Pizza home delivery is such a commonplace practice in 21st century Australia that it may come as a surprise to some people to realise there was a time when it was regarded as a great innovation.
The truth is it has only been part of the pizzamaker’s customer service since the 1960s in the US, and probably later here in Australia. Up till the late 1980s, it was not common practice in Britain!
Nobody knows who came up with the idea to deliver pizzas to the home, but it’s certain to have originated in America, where the fast-paced lifestyle of the 1960s meant people weren’t willing to wait around in-store for their pizza to be prepared.
Dominos Pizza, founded in the US in 1960, attributes its initial success to the fact that it was willing to offer home delivery. This came about when its founders realised there was a large untapped market of local university students who didn’t have access to transport — so they decided to offer a pizza delivery service targeting Eastern Michigan University.
This strategy not only proved a great success for the chain, which this year opened its 9000th store, but helped enshrine pizza’s popularity not just in the US but internationally.
In the 1980s, Dominos made home delivery an integral component of its advertising campaign, offering a guaranteed delivery in 30 minutes or your pizza was free. This proved tremendously successful in its time but was later withdrawn after a Dominos pizza delivery driver was witnessed running a red light and subsequently knocking down a pedestrian.
Right from the start, though, there were problems coming up with an effective system for pizza home delivery. The most obvious one was: how to keep the pizzas hot?
The original system of standard cardboard boxes didn’t work well, as the cheese topping tended to stick to the box and the heat from the pizza made the cardboard soggy, preventing it from transporting effectively.
This led to the development of pizza boxes made from corrugated cardboard, a material invented in the 19th century and originally used to strengthen men’s hats. The corrugation provided some degree of thermal insulation, keeping the pizza hotter, and for many years this was the standard packaging material.
Pizza delivery drivers would try all sorts of techniques to further ensure the pizzas stayed hot — such as covering them with blankets — but it was obvious that better packaging was required.
In 1984 a woman named Ingrid Kosar patented a thermal bag developed specifically for pizza delivery. This was the start of the various pizza delivery bags available today.
WHAT YOU NEED TO CONSIDER
Keeping the pizza hot on its journey to the customer’s doorstep is important, but it isn’t the only thing you need to bear in mind.
Just as significant is the appearance of the pizza upon delivery. Remember your customer expects their home-delivered pizza to look just as appetising as one that’s fresh out of the oven. So it’s not just the temperature, but the overall condition, presentation and taste that will be judged.
And of course delivery time is also of paramount consideration. When you’re hungry and waiting for a pizza to arrive, 20 minutes can seem like an hour — so it’s important that your drivers are organised to ensure that delivery is made as efficiently and quickly as possible.
Especially if you want repeat business, you need to make certain that you have all these bases covered.
DELIVERY BAGS
You need to ensure that your pizzas are being packed in effective thermal bags which not only retain heat but which protect the pizzas from losing their shape. The pizza must not sag or become squashed in the bag.
Some pizza operators use special bags with fitted wire racks to keep pizzas in position. This not only helps ensure the pizza’s weight is distributed evenly but also protects the bag from damage.
When you have two or more pizzas in the same bag, a wire rack also serves to keep them separated, improving airflow and helping to prevent the pizzas becoming soggy.
It’s important to recognise that the customer will probably see the bags in which you’re delivering their pizzas. Therefore, the bags themselves are part of your overall brand image and presentation. And of course you can use them to promote your pizzas by featuring brand logos, phone numbers and other information. According to Ryko Valance of packaging supplier First Pack, branded pizza packaging is a significant new advertising trend.
In the years since the first thermal bag was developed by Ingrid Kosar, there have been numerous innovations and today you have a whole range of different options from which to choose.
The original thermal bag was made from vinyl, but today there is a variety of materials available including nylon (which is stronger and easier to wash) and cordura (stronger than nylon).
Whichever you choose, it’s important to make sure that the bag’s interior lining (as opposed to the exterior) is “breathable”, meaning it allows some of the moisture from the pizza to escape. The absence of this means condensation will form inside the bag and the pizza will become soggy.
Another way to ensure your pizza stays hot is to add an additional heat source to the bag. Disk heaters are a recent innovation which many pizza operators have been quick to adopt. These are “charged” with heat prior to insertion in the bag along with the pizza and will prevent the heat from being drawn away. After an hour’s use, they need to be recharged.
A similar concept is to use heat-resistant pellets, which are placed in a pouch in the bag’s base and heated magnetically by a small charger. These can keep the bag at around 70degC for about three quarters of an hour. However you will need specially designed bags with pouches for the pellets, along with a “charging stand”.
There are also “hot bags” developed in the US which contain a wire element running through the sides. These are plugged into a power source and can be quickly heated to maintain a consistent temperature of around 75degC. While expensive, these are an effective solution — as long as the driver remembers to plug them in to the car’s cigarette lighter or similar power source!
Another recent innovation is “reflective technology” designed to reflect and retain pizza heat in the bag thanks to metallised micro-perforation material.
Joe Cassisi, Managing Director of Euroquip which distributes Mirotec reflective technology bags in NSW, explains how it works:
“Mirotec bags reflect heat back on the pizza box instead of absorbing it. The bags are lined with micro-perforated, metallised reflective foil. The lining reflects infra-red radiation and heat, while allowing moisture to escape through the polyester laminate. This ensures a hot and crispy pizza.”
Joe says the technology has been available for about four years now and has proven very successful.
“The Mirotec bag will keep the pizza above 60degC for at least half an hour, which is very good for a bag without an additional heat source.”
He adds the bags can be folded down when not in use, so you can store up to 15 bags in one pile.
“We find we sell a lot of Mirotec bags because of quality and price,” Joe says. “They’re still very reasonably priced compared to others on the market.”
FROM OVEN TO DOORSTEP
Once you’ve chosen the best material in which to transport your pizza, you then have to make sure that the pizzas are delivered to your customers as quickly as possible.
Obviously this requires that your drivers use the most effective road routes and that you have a system in place for keeping track of when each pizza order has been placed.
Depending on the size of your business and the number of home delivery orders, you may find an electronic Point Of Sale (POS) system a helpful way of identifying and prioritising orders and recording call times.
There are lots of different POS systems available, many of which use the customer’s telephone number as a means of quickly identifying their address details. This can save time taking the order, which is especially important during those peak periods where you want to be able to keep phone time to a minimum.
While a POS system may initially seem costly, you’ll find it will pay for itself in a very short time by improving your overall order-taking efficiency. The latest systems also combine order taking with sat-nav technology to help you keep track of where your drivers are at any one time and to ensure they’re using the fastest delivery route.
Whichever system you use, it’s imperative to accurately record when the order came in and to quote a realistic delivery timeframe to the customer. (How many times have we all been told our pizza would come in half an hour only to arrive much later?!) In fact it’s a good idea to over-estimate the required delivery time, so the driver can arrive earlier than the customer expects.
It’s also important to work out exactly how far your optimal delivery area extends. There’s no point in taking orders from customers so far away that you can’t realistically get their pizzas to them in a reasonable time and condition.
Of course once you’ve done this, you need to make sure all staff know exactly what the delivery area is. A map outlining the delivery perimeter placed prominently on the wall near your phone is a very good idea! And of course you should also make this information available on your home delivery flyers, in-store menus and website.
The final step is to make sure your drivers are familiar with the local roads and the best routes to avoid traffic lights or other hold-ups. When you have experienced drivers working for you, take advantage of their local knowledge and allow them to plan out their routes in advance — and try to make sure you have enough drivers to cope with the number of orders, especially on busy Friday and Saturday nights!
Club Perfect

Mirotec delivery bag

-