Little known fact: I was a Domino’s Pizza delivery driver in college. I loved that job, and if it hadn’t put so many miles on my 10-year-old Alfa Romeo Spider, I might have lasted longer. I like Domino’s as a company, and I like their pizza; that’s why I was happy to accept a recent invite to visit their headquarters.
Along with 11 other bloggers, I was invited to go behind the scenes at Domino’s this week. Not only did we visit their World Headquarters in Ann Arbor. Michigan, we visited their local supply chain center, and had lunch with the CEO of Domino’s Pizza, J. Patrick Doyle; that’s him in the center of this picture.
So first — a little history.
Domino’s was started by two brothers — Tom and James Monaghan. They went in on the purchase price ($500 down plus a borrowed $900) to buy DomiNick’s pizza together. It wasn’t long before James decided that he didn’t want to (or simply couldn’t) share his half of the duties because they were interfering with his day job as a mailman; after 8 months, James wanted out. Tom bought him out by giving him their Volkswagen Bug delivery car in trade.
Think about that for a moment: In the 1960’s, a brand new VW bug cost $1500; James traded his share in the company that would eventually become Domino’s for a used Beetle.
After figuring out that rather than offering five sizes of pizza, they could make a profit by offering only three (a moment when Tom realized that “keeping things simple could be more profitable), Tom went on to purchase two more pizza stores in the same county. He wanted to brand them all with the same name, which was still DomiNicks, but Dominick — the former owner and James’s friend — put the kibosh on that. Tom’s DomiNick’s pizza needed a new name.
It was one of Tom’s employees who gave him the name Domino’s after coming back from a delivery run. Tom liked it, it was Italian (Italian missionaries had brought the game to Europe), and he knew they could use a Domino tile as their logo. The three dots on the Domino’s logo represent the first three Domino’s pizza stores. The original plan was to add dots as the chain expanded, but that soon became unrealistic; by the fall of 1983, they had “around 1100 stores”. At least two of them were in San Angelo, Texas.
I’m going to digress for a moment and tell you a Domino’s story from my junior year in high school, which was in 1983 – 1984: At that time, I had never tried an anchovy before, and I wanted to. I was spending the night with a friend, Roma Richards, and we were about to do the usual slumber party thing — order a pizza. I talked her into trying an anchovy with me on our regular pepperoni pizza order, but neither of us was even sure if we would like them, so we specifically asked for TWO anchovies; the person taking our order assured us that we would get only that many. The pizza arrived, it smelled fantastic (yet slightly fishy), but the anchovies were at least 6″ long each! Those two anchovies we had ordered managed to make half of our pizza uneatable, because neither of us liked them at all. And even though I love cold anchovies on my Caesar salads, I have never ordered an anchovy on any pizza I’ve eaten since! 😉
In 1998, Tom announced his retirement and sold 93% of Domino’s to Bain Capitol for about one billion dollars.
Today, Domino’s is over 96% franchise-owned, and they have over 1,000 independent franchise owners in the US. Most of those franchise owners started their careers as drivers (like me!), pizza makers, or hourly workers. Domino’s delivers more than 1 million pizzas a day worldwide, and Domino’s operates more than 11,250 stores in more than 75 countries around the world. More than half of Domino’s sales come from outside the US, and the company has experienced 83 consecutive quarters of positive same stores sales growth. Their busiest days are Super Bowl Sunday (over 11 million slices sold — or nearly 80% more than a typical Sunday) followed by Halloween, New Year’s Eve, New Years Day, and Thanksgiving Eve.
Click the first circle for a slide show.
After being shown around the HQ for a bit, we boarded a bus and took a ride to the Domino’s Michigan supply chain center outside of Huron Township. There are 19 supply chain centers in the US, and everything needed to run a Domino’s Pizza franchise — other than the ovens and other store fixtures — is shipped from one of these centers.
What goes on inside? We were suited up in hard hats, smocks, and hairnets to find out! Don’t we look fashionable? And just so you know, the pink hard hats were not special for us; that’s what all visitors to this particular supply center wear. The pink really pops, though, doesn’t it? 😉
Our first stop was inside the room where the dough that is shipped to each franchise is made. HUGE quantities of ingredients are mixed …
… to go inside huge quantities of dough. This mixing vat holds about 530 pounds of raw pizza crust dough!
The dough gets fed into a machine that breaks it into pizza crust sized balls — roughly 153 of them a minute!
The pizza balls get shot onto blue plastic trays that are then stacked and cooled.
A video posted by Judie Stanford (@geardiary) on
That’s a lot of Domino’s Pizza dough, right?
There is also a cooler that is loaded with boxes containing all of the toppings and cheese …
… as well as a section of the warehouse that contains all of the other things a store might need.
Everything is loaded onto trucks from inside a cool dock, and then the supplies are shipped to a Domino’s franchise near you.
Oh, here’s what might be one of the world’s largest dishwashers; when those blue plastic trays are returned to the supply chain center, they have to be sanitized. This washer basically sanitizes the trays and removes the writing on the trays’ lips that gives all the batch and freshness info.
The whole ‘behind the scenes’ that goes on at the supply chain center is a really cool process.
After our supply chain center visit, it was back to Domino’s Farms and the Domino’s HQ again so we could have a lesson in making pizza from one of the franchisee instructors.
Now it was our chance to make our own pizza for lunch! My pizza was a pepperoni, mushroom, and onion pie. You can watch it come out of the oven after two others in this video. Every time I watch this video, I get hungry again … no joke.
This was my completed pizza; yum, right?
After our pizza-making class, we brought out pies upstairs for lunch with J. Patrick Doyle, Domino’s CEO.
Doyle was a really good sport; he sat there and answered questions that he’s probably been asked a thousand times. I don’t think he rolled his eyes even once.
After about 30 minutes, Doyle left, and we had a chance to talk to the team behind the Domino’s Pizza app. If you use it — and evidently a lot of us do, since 45% of Domino’s US sales come through digital ordering channels — then you might have noticed the addition of Dom, the voice activated ordering system Domino’s introduced this month.
Created by Nuance, the same company behind Apple’s Siri, Dom can not only accurately take your dictated order, he also has a saucy personality (no pun intended). I asked him what he was wearing, and he replied “only a baseball cap.” Well!
I lied and told Dom that I was looking for a job, and he promptly (and guilelessly) told me how I could apply at Domino’s. I’ll keep it in mind, Dom!
Our last stop for the day was a tour through the doors leading to the IT side of Domino’s. It should be obvious, but a company of this size that is so close to being half-based on orders placed over the internet or on mobile devices, technology is incredibly important.
Obviously there are plenty of other more mundane reasons why Domino’s would need over $70 million in mainframe computers, but it was still a little bit breathtaking to be next to this beast!
I couldn’t help but remember the scene in House of Cards when Lucas takes a (supposedly) journalistic tour to AT&T, only to try to hack into their mainframe, but instead gets taken down by the FBI. Of course we weren’t allowed to go inside the mainframe’s enclosure; Domino’s is very vigilant about security!
Technology related jobs actually account for a large percentage of the Domino’s Pizza workforce at their global headquarters. Everything from creating mobile applications to keeping vigilant watch for hacking occurs there. Domino’s actively recruits IT personal who are talented at web and mobile design.
It turns out that Domino’s is consistently one of the top five companies in terms of online transactions; they are behind companies like Amazon and Apple. There are Domino’s Pizza apps for iOS, Android, and Windows Phone, and — as I mentioned — about 45% of Domino’s US sales come through digital ordering channels; 36 Domino’s markets feature online ordering.
Allow me to digress again: I enjoyed the time that I worked for Domino’s back in the 80s; they paid their drivers well, and even though we were still working under the “30 minutes or it’s free” rule, the town I lived in at the time was broken up well enough between stores that it never took me longer than 10 – 15 minutes to complete a delivery. I have lots of funny stories about delivering to frat parties and being tipped very well, and I’ll never forget delivering to the dorms at Goodfellow AFB and being greeted by guys caught off guard wearing boxer shorts or towels because they didn’t expect a girl to be delivering their pizza — or maybe they did! Ha! But I was always tipped well, and my store manager treated me with so much respect that I loved the job. I left with cash in my pocket every night because of my tips, and I didn’t have to wait tables or do much more than say, “Hi, I’ve got your pizza, that will be $____” with a huge smile.
So what did I take away from our day with Domino’s? I left with a new respect for a company that I had long thought well of.
Domino’s Pizza is currently the number two pizza brand in the world behind Pizza Hut. I know which brand I prefer … what about you?
Disclosure: My travel expenses during the trip to Ann Arbor was paid for Domino’s Pizza. I was under no obligation to write nice things (or anything at all), but they did allow me access that made me want to share!