Little Caesars Delivering All The Toppings With No Conversation

Little Caesars yesterday showed off “a glimpse into the future”: its trademark-registered Pizza Portal, which  it claims is the “FIRST heated, self-service mobile order pick-up station in the quick service restaurant industry.”

“Portal! Portal!” crows Frank Witsil for the Detroit Free Press. “… Fewer lines. No cashier,” he writes. “It's like getting a DVD from Redbox or cash from an ATM.” 

“Pizza lovers need only download the app to order and pay for their food. Next, they'll receive a 3-digit or QR code. Once at the store they need to enter or scan the code to open a self-service hot box at the shop, skipping the line and finishing their transaction in a few seconds,” reports Kellie Ell for USA Today.



“It’s cool,” Little Caesars CEO David Scrivano tells her. “It’s all about convenience. In and out in seconds. No line. No wait.”

And, he claims, it won’t put anyone on the unemployment line. Quite the opposite, in fact. “This will augment our staff,” Scrivano tells Eli, because Little Caesars will be hiring people to show customers how to use the technology. 

Witsil’s Freep piece features an embedded 0:34 video that does the same (after a 0:15 pre-roll) but presumably the chain’s staff trainers will be able to delve into the more intricate aspects of the transaction.

Pizza Portals have been installed at 14 Little Caesars locations in the Tucson, Ariz., area, and a couple are in a Troy, Mich., outlet. The Reserve-N-Ready system — the company’s name for the process — should roll out nationally next year. And “help drive sales, which in turn, Scrivano said, would create a need for more hiring,” including more counter people, Eli writes.

The Detroit-based company, launched in 1959 as a family-owned restaurant, “now bills itself as the largest carry-out pizza chain in the United States and the largest pizza chain in the world with stores in every state and 22 countries,” Witsil reports.

“Similar compartment-style orders were pioneered with the automat and in 2015 resurrected with a high-tech twist by Eatsa, which has locations in San Francisco and Los Angeles,” Ron Ruggless points out for Nation’s Restaurant News, which ranks Little Caesars No. 19 among chains, with an estimated $3.6 billion in U.S. systemwide sales at about 4,294 domestic units. 

Actually, according to, vending machines predate Horn & Hardart by a couple of thousand years. “The first documented vending machine dates from about 215 BC, when the mathematician Hero invented a device that accepted bronze coins and dispensed holy water in the temples of Alexandria, Egypt,” it tells us.

In other, more contemporary and less metaphysical experiments in eliminating the human factor from the equation, “you can order online from Panera Bread and pick up your sack of food a few minutes later without conversing with anyone, although I always say hello to the clerk at the counter,” writes a subversive Forbes contributor, Micheline Maynard.

Maynard also points out that “McDonald's is testing self-service ordering kiosks all over the place, and of course, numerous spots including Little Caesars' pizza rival, Domino's, allow you to place an order online and track when the driver will arrive.”

Suzannah Weiss is a bit skeptical in a piece for Refinery29

“Though there's something cool and futuristic about this, it does beg the question: If you're feeling so lazy that you can't interact with another person to get your pizza, why would you make the effort to drive to the store?” she asks.

IOW, why not use the app to have it delivered and avoid drivers on the road and other homo sapiens at the portal altogether?

“Though Little Caesars’ new ‘pizza portal’ sounds like a wonderful machine that could magically zap you to any far-flung pizza destination you desire, the reality is that it’s just another way we humans can get our grub while not having to actually speak to each other,” writes Mary Beth Quirk for Consumerist.

Personally, I’d definitely miss the human touch. Just yesterday, I was chatting with a counterman at my local pizzeria about growing up in the same Bronx neighborhood he now lives in, and he gave my granddaughter a quarter for the gumball machine out of his own pocket. They don’t have an app for those sorts of transactions.

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