How Pizza Hut gave away 10,000 pizzas in 70 seconds

A revision of the digital transformation and the collaboration between CMO, CIO and Operations were the driving forces behind an extremely successful marketing activation for the 50th anniversary for the Pizza Hut Australia team.

Pizza Hut’s chief marketing officer, Chet Patel, told CMO that the QSR business was focused on enhancing digital capabilities when it was acquired by Allegro Funds in 2016 as part of a long-term turnaround plan. By 2018, when the new Pizza Hut leadership team joined, it was clear that the existing technology infrastructure was not scalable or future-proof enough to meet these ambitions.

A partnership with AWS was instrumental in helping Pizza Hut build a scalable and resilient cloud platform and solution that brought it back into a competitive position and sparked more innovative, personal experiences. This in turn would help turn a nostalgic emotional connection with the brand into a “love affair,” said Patel.

“The entire QSR industry had been disrupted very digitally by very fast and innovative technologies, and digital had become the most important channel,” said Patel.

“The competitive situation has developed quickly, so we had to change our digital systems to meet the demand.

“Fast forward to COVID and we became even more reliant on digital media as personal customer experiences and efficient delivery became even more important.”

In addition to technology, it’s important that marketers work together across functions. “Myself as CMO, the CIO and our COO are involved in a collaboration that is always about delighting the customer,” continued Patel.

“The infrastructure then has to guarantee this seamlessness and be as rational as possible. Marketing will create that demand – we don’t have to be stopped to create mass demand anytime. The technical infrastructure must set up and meet this requirement and provide the UX for this experience. The operations team and our franchises need to meet and manage demand. ”

50 years and free pizza

With the technology in order, infrastructure was put to the test in 2020 as part of Pizza Hut’s plans to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the opening of its first Australian store in Belfield, NSW.

“One of the main aspects of the brand shift is how we’re reliving the love affair with Pizza Hut. That meant going back to what we stood for and what made us special. There was such a strong emotional connection with Pizza Hut that it spanned generations, ”said Patel.

“Fortunately, in 2020 we had reached a point in the turnaround program where we had made significant progress. That’s why we’ve planned a big anniversary year to celebrate that the brand has been in Australia for 50 years. ”

Chet Patel (left) with Phil Hut, CEO of Pizza HutImage Credit: Pizza Hut Chet Patel (left) with Phil Hut, CEO of Pizza Hut

But when the global pandemic hit, Patel’s team plan had to change. “We always wanted to give away pizza and put our core product, pan pizza, in the foreground,” he said. “My goal was for everyone in Australia to take a bite of our amazing pizza and fall in love with the brand again.

“We wanted to use our website and activate a giveaway that would give customers 10,000 pizzas a day for five days. The original plan was for people to order online and then run to the stores to pick up their free pizza. This would attract crowds and attention, be disruptive, and generate real excitement.

“Then COVID struck and we knew we couldn’t encourage crowds or mass gatherings in front of our stores and disrupt operations.”

Patel went to his CIO colleague and asked whether the new cloud-based infrastructure and charging function could make 10,000 vouchers available purely online for two hours over five days. This meant pushing online advertising, triggering customers who submitted their data, triggering email-based coupons, and unlocking 10,000 codes between 4pm and 6pm to create a hype.

Supported the plans were a good amount of PR and a countdown clock on the Pizza Hut website that counted down to the 4pm giveaway. “Before the 4pm deadline, we could see people on the website in the back end, lining up to be ready. Vouchers were available around 4 p.m. and customers could enter their details to spit out a voucher via email. That seemed like a good start, ”said Patel.

But nobody on the team was prepared for the live demand. When the clock struck 4pm, 10,000 vouchers were being given away in just 70 seconds, with 13,000 transactions being completed in a single minute.

“We couldn’t believe our eyes… We had 30,000 API requests during that time that were supported by AWS. At 4:01 pm it was ready, ”said Patel. “We had 100,000 people using the site, and AWS handled that load. And it happened every day and got faster for five days. ”

As Patel pointed out, the giveaway on day one was faster than Beyonce’s 2013 concert ticket sales and the Coachella event sell-out.

“That gave us confidence in the system and showed Allegro that the investment and confidence in the infrastructure was valid. It showed us that we are on a stable platform that can handle these activities, ”said Patel. “This allowed us to try to damage the system and, for me, challenge the CIO to see how far the system can go.


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“When we put together ideas, campaigns or activations, we know that we are able to meet the requirements that result from them.”

According to Patel, Pizza Hut’s technical infrastructure works like a screw system with a platform that can be scaled as required. In the next phase of work, the team is working on omnichannel integration and personalization.

The company has also used industry best practices for website design to ensure that the front-end experience is easy to use and seamless for customers. This involved leveraging designs and best practices developed by the Yum business and then optimizing them to meet Pizza Hut’s specific needs.

“Cloud technology has transformed the hospitality industry by enabling companies to use data and analytics to better understand customers, machine learning to drive personalization, and billing services to deliver seamless customer experiences.” says AWS, Director of Enterprise, A / NZ. Karl Durrance said. “It’s especially exciting to see marketers taking advantage of the cloud to provide customers with more relevant information and to quickly increase campaign activity in the market.”

In addition to the technical ability to support long-term business growth, Patel pioneered a digitally driven approach to the entire marketing function. “Gone are the days when you had digital marketing and then marketing. It’s a team sport and an approach, ”he said.

“We haven’t been on TV for 18 months – it’s all digital performance marketing. All of our marketers focus on this, contrary to what we said we have digital marketers or specialists. In this way, we are increasingly marketing one-to-one and pay attention to personalization and CX right from the start, right through to in-store and online. ”

Long-term brand plan

As CMO, Patel said the Pizza Hut brand was much more mature than it was three years ago. The company is now the fastest growing QSR in Australia and has been for four quarters.

“It’s about keeping that momentum going, protecting the brand and modernizing the experience,” he said. “We are 50 years old, but I want to build a brand for the next 50 years and modernize it for it. I plan for the next generation.

“The advantage for us is a very strong, emotional brand. Our vision is to make it easier for more Australians to share good times. That goes into the technology and the experience. For example, I ask our CIO if any of his initiatives will make it easier to share in good times. Or does it help more Australians to share these good times during operations? ”

It’s also about creating a real sense of belonging. To that end, Patel pointed to longer-term plans to build loyalty and membership offerings. The first step, however, had to be to create long-term sustainable foundations through sustainable product and delivery proposals.


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With that in mind, Pizza Hut recently launched a new line of chicken wings, WingStreet, which launched pasta products and is focused on building on its core value proposition. It also brought the iconic advertising character Dougie back into the fields of creativity and communication. And Patel said Dougie will continue to appear as the brand evolves.

“It is these long-term strategies that are required for our turnaround and long-term growth,” added Patel. “For the next 12 to 18 months, the whole approach will be more of a one-to-one relationship with the brand than a one-to-all relationship. This personalization will help both of us turn that emotional connection with the brand into a love affair. ”

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