Introduced today for Apple TV-equipped smart televisions, the app works like the pizza chain’s mobile app and website, letting customers customize their pizza order with a builder function. Papa John’s customers can also add other items to their order, like side dishes, drinks and desserts. They can save their favorites, view recent orders, and store payment information for future use.
Anyone following the bare-knuckled competition among fast-food companies knows technology, especially when it comes to ease-of-ordering, is critical to gain and hold market share in the most coveted, tech-savvy group: younger consumers.
Tech Times says Papa John’s is the first pizza app for Apple TV, noting: “It’s usually the company’s competitor Domino’s that makes headlines for its tech-savvy ways of ordering, such as customers being able to tweet a pizza emoji or use Amazon Echo.”
“We’ve always said that it doesn’t make sense to have a two-ton machine delivering a two-kilogram order,” said Domino’s CEO Don Meij, according to Britain’s Independent newspaper. “The reach that a drone offers is far greater than other current options which are restricted by traffic, roads and sheer distance.”
If successful, Domino’s will consider rolling the drones out in Australia, Belgium, France, the Netherlands, Japan and Germany.
With the service, customers would order pizzas using an app on their smartphone, and the drones would zero in on the phone’s GPS signal. They will fly at an altitude of about 197 feet and the customer will be notified as the delivery approaches, the Independent says. The pizzas are then lowered out of the air, ensuring the drones remain a safe distance from the public.
PIZZA HUT said it signed a master franchise agreement with AmRest Holdings that gives the Polish company the right to own, develop and sub-franchise more than 300 restaurants in Poland, Czech Republic, Hungary, Bulgaria, Serbia, Croatia, Slovakia, and Slovenia over the next five years; AmRest already operates 80 Huts (press release).
Wall Street rallied around the news: YUM shares closed this afternoon at $90.76, after trading earlier at a 52-week high of $90.88.
The expansion comes as Yum CEO Greg Creedis on the offensive against rival Domino’s on the domestic front, especially in technology such as ordering apps that attracts younger consumers. Pizza Hut, headquartered in Plano outside Dallas, is the world’s biggest pizza chain, more than 14,00 restaurants in more than 100 countries. No. 2 Domino’s has more than 12,500 locations in over 80 markets around the world.
AmRest was launched in 1993 with its first Pizza Hut in Poland’s Wrocław and says it’s now the biggest independent chain restaurant operator in Central and Eastern Europe. It operates more than 1,000 eateries in 13 countries through a portfolio of brands that also includes KFC, Burger King, Starbucks, La Tagliatella, Blue Frog and Kabb.
HUMANA: Facing withdrawals from insurance exchanges by Humana, Aetna and others amid surging premiums, the Obama Administration is preparing a major push to enroll new participants in public online marketplaces under the Affordable Care Act. The administration is considering an ad campaign with testimonials from newly insured consumers, as well as direct appeals to young people hit by tax penalties for failing to enroll (New York Times).
KFC sent fans into a food frenzy when its official U.K. and Ireland Twitter account tweeted a photo of its latest invention: the “Gravy fountain of dreams.” Employees at the fast food giant said the fountain is “only at head office for now,” but they’re reportedly trying it out in stores across the Kingdom. No word on whether it will make it across the gravy pond (Mirror). Reaction approached crack-addict levels:
BROWN-FORMAN: This year’s annual batch of Old Forester Birthday Bourbon celebrating founder George Garvin Brown‘s Sept. 2 birth is bigger than usual — 14,400 bottles total, about 1,000 more than last year. Woodford Reserve master distiller Chris Morris, who set aside this year’s batch way back on June 4, 2004, isn’t sure why it’s so much more plentiful. “[It] could be the result of many factors,” he says, “such as the cooperage [barrel and cask makers] made some extra tight barrels that day or we had a lot of slow growth oak in the barrels.” Birthday Bourbon is bottled at 97 proof and has a retail price of $79.99 — $1.2 million if you could somehow round up all of it at once (Men’s Journal).
Bottled in a decanter-style glass, the commemorative whiskey was initially launched 15 years ago. “In 2002, when we first introduced Birthday Bourbon, the market for premium Bourbons was almost nonexistent; Birthday Bourbon represented a ‘first’ in this category,” Morris said in a press release. “But 15 years later, global interest for premium Bourbons and well-crafted whiskeys is at a record high.” Each barrel in the Birthday Bourbon selection is drawn from the same day of production; 2016’s totals 93 barrels. It goes on sale nationwide starting next month (press release).
Brown was born in Munfordville, Ky., on Sept. 2, 1846 — coming up on 170 years ago — and moved to Louisville in 1862, where he attended Male High School. He worked as a pharmaceuticals salesman until starting the company in 1870 with the original Old Forester brand, when he was 24. Brown married Amelia Bryant Owsley in 1876, and they had two children, Owsley and Robinson. George died in 1917 and is buried in Cave Hill Cemetery (Explore Kentucky History).
PIZZA HUT: VentureBeat says Domino’s has beat Pizza Hut to launch a Facebook Messenger bot, but it could be smarter (Venture Beat).
HAIER says the wages of about 4,000 union-represented Appliance Park workers “are not in line with market realities,” as the Chinese conglomerate and labor leaders get ready for next week’s contract talks. They will be the first since China’s Haier bought GE Appliances in June for $5.6 billion (WDRB and Business First).
AMAZON is opening a distribution center in Etna, N.J., on Sept. 14, and has already taken nearly 2,000 applications for a planned 1,500 jobs there. Company officials have said the center could eventually employ 3,000 during peak periods. Construction on the 855,000 square-foot, four-floor center started in mid-2015 (Newark Advocate here and here). Amazon employs 6,000 workers at distribution centers in Jeffersonville and Sherphardsville; more about its Louisville-area operations.
Richard Meadows‘ plan began simply enough: The Auckland journalist was feeling weak and out of shape, with nagging injuries that hobbled his amateur career in strength sports.
“What better way to restore myself to peak physical condition,” he writes in a first-person account in this morning’s Star-Times newspaper, “than to hit the gym hard while devouring an entire pizza every day? With a whopping 1,600 calories and a decent chunk of protein, the Domino’s $5 range represented absurdly good value for money.”
But then social media, plus a tad bit of Meadows’ oversharing, led to a betrayal by an unhappy Domino’s — throwing a wrench in his plan. “To commemorate my 100th pizza, I’d posted a photo to their Facebook page, reclining on the boxes I’d collected and sharing a few highlights from the journey to date: ‘Bowel movements now arrive every hour on the hour, and the cheese nightmares are becoming less frequent!'”
His post racked up several thousand “likes” that same night. But when he woke up the next morning, “my heartfelt tribute had been deleted without explanation,” he said. “The relationship was over.”
That’s when Meadows — who also documented his caloric journey on Instagram — turned to a Pizza Hut restaurant on Dominion Road in Auckland. Within days, he and the manager, identified only as Hriday, were on first-name terms. “Hriday never judged me for my gluttonous ways, and we soon built a rapport. He worked long hours, and Sunday was his only day off. If I went to a different branch during the week, he would worry.”
HUMANA: A group of high-profile U.S. Senate Democrats yesterday urged the Justice Department to block the proposed Aetna-Humana and Anthem-Cigna mergers, which would shrink the number of national health insurers to three from five. In a letter, they argued the pending tie-ups would threaten jobs, raise premiums, and reduce the quality of care. The letter was signed by Al Franken of Minnesota, Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, Sherrod Brown of Ohio, Edward J. Markey of Massachusetts, Dianne Feinstein of California, Mazie K. Hirono of Hawaii — and Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut, in whose state both Aetna and Cigna are headquartered (Business Insurance). Aetna officials have said they expect the $37 billion merger with Humana will close in this year’s second half.
AMAZON: The FAA has proposed fining Amazon another $130,000 for twice shipping hazardous packages in 2014 without warning labels or emergency response information. In one, the retailer offered UPS a box with a 19-ounce container of Simple Air EZ Green HVAC Cleaner. The flammable gas was discovered by UPS workers in Kentucky; the second incident involved FedEx. The proposed penalty comes two weeks after the FAA fined Amazon $350,000 over a similar incident that caused injuries to several UPS workers (CIO). Also, a San Francisco Bay area woman learned the hard way that Amazon can, indeed, ban you for good if you return too many orders — although she eventually got a reprieve (NBC). Amazon employs 6,000 at two distribution centers near Louisville.
PAPA JOHN’S: Researcher Nomura yesterday downgraded Papa John’s stock to neutral from buy, partly because of concerns traffic accidents involving delivery drivers could push up insurance costs. Among the examples cited: A jury in DeKalb County, Ga., awarded $11 million to a woman who suffered long-term brain damage after an incident involving a Papa John’s driver. “While this award likely will be appealed (if it hasn’t already),” Nomura told clients, “it does highlight what appears to us to be the growing risks.” The firm also downgraded Domino’s shares for the same reason (MarketWatch). Wall Street was unfazed: Papa John’s shares closed today at $67.79, up 2.3%.
BROWN-FORMAN is launching a global scavenger hunt to celebrate the 150th anniversary of its flagship Jack Daniel’s Distillery. Starting July 1 through September, the distiller will provide clues via its Facebook page to 150 hidden whiskey barrels around the world and give fans the opportunity to find and win prizes. The barrels will be hidden at airports in Amsterdam, Frankfurt, Heathrow, Milan, Paris, Singapore, Los Angeles and Sydney, plus cultural and historic sites (Frontier Magazine and Travel Retail Business).
FORD and the other two big U.S. automakers collectively outperformed import brands for just the second time in 30 years in this year’s closely watched J.D. Power Initial Quality Study. Still, Ford finished No. 11; Kia was No. 1 (Detroit Free Press). The automaker employs nearly 10,000 workers at its auto and truck factories in Louisville.
UPS: A Idaho woman is praising a UPS driver after he likely saved her and her sons from what could have been a deadly house fire last month (East Idaho News). UPS is Louisville’s single-biggest employer, with about 22,000 workers its Worldport hub at Louisville International Airport, the biggest fully automated package handling facility in the world.
TACO BELL: A viral video of a teenager’s arrest for allegedly brandishing a knife at a Taco Bell employee in Wisconsin has sparked protests and an internal police inquiry (The Root).
In other news, Texas Roadhouse shares closed at $46.55, up 3% — another record closing high — after setting an earlier intraday high of $46.60. And Churchill Downs shares closed at $127.60 up 63 cents as nearly two million shares changed hands — 10 times average volume. Standard & Poor’s announced the Louisville company would replace Fortune Brands Home & Security in the S&P MidCap 400 after the close of trading today (RTT News).
A news summary, focused on big employers; updated 4:51 p.m.
BROWN-FORMAN: Amid recent speculation the company is considering selling Finlandia, CEO Paul Varga threw tepid support behind the vodka brand during the fiscal fourth-quarter conference call with Wall Street analysts yesterday; he was responding to an analyst’s question about Finlandia’s being a “drag” on growth.
“Finlandia has been very important to particularly Jack Daniel’s development in Eastern Europe over the last decade,” Varga said, according to Seeking Alpha’s transcript. “It’s just a very difficult time for the vodka segments in those Eastern European countries right now, and we’ve seen this before with categories where they go through some rough times. . . . Right now, we continue to work Finlandia” (Seeking Alpha).
PIZZA HUT: Yum CEO Greg Creed, conceding in especially frank language that Domino’s has greater U.S. revenue momentum, says improving ordering technology is critical. “We have to get our technology in shape in order to be as easy to order, pay, and track [as possible],” he told an investor conference Wednesday, “and I think as we build the brand and we get that in shape, we’ll actually build more units and that will give us greater physical access.” Pizza Hut has 8,100 U.S. locations, including its Express format vs. more than 5,200 for Domino’s (The Street).
Technology is key to luring millenials and other young customers. Domino’s newest technology shows the challenge. The company’s biggest franchiser in Australia yesterday said it will start using satellites next week to follow customers as they approach stores to pick up already-placed orders, allowing the company to wait until the last moment to start cooking so orders stay fresh. The fast-food surveillance measure, which starts Monday, comes a decade after Domino’s started letting customers track their own orders. The newest service works with customers who place orders with their GPS-equipped smartphones, and opt in to be tracked. They can specify whether they’re coming on foot, on bike, or by car (Bloomberg). Other recent Domino’s innovations include the capabilities to order food via emoji, smartwatch, or a “zero-click” mobile app (Eater).
PAPA JOHN’S CEO John Schnatter promised neighbors in tony Anchorage he would limit his personal helicopter use to six or fewer times a week, and only between 8 a.m. and 9 p.m.; they had complained about the noise it created (Insider Louisville).
In other news, U.S. stocks accelerated their decline an hour before markets closed, as Wall Street looked ahead to a Federal Reserve meeting, and the U.K.’s so-called Brexit vote due later this month. The Dow Jones Industrial Average and other major indices were all down about 1% (Google Finance).
Oscar-winner and Louisville native Jennifer Lawrence will portray Elizabeth Holmes, the 32-year-old disgraced founder of the controversial blood-testing startup Theranos; the new film is still in development. Lawrence, 25, played an entrepreneur last year in Joy, about the inventor of a kitchen mop (Hollywood Reporter). Louisville filmmaker Matthew Fulks has sued singer Beyoncé, claiming a trailer for the Grammy winner’s new Lemonade movie copied elements of his 2014 short film Palinoia (Spin and Vulture).
Watch the trailer, and Fulks’ film:
News about business and culture in Louisville, Ky.