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Yum! In The News

10 ways KFC, Pizza Hut and Taco Bell are digitally reinventing how we approach food

KFC, Taco Bell and Pizza Hut technologies

Image provided by Yum! Brands.

Published on November 04, 2019

Whether it’s the Cheetos Sandwich, Grilled Cheese Stuffed Crust Pizza or Naked Chicken Chalupa, Yum! Brands’ KFC, Pizza Hut and Taco Bell are known for daring culinary creations that are as creative as they are delicious. But Yum! innovations aren’t confined to the menu. In recent years, each brand has introduced some technological advancements that would make any Silicon Valley startup envious. From robot waiters to facial recognition, these curiosities make it clear that Yum! is capable of blowing minds, along with taste buds.


Finger clickin’ easy

KFC drive-thru

KFC is already convenient, but some KFC restaurants in China have rolled out a new facial recognition technology system that narrows a diner’s menu options based on their age, sex and whatever mood they appear to be in. If diners don’t like what’s suggested, they can see an expanded menu. Designed with Baidu, China’s largest internet search engine, the technology is meant to make it easier — and quicker — to get a meal on the go.

Those same goals are behind the partnership between KFC India and Haptik, an artificial intelligence firm based in Mumbai. With the help of a bot that can be accessed via Amazon’s Alexa, fans can use their voice to order the Colonel's chicken, learn about promotional offers and even hear a not-too-terrible chicken joke. If it’s a meal they’re after, the bot will connect customers with the nearest KFC and facilitate the order.

In Australia, the growing popularity of click-and-collect, in which customers order on their phone and pick up in store, has led to the development of the first drive-thru-only KFC. This November, the concept will be trialed in Newcastle, allowing drivers to quickly grab their chicken after ordering online and expediting deliveries for those who prefer to have their buckets brought to them.


Taco tech

Taco Bell is innovating, too. In January, the brand won the Interactive Customer Experience (ICX) Association’s Elevate Award for Best Restaurant ICX for its deployment of Elo, an Android-powered, in-restaurant kiosk that’s already spread to thousands of restaurants in the U.S. The system is designed to be highly user-friendly and especially frictionless. An illustration of its success in that area: Customers can tap a “vegetarian” button rather than remove each non-vegetarian topping from an item.

Another innovation includes a partnership with the online search experts at Yext, who are also helping Pizza Hut U.S. tinker around under the hood of its website. For Taco Bell, the tech company is working to ensure that the brand shows up when customers search online for fast food, Mexican food or for drive-thru.

“At the time, when I searched for ‘drive-thru’ on Yelp, Taco Bell wasn’t showing up at all, but our competitors were,” said Derrick Chan, Taco Bell director of e-commerce. “Those are the kinds of insights that made us realize that there was a lot of incremental business that we could be gaining, and gaining share from our competition, if we could take control of how we appeared in search results.”

Thanks to the strategic collaboration, Taco Bell is now front and center any time someone searches for Taco Bell, or even just tacos. It’s never been easier to find the closest Chalupa.


Slice of the future

Pizza Hut cubbies

Picking up pizza in person isn’t always convenient — that’s why Pizza Hut has delivered piping hot pies for decades — but a recent innovation in pizza pick-up technology has game-changing potential. A redesigned Pizza Hut in California now includes pizza lockers, allowing customers to walk in, unlock a designated locker and pick up their pizzas after ordering on the Pizza Hut app. That’s good news for people in a hurry and those who just don’t want to take out their ear buds.

The chain is also looking to robots to deliver on, well, delivery. In South Korea, the brand uses Dilly Plate, a robot waiter in a Seoul restaurant that autonomously delivers pizza to diners. In the U.S., Pizza Hut has teamed up with FedEx to test out autonomous delivery robots that take a pizza from a local restaurant to a customer’s door via the FedEx SameDay Bot.

It’s also been a big year for Pizza Hut online. In the U.K., Pizza Hut International finished top five among all brands, and first in the hospitality category, on iProspect’s Performance UX Index. The index scores websites for how well their performance, including measures such as load times and page speed, support the user experience and help boost the bottom line. In the U.S., Pizza Hut launched a redesigned mobile app at the start of the year. The new interface makes it even easier to order your favorite Pizza Hut items, find a great deal, check the status of your order and earn and redeem Hut Rewards points. In fact, over 50% of Super Bowl fans ordered their Pizza Hut pies online in 2019.

"A big part of our mobile strategy is delivery,” Pizza Hut CEO Artie Starrs said recently. “We are extremely passionate about that. If you can do delivery on time, that's great. If you can do delivery well, you can probably do carryout and other things, too."

If the above is any indication, technology will undoubtedly help elevate those “other things.”

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