KFC, Taco Bell, Pizza Hut to Start Taking Orders via Text

KFC-owner Yum Brands Inc. is buying an Israeli-based startup that helps customers order food to go via text, a strategy executives hope will fuel sales as people shift away from fast food and return to full-service restaurants.

Yum is set to use software made by Tictuk Technologies Ltd., a private tech firm founded in 2016, for fast-food ordering through text as well as social-media apps such as Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp, the companies said. The technology turns around a customer’s order in as fast as 60 seconds, said Clay Johnson, Yum’s chief digital and technology officer.

Sales at Yum, which is based in Louisville, Ky., have risen since testing Tictuk’s technology in roughly 900 KFC, Pizza Hut and Taco Bell restaurants in 35 countries, the company said. Financial terms of the deal weren’t disclosed.

As America’s restaurant industry begins to reopen, fast-food companies are searching for ways to keep customers they gained while sit-down restaurants were shut. Many chains are investing in online-order pickup systems to try to make them an appealing option as consumers eat out more.

Online sales have boomed for companies spanning retailers to auto dealers during the pandemic. Restaurants had started setting up digital ordering mechanisms before the crisis, and have quickly sought to do more since.

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