#SFSNYC: How Slice Helps Local Pizzerias Get in on Ordering via Mobile

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Lots of apps can connect consumers to restaurants to order meals, but New York-based Slice has focused on a particular food niche that founder and CEO Ilir Sela says is built on customer loyalty — pizza.

Last October, Slice launched its iOS app for ordering pizza from local shops, rather than big chains that typically are already a step ahead making mobile ordering available. There is a tendency, Sela says, for consumers to stick with pizzerias they enjoy, and his company’s product is offered as a way to extend that loyalty. In a city such as New York where there is a rising tendency among consumers to order food, it can be easy to sell customers on the idea of using an app to get something to eat, but less densely populated towns may pose a challenge. Sela will join us at next week’s Street Fight Summit in Brooklyn to talk about how Slice assists pizzerias in an era where mobile ordering is a regular part of grabbing a bite.

Why does Slice focus on pizzerias? Aren’t they already connected to their local markets?
Local pizzerias are our core customers and I view that demographic as the most local business. We’re solving some of the challenges they face in a digital world. The other component is the challenges that some local businesses face in different geographies. Technology has been impactful for businesses in urban, dense areas. When you look at the rest of the country — 18,000 municipalities — most of the businesses in these municipalities don’t have the same access to technology as businesses that are solving these problems in more dense urban areas.

What does hyperlocal mean for Slice and the pizzeria scene?
We partner with local, independent pizza restaurants around the country, but we don’t do it in an aggregated way. This is a very loyal model, a loyalty-first play. I’m third generation in the pizza industry. I’ve worked summers and days at pizza restaurants. Pizzerias are kind of the anchor of thousands of neighborhoods around the country. It is the most local business in a local region. That’s the way I view the problem Slice is solving. It’s important for us to go to the ownership level of restaurants and understand the pain points, understand exactly what the customers in that neighborhood want, what are the trends, and how are we solving those trends rather generalizing.

For pizza restaurants, it’s a very personalized experience consumers have. It’s a very loyal category. Those are different challenge than simply saying, “Let’s put together an aggregated model that has a bunch of local businesses on it.” It’s not the same approach that we’re taking.

Is there anything on the technology side that is getting your attention right now?
In a broader sense, it’s the push to mobile. We’re very focused on mobile. You have online ordering, which is a technology and tool that is available to many local businesses. What we’re solving and paying close attention to is how quickly consumers have shifted their behavior onto mobile apps. For our business, and for the sake of the thousands of local restaurants that we work with, that’s where our focus is. A lot of our product’s evolution is in the mobile app experience.

What has been happening with Slice of late?
We’re still pretty early in our life cycle. A lot of our efforts remain around building out the team. We’re excited about some of our recent hires, including a chief marketing officer, who spent five years at Seamless. Aside from that, on the product side, it’s really just building out the mobile app experience and incentivizing consumers and making sure owners understand the importance of getting customers to start ordering via the app channels. It will fundamentally impact their business in a positive way.

Their trading off phone customers, who spend on average $18 every time they order, compared with mobile customers who spend, on Slice, $30 per order and order frequency goes up. All of our efforts have been around improving the product on mobile. We have the iOS app, launched the Android app this last quarter, and we’re building out the marketing team and building this CRM marketing competent that we empower local pizzerias with. We’re a full-service shop; the restaurant partners who with us focus on their craft of food fulfillment and delivery. We focus on driving convenience to the consumers. We handle all customer service and CRM, which is the most important component—marketing to customers after they’ve placed an order, reminding them to order again for family pizza night, for example. That’s something local pizzerias want to do it, and there are tools for them to do it, but the problem is they don’t know where to start.

They’ll sign on with Constant Contact for the email marketing but then will wonder what to write or who to send it to. These are all things we’ve been taking on the last three to six months.

What are the factors and trends you are paying the most attention to?
I believe delivery is going to eventually be a commodity. Pizza restaurants basically invented food delivery. Looking at ways for us to continue to empower them on the delivery side and solve the logistics problem. The second is AI because we are carrying so much data in terms of what people are ordering and when they are order. Also, pizza is such a staple in this country and it’s so habituated that we’re discovering things such as there are thousands upon thousands of customers who order pizza during the same time and day of the week. We’re starting to think about how can AI solve some of the ordering pain points for the consumer and the restaurants, where you almost automate that using AI. You start to understand exactly which customers need which orders at a specific time of day of the week. It is a way to streamline the business and make local pizzerias super efficient.

Joao-Pierre Ruth is a Street Fight contributor.

Join Slice’s Ilir Sela and hundreds of other top local companies and brands at The Best Street Fight Summit Ever — a three-day extravaganza in Brooklyn on June 12-14. Click here to register now!