It's the pizza lover's dilemma: Order guaranteed deliciousness from the small shop down the street, which probably means screaming into the phone? Or seamlessly send out for a mass-produced disappointment, trading bad pizza for top-notch technology?
Slice, the pizza platform, is solving that problem, working with 14,000 pizza shops in 50 states. And with a new $4 million TV ad campaign as well as sharper tools for small-town pizza chefs, it's hoping to make America happier with all their 'za decisions.
"We aim to be a first-party relationship," says Preethy Vaidyanathan, its chief product officer, "not a third-party delivery app." Slice sets pizza shops up with its mobile app and a website. People can order their custom pizza delivery from their local shop quickly and easily–without forcing pizza cooks to do digital maintenance.
While massive marketing teams and social-media gurus back competitors like Domino's and Pizza Hut, "Mom-and-pop shops don't have any of that. They're not marketers or technologists. They just make great pizza. We give them a partnership that helps them compete," Vaidyanathan tells QSR Land.
The company launched back in 2010 as MyPizza, the brainchild of founder Ilir Sela, a pizza lover from Staten Island. It has continued to grow and add venture funding, including $43 million back in May. "We think of it as an end-to-end platform, streamlining digital operations, lowering costs on supplies like boxes and sharing insights that help them grow," she says.
But COVID-19 sent the company scrambling to help shops meet new demands as cities shut down indoor dining. It launched Slice Delivery, an add-on service for shops without in-house delivery, adopted by 2,800 shops. It's built contact-free delivery (20% of all orders), curbside pick-up (15% of all pick-up), and cash-free ordering to keep restaurant workers and customers safe.
The TV ads are a first for the company and running on the East Coast from Maine to Virginia, as well as on streaming services that include Hulu and YouTube TV.
One features a fast-talking pizza fan explaining what Slice does and lamenting pizza that tastes like cardboard. The second, called Underdogs, describes how the concept helps local shops. Both emphasize that Slice helps them avoid the "crazy high fees" of third-party delivery apps.
Slice's new tool, Pizzeria Score, can help independent pizza shops double their orders. The diagnostic grades each shop on crucial survival skills, like ordering, personalized marketing and customer service. It also gives them detailed instructions and resources needed to improve their score.
Vaidyanathan says Slice understands that many of its pizza shops are in the fight of their lives.
In research released last month, the National Restaurant Association announced that 500,000 restaurants are in economic freefall and that 10,000 have closed in the previous three months. Almost 90% of those in its survey have seen revenues fall more than 36%.
Still, Vaidyanathan sees exceptional resilience in the pizza category. "The price points are very reasonable, and you can feed your family for not much money. And compared to other categories, it carries well."