Upwardly mobile 20 September 2019 The founders of coffee and brunch chain Caravan are on the move, taking their business model to new Chelsea restaurant Vardo
In this week's issue... Upwardly mobile The founders of coffee and brunch chain Caravan are on the move, taking their business model to new Chelsea restaurant Vardo
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Cateys 2017: Best Use of Technology, PizzaExpress

10 July 2017 by
Cateys 2017: Best Use of Technology, PizzaExpress

Sponsored by Sky

The team at PizzaExpress wanted to better engage with its customers, but without having to depend on its customer service staff to always be at work. The pizza chain had spotted that more of its diners were using Facebook Messenger to book tables, so the IT team at PizzaExpress set about creating a service that would ensure all its guests' questions were answered, any time of the day or night.

Typically, contacting a hospitality business on Facebook Messenger means waiting for a customer services representative to respond, but the PizzaExpress chatbot aimed to change that by providing an instant service.

The software allows customer to start a conversation with PizzaExpress within Facebook Messenger, and the chatbot walks the customer through making a booking in a conversational style. The solution uses the same table availability plans as the website (using liveRES), meaning the addition of the channel had no impact on restaurant operations.

The business case for the project stemmed from the restaurant's Facebook presence.

PizzaExpress has a following of 283,000 people and it wanted to explore different ways to engage its customer base. Another target was to foster incremental bookings; as the app grew in popularity, the bookings from it would increase without affecting bookings from other, more traditional methods.

The success of the project was based on it having an ‘always on' feature within Facebook Messenger to act as the call to action for all social promotional content. It was also designed to appeal to a completely different demographic than its usual marketing.

Meanwhile, the number of conversations within Facebook Messenger has gone from five a day to around 100, a figure that is viewed as a great success based on limited promotion.

Customers who follow PizzaExpress on social media can now book a table at any PizzaExpress restaurant within 60 seconds, without leaving the Facebook platform, making it easier and more convenient than ever before. In terms of additional benefits, the project has received significant press coverage and enhanced the business's social media presence. It has also enabled it to open up a dialog with Facebook, enabling PizzaExpress to continue to be at the forefront of
chatbot development.

What the judges said
"An incredible result for a minimal budget, combined with very fast implementation."
Charles Boyd

"PizzaExpress has broken new ground through the use of a chatbot on Facebook. It is bound to be the first of many restaurants that will be using this technology."
Jane Pendlebury

"The team spotted a gap in the customer experience and empowered the user, all under an impossibly tight timeframe and a minuscule budget."
James Barnard

The shortlist
Compass Group UK & Ireland
Edwardian Hotels. London
Oliver Maki
PizzaExpress

The judges
James Barnard, M Restaurants
Charles Boyd, 8 Northumberland
Simon Burgon, 360R
Duncan Cressall, UPP Residential Services
Liz Marlow, Sodexo
Stephen Minall, Moving Food
Diana Spellman, Partners in Purchasing
Bryan Steele, Royal Automobile Club
Jane Pendlebury, Hospa

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