Hungry for a slice of pizza? There's an app for that.
In fact, there are several computer applications available these days for a mobile phone or computer tablet that will allow someone to order, pay for, and have a hot pizza delivered to the door within a half-hour or so.
"All the big chains say they're bringing in like 25 percent of their sales through online ordering. So many people don't want to even deal with people on the phone anymore," said Liz Barrett, editor at large of PMQ Pizza magazine, which covers the pizza industry.
Marco's Pizza Inc. of Toledo jumped into the fray 18 months ago, launching mobile phone apps for the iPhone and Android smart phones and computer tablets.
"I think the market's changed quite a bit, especially if you look at the popularity of social media. Young people are so connected to these devices and use them for everything. I'm even guilty of that," said Shawn Chowdhary, vice president of administration for Marco's.
"They're not going to look too hard to find a phone number. The Yellow Pages? They're not going to look it up in that book," he said.
Online orders at Domino's and Papa John's pizza chains are now 30 percent of each chain's overall business, according to Money Crashers Personal Finance, a financial advice Web site. In a recent article, PMQ Pizza said statistics show that people who order pizza online spend more than those ordering by phone because an entire menu can be viewed online.
"Even with the mom-and-pops, they see how dramatically their sales have gone up. When people order online they definitely order more than if they were on the phone," Ms. Barrett said.
Mr. Chowdhary said Marco's began its mobile phone app to help customers find Marco's stores and get special deals and help stores juggle inventory. "Then it kind of exploded into something further. We can now take people's orders for pizza on a mobile device," he said.
He wouldn't say what percentage of Marco's orders are online.
Market research firm Mintel says Pizza Hut was the first big pizza chain to launch a mobile app for online ordering. But Papa John's and Domino's have quickly followed, with the latter launching its Android-based app in February.
In July, Domino's extended its mobile app suite to include Amazon's Kindle Fire tablet. Domino's app lets customers order, seek coupons, find stores, and "track" their pizza's progress. Papa John's Android-based app also runs on the Kindle Fire.
Mr. Chowdhary said the big drawback to these new online pizza wars is that before, one worried only about preparing delicious food. Now a chain must constantly adapt to fast-changing hardware and software.
"The mobile app has to be continuously updated and tweaked. It's unlike anything we've had to do before. It requires constant maintenance," Mr. Chowdhary said.
"You may have an app that works well in the Toledo market where it was designed, but then a new market or a new device comes along. You don't know how that app is going to integrate," he said.
"If you're going to be effective at this, you have to make it super simple for the end user. Push a button or two and order your pizza," Mr. Chowdhary said. "But on the other side of things, every time somebody buys a new phone and downloads new software for it, there's no guarantee that your app is still going to work for that phone.
"And you have to make sure that it does," he added.
Contact Jon Chavez at: firstname.lastname@example.org or 419-724-6128.