ANN ARBOR Mich. Pizza players have been very vocal of late, offering $10 pies, new recipes and loads of new marketing efforts to attract consumers, especially ahead of Super Bowl Sunday this weekend.
The latest rumblings include Domino’s national taste test with competitors Papa John’s and Pizza Hut, in which it claims victory with its reformulated pizza.
Ann Arbor-based Domino’s, the operator or franchisor of 8,886 pizza restaurants said that in an independent, blind taste test of nearly 1,800 pizza consumers in eight U.S. markets, Domino’s pepperoni, sausage and extra cheese pizzas were picked more often than those of Papa John’s and Pizza Hut “by a wide margin.”
In the study, conducted by Lieberman Research Worldwide, about 61 percent of participants preferred Domino’s extra cheese pizza to Pizza Hut’s and nearly 67 percent preferred it to Papa John’s. For pepperoni, 67.5 percent preferred Domino’s over Pizza Hut and 61 percent preferred it to Papa John’s. About 58 percent of tasters preferred Domino’s sausage pizza over Pizza Hut’s and nearly 60 percent preferred it to Papa John’s.
"Consumer perception of our delivery and service has always been strong. Now we're proving that our taste and quality are great, too," said Domino's USA president, Patrick Doyle, who has been named as the successor to current chief executive David Brandon.
APizza Hut spokesman questioned the test results. “If you do some research into other taste tests, you’d be hard-pressed to fine one in which Domino’s won,” he said.
Chris Sternberg, Papa John's general counsel and senior vice president of corporate communications, also questioned the Domino's taste test.
He said that, although he has not formally reviewed the results of the test, "we find [Domino's claims] hard to believe, based on the mixed and very polarized reviews from food critics and consumers."
He added that it was improbable "that any brand could go from worst to first in 60 days."
Sternberg also pointed out that the taste test was conducted in November 2009, before the pizza was available nationally.
Domino’s launched its new pizza  at the end of last year, backed by an unusual media campaign that included company executives admitting that they had received a lot of negative feedback from customers regarding how the chain’s pizza tasted. Chain executives have called the new pizza and its subsequent marketing efforts as the most aggressive promotion in the history of Domino’s.
This is not the first time that Domino’s has pitted new products against competitors in taste tests, however. In December of 2008 it claimed a 2-to-1 victory over Subway in a taste test comparing its oven-baked subs with similar products sold by the quick-service sandwich giant. It promoted those test results in a national media campaign.
Restaurants of all kinds, from pizza players to chicken-wing joints, gear up each year for Super Bowl Sunday. Visit NRN.com this week to see how Buffalo Wild Wings prepares for the big day — its largest sales day of the year — and how restaurant across the country prepare new menu items or special prices for football fans.