KFC Discovers That Mobile Isn’t Nice. It’s EssentialWritten by Evan Schuman
When global chicken fast-food chain KFC launched a major mobile test in the U.K. this month, it has had to learn to deal with realities that are very different than its more mobile-famous corporate brother, Pizza Hut. Although the two chains are both owned by Yum Brands (NYSE:YUM)—along with Taco Bell—the mobile similarities pretty much end there. Some 40 percent of the pizza online orders come from desktops and laptops, with the remainder from mobile.
At KFC, the mobile percentage is expected to be much higher. That’s because people typically want pizza delivered to their home or office, whereas a bucket of wings is picked up—after having been ordered from someone driving or walking near the store. (KFC in the U.K. does not deliver.) Pizzas also take longer to cook—compared with preparing already-cooked chicken parts—making the “order and have it waiting for you” model ineffective for KFC. Instead, KFC UK will soon add a geolocation function (likely to be launched in May), so the app knows when the customer is truly right by the restaurant and can ask the customer if the order can be prepared.
Unlike other phone-ahead mobile apps, where the store gets a valuable heads up as to what the demand will likely be hours into the future, KFC’s kitchen and other associates aren’t even aware that any mobile orders (called KFC Fast Track) have been processed. That’s true until the customer walks up to a small mobile kiosk in KFC (one that is situated far from the long lines of rush-hour diners) and scans in a QR code displayed on the mobile screen, said KFC UK IT Director Paul Borrett.
“The last thing anyone wants is to prepare the food and have it sitting there, waiting,” he said. “Our customers expect their chicken to be fresh and hot every time, so our mobile ordering had to help us deliver on this.”
The advantage to the customer? Avoidance of the long lines to place an order. The advantage to KFC? It takes that much of the load off order-taking store associates and—critically—delivers an extra-large bucket full of CRM insights.
Part of the value of being in a QSR conglomerate is being able to learn from the trials—the mistakes—of others. A KFC Australia trial recently explored letting customers select ordering times, so the restaurant can plan ahead. In short, it didn’t work.
“All that happened was that the customer got there early and the food wasn’t ready. Or the opposite and their food is getting cold,” Borrett said, adding that some managers then felt the need to throw the food out and prepare new hot food, which delays the customer even more. “There are a lot of issues with preset times. What if you’re stuck in traffic or traffic is lighter than you thought?”