CINCINNATI -- LaRosa's Pizzeria, which launched its online ordering program on Dec. 23, already is one-third the way to achieving its goal of 7,000 online orders per week.

According to The Cincinnati Enquirer, about 2,300 online orders were logged in the last week of January, the program's fifth week in service. The company ultimately wants orders from its Web site to make up 10 percent of all its transactions.

The 49-year-old LaRosa's, which has about 50 stores in and around Cincinnati, spent more than $300,000 on its Internet ordering program. The company's aim is to create a convenient ordering experience, and its target market is teens.

"If we've ratcheted up the level of convenience for that teenager, maybe they're not thinking about some of our competitors," said Pete Buscani, executive vice president of marketing at the Cincinnati-based chain.

Since launching its Internet ordering system, LaRosa's has made only minor tweaks, such as adding areas to accommodate special-order instructions.

Customers can use the Web site to place and schedule orders for future deliveries, and soon they'll be able to buy and ship products, such as its Paisano Pack pizza kit, anywhere in the country.

Jim Hammersmith, a senior database administrator at LaRosa's, told the Enquirer that Internet orders are reducing the number of phone calls received at the company's call center, but he didn't provide specifics. The call center can handle about 300 calls at one time.

Because the online ordering software is tied to the call center system, customers must have ordered by phone prior to placing an order online.

After holding near the 50-store mark for several years, LaRosa's has shifted into the expansion mode, opening stores in Dayton, Ohio, and working toward doubling its annual sales to $250 million.

Part of its growth strategy, the report said, includes investing in new technologies with long-term payoffs. For example, the company is examining new phone switches that eventually may allow call center operators to work from home.

* See related story: Dayton developing into pizza battleground

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