Do robots have a place in retail? Yes, as long as they improve customer service. Alessandro Lazzaroni, CEO of Domino’s Pizza Italia, is sure this is true. He recently kept the Omitech Elf in one of its stores in Milan for a full week. It was just a test, to see what reaction would be sparked in his customers, especially the younger ones.

Alessandro Lazzaroni, Domino’s Pizza Italia Ceo, with Elf robot.

Defined as a “digital company selling pizza,” the American company Domino’s Pizza is one of the most technological companies in the world and is projected towards even greater innovation. “The world is going in the direction of more artificial intelligence and we are not ready,” explains Mr. Lazzaroni, 39, CEO of the group in Italy since 2015. “Robots and artificial intelligence are scary because people are not used to seeing them. Domino’s strength is home-delivery. Until recently, take-away pizza was much more common in Italy – not so much home delivery – but if people understand the service and become used to the more comfortable lifestyle it affords, they are, overall, happier. The same concept applies to robots.” As the first company to offer home-delivery pizza with drones (making an agreement with Ford in the US to develop a self-driving machine), Domino’s has always focused on technology. Innovation is in the company’s DNA. “In Australia we have a robot that makes deliveries guided by GPS. Over 50% of our worldwide turnover comes from digital transactions. Technology pervades our business. Our stores are highly innovative. We can make 316 pizzas in an hour in a pizzeria because we have the technology that supports us.

Lazzaroni with some employees in the store that has “adopted” Elf for a week in Milan

”The idea that innovation creates opportunities and jobs rather than reducing them is a fact for Domino’s Pizza. Mr. Lazzaroni has risen to the news for having hired over 40 delivery staff in Turin for the opening of the first store in the Piedmontese capital. “A robot that entertains children while they wait with their parents for pizza allows me to offer better service to my customers. The child will hopefully leave Domino’s with the memory of a good experience. These robots could also be used in the supermarket, explaining to customers which food or wine would best match what they have in their cart, or advising customers which products are on sale. In clothing stores, it could integrate the customer, the central warehouse, and the product, both online and offline. As a result, we might have one less salesman at the point of sale, but we would have one more person in the warehouse.” In all forms of retail, the use of robots could not only provide a service but also improve customer experience. For Domino’s, this is an opportunity that can’t be missed.