Would you like some e-mail with that pizza?

By Published on .

One large pepperoni pie, please, with a Blackberry on the side.

Research in Motion, marketer of the popular wireless e-mail device, is linking up in an offbeat promotion with Papa John's to offer "free" Blackberry devices to its customers. Each partner has its own agenda. RIM's goal is to expand its devices beyond the business world to everyday uses. Papa John's wants more customers to order pizzas online instead of over the phone.

Customers who place Internet orders that include a side item and two beverages will be offered the newest version of the device lovingly dubbed Crackberry by its 3 million worldwide users.

Of course, it wouldn't be an electronics deal without a catch. Customers must commit to a two-year voice and data service plan via Cingular Wireless for $75 per month. They also have to pay $150 upfront, which they can get back through a mail-in rebate.

Papa John's said online orders rose 40% in the last year, but that most customers are still reluctant to order over the Web, or aren't aware that they can. "We still have a pretty good upside, but a good portion of our customers are unaware of our online ordering," said Jim Ensign, senior director-marketing communications for Papa John's.

Indeed, online orders accounted for just 1.3% of all pizza-shop sales for the year ended May 2005, compared to 0.4% for the same period in 2001, according to NPDFoodWorld. Among national chains such as Pizza Hut and Papa John's that number is higher, with 2.8% of orders via the Internet, compared to 0.7% in 2001. Telephone orders still drive most off-site pizza orders, representing 34.2% of sales in 2005.


Conventional wisdom supports the notion that younger males are more likely to place online orders, yet more than 45% of Papa John's Internet customers are female, more than half are age 35 or older and more than 45% have kids at home. "The question is, does it make life easier?" asked Harry Balzer, VP, NPD Group.

Papa John's boasts near 100% online ordering availability for its 2,582 U.S. restaurants, outpacing rivals Pizza Hut and Domino's Pizza. But it's not the only one using promotions to raise awareness of its Web capabilities. Pizza Hut tied in with Sony Online Entertainment earlier this year to allow video game players to order a pie while playing its EverQuest II game. The partners called the effort a test and wouldn't disclose results, although many gaming message boards buzzed over the concept.

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