True to its famous tagline, Little Caesars entered the COVID-19 pandemic hot and ready, says Chief Innovation Officer Ed Gleich.
Three years ago, the brand introduced what it calls “Reserve-N-Ready,” which allows customers to order directly from the mobile app or website. When the order is ready, guests receive a notification, swing by the store, and pick up the pizza. The food is housed in the Pizza Portal, which “ended up serendipitously being no contact,” Gleich says. Consumers simply scan a QR code and the portal automatically opens.
“We originally did it, frankly, to just make the trip a frictionless experience for the consumer where they didn't have to stop by the front counter and ask about the order or have it handed to them,” Gleich says. “But it really worked well in this scenario with the pandemic to make it not just frictionless, but the safest way where there was really no human contact.”
Outside the first four weeks when customers rushed to grocery stores, Gleich notes that business has been strong, which is reflective of the pizza category overall. Domino’s and Papa John’s saw double-digit increases in same-store sales in the third quarter while Pizza Hut rose in the mid-single digits. Little Caesars earned $3.85 billion in revenue in 2019, a 1.3 percent increase year-over-year, according to FoodserviceResults. By the end of last year, the chain had 3,652 franchised U.S. stores and 561 company-owned locations.
Little Caesars’ performance in 2020 can be attributed in part to its delivery business, which didn’t even exist until December 2019. The company launched the channel through its website and app, with DoorDash providing drivers. The chain used a Super Bowl ad to announce it to the world, and then the pandemic quadrupled growth. Recently, Little Caesars placed itself on DoorDash’s marketplace, which has given the pizza concept an even higher lift.
The brand ensures it has the proper human capital to handle volume growth by hiring thousands of workers at various levels, such as hourly employees, assistant managers, managers, and manager trainees. The brand is also hiring warehouse workers at distribution centers and drivers with commercial driver’s licenses.