Last week I had the opportunity to visit a production plant and Domino’s headquarters in Ann Arbor Michigan. Before taking the trip, I was in the “over 10 year club”. I didn’t have a slice of Domino’s or even contemplate it for at least that long. I was skeptical that pizza dependent on an efficient supply chain could actually stand a chance against locally based ethnic parlors. My recollections alone dampened my enthusiasm for giving Domino’s another chance. But with the promise of making our own pizzas guided by Sam Fauser, featured pizza chef as seen in the Domino’s commercials, I thought, “How bad could it be?” They were opening their inner sanctum to a bunch of food bloggers who would get their hands on the ingredients, take pictures, and have plenty of opportunities for questions. Just maybe there was something more to this than a hyped up PR campaign.
The real shocker for me was that a pizza company, even one as big as Domino’s, could have such a large and sprawling corporate headquarters. Upon walking through the doors into a vast glass atrium, I immediately saw the following message emblazoned on the wall: “Exceptional Franchisees and Team Members on a Mission to be the Best Pizza Delivery Company in the World”. To my right parked in the lobby was a Domino’s sponsored race car. After passing the front desk, the bright expansive lobby continued with breakout circles furnished with comfy chairs and designer rugs. Ahead was a glassed in area where I could look down to the floor below me and see the pizza theater, a working Domino’s store prototype. All headquarters staff are required to train here working in the kitchen and at the order counter just like any front line employee across the globe.
So the realization hit home… a Mom and Pop pizza palace at one end of the spectrum and Dominos’ exacting global supply chain enterprise on the other need to meet the same two crucial objectives. One is speed and the other is taste. Drop the ball on one and you’re done! No matter if you’re a two person shop or a scientifically engineered outlet like Domino’s, you need to serve as many pizzas in as little time as possible in order to cover overhead and turn a profit. Just as importantly, if you don’t have good flavor, folks will simply line the pockets of your competitor. Up until a year ago, Domino’s began to forget the importance of flavor and it was sinking the mother ship as fast as a stone. Bland flavor, inferior ingredients, and less than inspiring presentation. Then came the grumblings of artificial cheese and crust that tasted like cardboard. Something had to done and fast!
Starting this January, Domino’s commemorated its 50th anniversary by scrapping their entire menu and starting from scratch. Nothing except the logo was spared! Even the pizza boxes are different with proverbs written on top and their website has a pizza tracker allowing you to track your order from the time you place it until it reaches your doorstep. And the pizza? Much tastier than I remembered it to be!
This coverage is the result of a sponsored trip. Photos and videos courtesy of Steve Mirsky