Personal computers and pizza are a natural pairing. After all, a lot of pizza went into the building of Silicon Valley.
So perhaps it isn't too surprising that a report from Cornell University reveals that online ordering is catching on fast with pizza customers.
In research sponsored by Cornell and the trade magazine Nation's Restaurant News, the electronic ordering practices of the top 326 U.S.-based restaurant chains were analyzed. The results showed that fast-casual restaurants, especially pizza chains, led the trend with just under half now accepting orders online. Sandwich shops also were at the forefront.
Quick-service restaurants were next, with a little over one-fifth accepting online orders, following by casual-dining chains and midscale, full-service chains.
The study was published in the March edition of the Cornell Hospitality Report.
Study co-author Sheryl E. Kimes, a Cornell University professor of operations management, was surprised at the prevalence of online ordering and was particularly interested in the growth of multirestaurant ordering sites like grubhub.com and snapfinger.com. Also growing are online ordering providers like ONOSYS.
She said earlier research showed that once customers tried online ordering they were more likely to continue to use it, so "it's only going to get bigger."
For restaurants, taking orders online is an additional distribution channel, reduces costs and helps them make better use of their production capacity.
At Pizza Hut, online ordering started about seven years ago, said Baron Concors, chief technology officer for the chain, and "it's been seeing phenomenal growth year over year."
On the face of it, for the customer going online is more trouble than picking up the phone, so the challenge for restaurants is to make online ordering more attractive.
One selling point is accuracy -- the customer can see a preview of their order. Pizza Hut also has introduced features including the option of ordering for a later time and setting up regular orders, such as a pizza every Friday night.
Mobile ordering apps also are popular, though they're less common than ordering from a computer. But Concors and Kimes expect the mobile app ordering to grow.
Despite all the gadgetry, delivery of pizzas still tends to be old school -- boxes in a car. No one's figured out a way to send the disc to your hard drive. Yet.