Words From: Managing editor, special projects Alan Liddle

Words From: Managing editor, special projects Alan Liddle

Top 200: The stories behind the sales

Domino’s Pizza once again had an “Oh yes we did!” moment when its commercials informed guests the chain will not customize its line of Artisan pies because they represent perfection.

And because Nation’s Restaurant News is again researching its annual Top 200 census of America’s largest foodservice operations, it’s not hard to get an idea of how consumers are reacting to the maverick advertising strategy that Domino’s has relished since publicly acknowledging in late 2009 that it had revamped its tired pizza recipe.

For decades the Top 200 has chronicled the domestic dynamics of the 200 largest foodservice chains in its chain census, as well as the 200 largest chain parents, multiunit franchisee organizations and other operators through its separate companies census.

The Top 200 chains roster is set by ranking annual net U.S. systemwide sales, while the companies roster is determined by ranking annual net U.S. foodservice revenue from company-store sales, franchise initial fees and sales royalties.

If your organization is not among the hundreds we contact annually in our Top 200 data search, and you would like the opportunity to be part of this popular benchmarking exercise, we want to hear from you.

The bottom thresholds for Top 200 rosters in recent years have hovered at around $180 million in systemwide sales for chains and $100 million in revenue for companies. However, planned changes in our long-established format this year — we can’t say more right now — may move the systemwide sales threshold into the $160 to $170 million range.

Reach out to us soon, if you’re inclined, as research for 2012’s Top 200 will end in a few weeks so we may analyze and format data for our June 25 Top 100 and July 23 Second 100 issues.

So how have consumers reacted to Domino’s extraordinary advertising tactic? In its most recent completed fiscal year, the Ann Arbor, Mich.-based chain notched growth of 3.91 percent in “estimated sales per unit,” a Top 200 metric roughly akin to same-store sales. That performance came on the heels of its Top 100 pizza-segment-leading growth in estimated sales per unit of 8.48 percent the year before.

Domino’s closest-in-size rival, Papa John’s Pizza, didn’t do as well in growing its estimated sales per unit in its latest fiscal year. But the Louisville, Ky.-based chain did win the contest for year-over-year percentage growth in U.S. systemwide sales, 5.10 percent to 3.70 percent, compared with Domino’s.

What did Papa John’s do to build its aggregate sales take? And what about segment sales leader Pizza Hut and up-and-comers such as Papa Murphy’s?

We’re getting ahead of ourselves here, as these sorts of inner-segment rivalries, as well as important industrywide insights and analysis, are at the heart of the Top 100 and Second 100 data tables and stories to come.

Help us include your role in those tales by writing to [email protected] [2] or calling (831) 422-1744.

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Contact Alan J. Liddle at [email protected] [2].
Follow him on Twitter: @AJ_NRN [6].