Following the recent rollout of Qkr! with Masterpass payment technology throughout its estate, QSR Media spoke with Pizza Hut UK's IT director Keith Frimley to discuss this, and the role IT has to play in customer experience.
QSR Media: Tell us why you chose the Qkr! mobile payment?
One of the areas that we find so frustrating across all restaurants is that at the end of the meal when customers want to pay their bill, the wait time could be between 8-12 minutes on average. The whole process of waiting for the staff and bill is wasted time. It's not really providing any value and slows down the time it takes to turn a table during rush hours, so we saw this as a good opportunity to expand our mobile offering and enable our guests to pay their bills when they want to and how they want to.
We've given our guests the option of paying traditionally i.e face-to-face, or alternately just using their mobile phones to pay and being able to leave the restaurant at will.
We did a lot of reviews on the restaurant and hospitality industry before making the move. One of the key customer insights we learned was that more and more people want the freedom of paying and splitting their bills in a way which suits them. The advent of the smartphone has really enabled a revolution in customer experience, and the way the consumers interact with brands.
QSR Media: So how long was this development in the pipeline?
We've been speaking with Mastercard since April 2017. We trialed it in some of our restaurants in July 2017 and deployed it to another 12 restaurants in November 2017.
QSR Media: What type of issues came up during the testing phase?
The most difficult thing to deal with was integrating the technology with our point-of-sale system also linking the mobile devices into the point of sale system. If you're going to a restaurant, our team member will give you a number to link to your mobile app which will in turn link to the point-of-sale.
QSR Media: What has customer feedback on it been? Have you had much uptake?
We have, actually. It's been pretty positive. We're trying to look how we can improve customer experience in our restaurants. That has been our focus for the last five years. Not only did we invest in technology, but we also invested in our restaurants and products.
QSR Media: Do you have statistics on the take up? Is it across ages or amongst younger crowd?
It's pretty early days so we're still getting a proper review on the response. But we've been encouraged by the response. Some of our restaurants have seen some pretty big numbers using the app. Our team member work in a very busy environment, a lot of them manage high numbers of people during the weekend. It's a lot of pressure, so giving them fun and exciting things as part of their shift is a great way for them to have a better shift.
QSR Media: Why did you choose Qkr?
It was a debate that we had: should we actually develop our own app or should we start with Qkr and actually move Qkr back into our app? Some people are frequent users of Pizza Hut but we're very conscious that we've got a lot of competition so wanted something that was easy for people to use, and which they may already be familiar with. Consequently we started with the generic app and ultimately, our next journey is going to be using the Qkr payment method in our own app.
QSR Media: Moving beyond this, what other type of tech innovations have you got in the pipeline?
We've started the ability to pay per table, but we're also looking at the ability for our guests to order various types food like additional drinks and desserts. We're also looking at the ability to order ahead so if a customer is going to a restaurant, they’ll be able to order on their mobile device, choose a time slot, and then go to the restaurant and have their table and food ready by the time they arrive.
What we can do via technology is remove the redundant time in processing orders and arranging for order payment, putting customers in control of their experience and reducing a source of stress or irritation for them.
QSR Media: When can we expect to see those?
We're trialing order-an-the-table at one of our restaurants and we're trying to determine if it's what customers want. We're getting more feedback from our guests. Over the past five to six years, we’ve invested millions in regenerating our restaurant estates – this project has touched everything from our menu, service, training, and the transformation of the brand to put it back on the front of the casual dining market. Technology is also a key part of this transformation and will continue to be as it touches all parts of our business.
QSR Media: What is your view on other technologies often talked about- for example robots?
In all parts of the world, we're looking at robots and we've done some works with robots. But I think we are still conscious of people going out and enjoying that human interaction. We're not saying never, but the possibility of launching robots in the UK over the next five years is not likely.
QSR Media: What do you think is ‘too far’ when it comes to technological innovation in the foodservice space?
I think each brand must evaluate what experience or services they'd like to provide for their customers. All these technological advancements that speed up service and make for a smoother journey are great, but for us ‘too far’ is probably removing the human element from all customer interactions.
QSR Media: What staffing changes have you made as a result of this new technology?
The technology aims to make our staffs’ lives easier. We haven’t reduced staff numbers as a result of the changes, but the technology does allow our staff to fulfil different roles. They are now able to interact more with customers as it frees up some of their time. We really see it as a win-win.
QSR Media: More generally, what’s your view of the market at present? Obviously it has been a very difficult time for the sector as a whole. Do you think some participants didn't invest enough in their brands?
I think it's a very challenging market. It's not a question of investing more in your brand since each brand has different investment needs. When we started our turnaround program, we determined it was what we needed to improve the brand. There are a lot of highly competent brands out there competing for the same consumer. It's how you differentiate yourself with the other pizza makers and technology is something that allows us to do that. It's not to say we have different technology, but everything we've done focuses on how to drive a better guest experience and environment.