When J. Patrick Doyle was promoted from U.S. president to CEO in March of 2010, the Ann Arbor, Mich.-based chain was struggling to turn itself around.
Sales at the then-8,886-unit chain were weak (same-store sales at domestic locations fell a total of 10 percent between 2006 and 2008) and the brand, despite launches of new menu lines such as sandwiches and pasta, and even attempts at technological breakthroughs, such as allowing customers to order through their television sets using TiVo, failed to spur excitement among the public.
The chain also was reeling from a public relations nightmare in 2009 when a video of Domino’s employees tainting food went viral.
Apart from that, focus groups were taking Domino’s to task, criticizing the pizza for lacking flavor and arriving on crusts that tasted like cardboard.
The pizza’s reformulation, and marketing of it, had begun under Doyle’s Predecessor, Dave Brandon, although Doyle had his fingers in it too as Domino’s U.S. president, and once he was CEO he made the radical move of stepping in front of the camera in 30-second spots, and a 4-minute documentary, acknowledging how bad their pizza was and what they’d done to change it.
In fiscal year 2010 same-store sales rose 9.9 percent, and the chain hasn’t looked back.
Domino’s now has more than 14,400 locations in more than 85 global markets. Global sales were up by more than 93 percent at the end of its 2016 fiscal year compared to FY 2009 and were in excess of $10 billion. Estimated sales per unit, according to NRN Top 100 data, are up about 63 percent.
Although 2017 figures aren’t in yet, it’s possible that Domino’s in the fourth quarter supplanted Pizza Hut as the world’s largest pizza chain.
Part of that success could be attributed to reformulated pizza and/or the edgy marketing around it. But Doyle and his team also made major moves involving technology and engagement with its customers.
Doyle challenged his tech team to make it possible for people to order pizza at a stoplight.
And they did it, by creating an “easy order” function on the chain’s digital app, which allows customers to save their favorite pizza. That saved pizza can quickly be ordered using the app, by tweeting a pizza emoji to Domino’s Twitter account, or from a Samsung smart TV or via text message.
Related: How Domino’s became a tech company
Domino’s also notably handles all of its tech in house, with all units using a company-built POS system that allows the brand to easily add new platforms.
Domino’s continued its run in 2016, a year it closed out with fourth-quarter sales of 12.2 percent, in a quarter when, on average, same-store sales at pizza chains were down by 2.4 percent.
And in the past year, Domino’s has worked with Ford Motor Co. to test self-driving cars for delivery. it has launched wedding and baby registries, making it easy to order gift cards as wedding gifts or for expecting parents; it has made it possible for office workers to order on pizza using the popular workplace-messaging software Slack, and in New Zealand, it delivered pizza via drone, all while likely becoming the largest pizza chain in the world.
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