Domino’s Pizza is the world’s most successful pizza brand with more than 17,000 stores in over 90 markets. It is particularly astonishing that this consistent brand success is driven by franchisees. Domino’s is arguably the most successful brand franchise system in the world.
Domino’s has a very simple customer proposition, if you want a great tasting pizza, freshly made-to-order from a ball of fresh dough and delivered into your hands quicker than you thought possible, every time, then it has to be Domino’s. And simple as it sounds that is not an easy thing to do, because on Friday and Saturday evenings Domino’s Pizza stores will be making and delivering hundreds of pizzas an hour, maintaining great quality, great service and ridiculously short delivery times, from the moment the customer orders to that order being in the customer’s hands. You might have a favourite wood-fired sour-dough pizza restaurant but would you risk ordering a delivery pizza from it at 7.30pm on a Saturday? Domino’s key operational difference is that it is vertically integrated, it makes the dough, it takes the order, it makes the pizza, it delivers the pizza. If you are relying on someone else to take your customers’ orders and collect and deliver your pizzas you are no longer in control of that critical part of the process and there is a high likelihood that many of those pizzas will arrive in poor condition and cold and the customer won’t order again.
A very powerful feedback loop embedded within the Domino’s system is that the quicker the customer gets their pizza the more loyal they become and the more Domino’s stores in a neighbourhood the quicker that each customer will get their pizza, because of the reduction in drive time. So, the franchisee is incentivised to open more stores within their delivery area and the customer experience gets better.
The success formula pioneered by Domino’s has been much copied and other pizza food service brands have tried to improve upon it, by promising ‘better ingredients’ or innovative pizza shapes or different types of dough, but none can out-do Domino’s for its sheer ability to get you a hot, quality pizza when you want it.
And make no mistake Domino’s is hot on innovation too. Domino’s is continually working to make that delivery even quicker, by taking time out of the process. From the original promise of a pizza arriving within 30 minutes of ordering, that operational standard has now been set to within 25 minutes and in many parts of the world where Domino’s stores are highly penetrated and journey times to customers are very short the average time is below 20 minutes and in some cases closer to 10, aided by smarter working and technology. Domino’s works continuously to ensure that this remains an unbeatable brand proposition.
To me the secret lies in the Domino’s culture, which was set very early on. In 1960 Tom and James Monaghan borrowed $500 to buy a pizza delivery store called Domi Nick’s Pizza, located in Ypsilanti, Michigan. After six months James had had enough and sold his half of the business to Tom in exchange for the VW Beetle that they used for deliveries. Hey ho.
Tom decided to change the name of the business to Domino’s Pizza and focused on opening three stores, which is why the domino tile on the logo has three dots on it, that was the scope of his vision back then. And it did take time for Tom to work out where he was going and seven years to franchise his first store in 1967. It was not easy, but the recipe for success was the system that Tom created and that which continues today.
In those early years Tom learnt that if he could make freshly made hand tossed pizza to order and deliver to his customers within 30 minutes of them making their order and do it every time, then he would have loyal customers; of course it was all by telephone back then, nowadays most Domino’s stores will be taking the great majority of their sales online.
Tom realised that as a Domino’s store manager you are reliant on staff who are mostly part-time and mostly students, that hasn’t changed today which is an interesting prospect when you have the reputation of the world’s biggest pizza brand in your hands. This is why the Domino’s culture is so fundamental, it is the glue and the driving force that keeps each store crew focused under high pressure on Friday and Saturday evenings, what is known at Domino’s as ‘the rush’. Every crew member knows what is expected of them and the job that they have, fuelled by passion and the desire to hit targets. Celebrating quality, accuracy and speed are core to Domino’s and the gold standard is set by The Fastest Pizza Maker competition the all-important Domino’s institution which is run in every Domino’s store every year. The World’s Fastest Pizza Maker competition is held at the Domino’s Worldwide Rally in Las Vegas every two years where the fastest Domino’s pizza makers are flown in and cheered on by 10,000 Domino’s colleagues. The atmosphere makes Rocky feel tame; you can find it on YouTube.
It would be a mistake not to mention price, because it is of course important, and Domino’s is very rarely beaten on price. The key to this is the Domino’s mindset to think cash over % margin, because would you prefer to have a higher % at the end of the week or more cash? And that’s where the Domino’s model defies convention, while it has very strong management metrics it will use price to drive volume and only Domino’s has the operational capability to sustain quality standards and delivery times when the orders come flying in.
Domino’s brand success is all down to the success of its people and the opportunity that Domino’s offers to those who work hard. A promising young store manager, who perhaps started as a driver, will be offered a store sub-franchise with a loan from the master franchisee and very soon they will have their own profitable business. A favourite line that you might hear from a wealthy Domino’s sub-franchisee: “My mother wasn’t particularly happy when I became a pizza delivery driver, but she certainly is now.”
Peter Shaw, Director, Brand Catalyst, knows a thing or two about brilliant brands and businesses. As CEO of Domino’s Pizza in Poland, he took the operation from its first store in 2011 to 69 stores by 2019. Peter is also a consultant on brands, innovation and operating on the AIM market. He was part of the MBO team which created Corporate Edge, at the time the UK’s largest independent branding and design consultancy. There he led innovation and brand development projects with many blue-chip brand owners including Cadbury’s, Unilever Bestfoods, Bass, British Bakeries, Carlsberg, De Vere Hotels, Environment Agency, Nectar loyalty scheme, Coldwater Seafoods, BP and Castrol.
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