up, with the “Start Order” button next to its name.
“We’ve done a lot of things first and we’ve invested heavily in our experience,” said Mike Nettles, chief information and digital officer at Papa John’s. “Facebook lets us leverage what we’ve already built. They’ve subtracted the need to exit the Facebook environment where you might be talking about food or a meal experience so we can give you the same great experience we’ve already invested in within the walled garden of Facebook.”
This builds on the pizza delivery company’s legacy of digital firsts. By 2001, Papa John’s had incorporated digital ordering at all of its U.S. delivery restaurants way ahead of the curve. It let customers order by SMS text message in 2007, offered digital rewards by 2010, and eventually became the first national restaurant brand to launch a custom Apple TV ordering app.
To Brandon Rhoten, Global CMO of Papa John’s, making the move to Facebook instant ordering was only natural, and not just because there are two billion people on the platform.
“It made all the sense in the world,” Rhoten said. “People are spending amazing amounts of time on social networks talking to friends and family about everything, including, ‘What are we going to do for dinner?’ So we felt like this was a no-brainer — to keep people in the platform they’re spending literally hours a day in, and providing them a seamless, better way to get to the real-world experience of getting pizza to show up.”
Facebook joined forces with Delivery.com and Slice in October 2016, at which time it introduced features to promote local events, share recommendations, request appointments at participating salons and spas, get a quote from a local business and order tickets to events and movies via Fandango.
It announced the “Start Order” button in May, when it rolled out the capability to select users in a beta test. The feature is part of Facebook’s overall strategy to keep eyes from wandering off its platform. It has been duplicating the functionality of various other sites with offerings like weather, city guides, job boards, fundraisers and games to increase users’ linger time on the site.
Previously, users of the social media platform were able to order food from certain individual restaurants, but they had to look up that restaurant’s page in order to do so. Now they can browse available menus, build their cart, add a tip and pay securely, all in one convenient place.
But how much sense does ordering food from Facebook really make? Customers would have to be in the app already at the time they decide to place an order. They may check the newsfeed often, but are they checking it at the most important point: the point at which they’re thinking about ordering food?
It turns out many of them are. The button went live Thursday, July 13, and within minutes, orders were coming in through the new avenue. Consumers are ready for the future of food ordering. What separates the wheat from the chaff will be, simply, who is there to meet them.
Rhoten and Nettles think voice ordering is going to be the next big thing, poised to overtake graphic interaction in the coming years. They’re already developing strategies to prepare so that, when the consumers get there, Papa John’s will be the one waiting for them.
For that reason, branding is going to become even more important, said Rhoten. When a person tells Alexa to order them a pizza, they’re going to direct her to the brand that’s most familiar to them. Papa John’s will need to keep on keeping ahead of the curve in terms of ad mechanisms and branding to really solidify that brand loyalty.
But more important than all of that is the food.
“Papa John’s was founded to be better pizza, not the mechanism that gives it to you,” Rhoten said. “Facebook integration is awesome, but the end moment — that magic moment when you open that pizza box and you actually have to eat the thing — we have to make sure that our brand stands out.”