How Domino’s continues to innovate the way they do pizza

Glenn Davis, Director of Construction, Domino’s Pizza

DomiNick’s. That was the name of the Ypsilanti, Michigan pizza restaurant Tom and James Monaghan bought in 1960. Five years later, delivery driver Jim Kennedy suggested another name, Domino’s. The brothers, who originally bought DomiNick’s for $500, were sold. The name change is just one of the many fascinating tidbits that highlights the history of the beloved pizza chain.

For example, just eight months after their grand opening, James traded his half of the partnership for an old Volkswagen Beetle, which the brothers originally used to deliver pizzas. The pizza place became adept at the delivery process because the original building was too small for sit-down dining. Another interesting tidbit: For more than 30 years, Domino’s only offered two sizes of pizza, 11 toppings, and one soft drink: cola. Simplicity was everything.

The ramp up was on. After the name change, its franchise pizza restaurants began to open—one in 1967 and another in 1968. Over the next 10 years, Domino’s opened 200 more locations. Today, the pizza landscape recognizes the brand as one of the most respected in the world—one that continues to innovate. There was a line of Oven Baked Sandwiches in 2008, penne pasta and a Chocolate Lava Crunch Cake in 2009.

In 2010, Domino’s rolled out an entirely new pizza recipe, including new sauce, crust and cheese. The next year saw a completely revamped menu, including a new recipe for wings and boneless chicken, and two new bread sides — Stuffed Cheesy Bread and Parmesan Bread Bites. The Marbled Cookie Brownie hit in 2015.

When it comes to Domino’s, tomorrow is always the most intriguing day on the calendar, even in these unprecedented times. We sat down with Glenn Davis, Director of Construction, to see how the brand is faring today and what tomorrow holds.

Domino’s (PRNewsFoto/Domino’s Pizza)

Give us a snapshot of the Dominos brand today?
The Domino’s brand is as strong as ever. With COVID-19, it has been a different path with having to change how we do our day-to-day operations with deliveries, carryout and pick-up orders. A system was developed to be able to do contactless delivers and pick up for Customers wishing to do so.

Of the 176 stores RPM Pizza has, 119 of them have pick-up windows. With COVID-19, this was a game changer in being able to provide great service to our Customers while protecting both our Customers and Team Members. On the construction front, RPM Pizza slowed down some lease negotiations to start with, but all other aspects were kept going as usual. We are currently looking at projects on a case by case basis.

What type of consumers are you targeting today? What do they expect?
We are now and have forever targeted all Customers—young and old, and everyone in between, whether they want their food delivered, to pick it up at the store, or go through one of our pick-up windows

What kind of adjustments have you made (are you planning) in order to cater to your customers in this new landscape?
We our looking at our current floor-plan design and what has been learned from the current landscape, and will be making adjustments once we all debriefed what we have learned. This will not be a quick fix, it will need to be a process of design, testing and roll out.

What is your short-term strategy? Long-term?
Short term: Follow all federal, state and local requirements, and do whatever it takes to protect our Team Members and Customers.

Long term: It is really too early to know what is going to be required long-term, but I think new requirements by federal, state and local levels with the health department will change the way we design stores. I anticipate new food safety guidelines will be required. We do not know what these will be yet, but it will change the entire QSR and restaurant industry.

Once things settle into the new normal, we will be able to set new goals for growth, relocating stores and what’s needed for existing stores.

What is the best piece of advice you can offer to other brands on how to deal with the what is happening right now?
Follow the guidelines and keep your Team Members and Customers safe—whatever that takes.

Is there a location that really shows how the Domino’s brand interacts with the community and Customers? One of your favorites?
With 176 stores in five states, it is hard to pick a favorite. Over the past 18 years, I have built more than 84 new builds, and re-branded every store at least once, and some three times. The most recent one that stands out is Store 5901, located in Biloxi, Mississippi. In 2019, I relocated the existing store into a new location next door. While it was not a new ground up build, it was a major remodel of an old automotive garage that included reducing the size of the building, completely renovating the entire building and the site.

Take us through your construction and design strategy.
First and foremost, we must follow Domino’s Pizza corporate current brand standards. Then, I follow the design flow requirements for a Domino’s Pizza store that I learned from the founder of RPM Pizza, Richard P. Mueller, and the VP of Store Services, Tom Holliday. I was also a store manager and a supervisor for four years, so I understand the operational flow needed for a store to function and flow correctly.

Once I have a floor plan I am pleased with, I share it with the CEO, COO, VP of Admin and the store opening team leader to get their input. Changes are made until all agree with the plan, then it is given to the architect to start drawing CDs.

In this business, it is hard to plan out a full day, as you can schedule the weekly calls and meetings you have each week, but you are just one phone call or email away from your day’s schedule changing.

Give us a rundown of your market’s layout.
We have 176 store in five states, including Mississippi, Louisiana, Alabama, Indiana and Michigan.

Talk about sustainability. What are you doing?
With COVID-19, it is hard to answer this. The real estate market will not be the same for some time. We are proceeding with deals we have on the table now, and proceeding with caution while we see where everything settles down.

What type of opportunities do you see moving ahead?
This all depends on where the real estate market settles. As that happens, the owners will decide how slow or fast we grow and relocate any existing stores.

What trends are you seeing/expecting?
Right now, delivery and pick-up window sales are growing at a rapid rate. So getting stores what they need now to be able to function and keep up is a must. Once things settle into the new normal, we will be able to set new goals for growth, relocating stores and what’s needed for existing stores, including curbside delivery.

I think new requirements by federal, state and local levels with the health department will change the way we design stores. I anticipate new food safety guidelines will be required.

What is the secret to creating a “must visit” location today?
You must build a location that when a Customer drives by they say, “Wow, look at that new Domino’s.” Our new Pizza Theater layout is the current brand image. This is easier to do, especially in a town where they have not seen one of these stores yet. The new look makes Customers want to come by and stop to look.

What is the biggest item on your to-do list?
Currently, I have one store that was on hold due to COVID-19 that has started back up. There are two more out for bids and in permitting, so I am ramping back up with projects that I already have on the books to complete this year.

Describe a typical day.
In this business, it is hard to plan out a full day, as you can schedule the weekly calls and meetings you have each week, but you are always just one phone call or email away from your day’s schedule changing. Then, the rest of the time you fill in with emails and calls that were not expected. Other tasks come up or get assigned, too. Each day is different. Some days wear you out, but that is what is so exciting about this job—every day is different and never the same. You never know if your day is going to be a good, bad or ugly day. But I love it.

Tell us what makes your brand so unique?
We are Domino’s Pizza, inventor of pizza delivery and the No. 1 brand in the world.

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One-on-One with…

Glenn Davis, Director of Construction, Domino’s Pizza

What is the most rewarding part of your job?
When I finish a new store and the CEO or operations say “wow” the first time they see it all finished.

What was the best advice you ever received?
Be optimistic by verify.

What is the best thing a client ever said to you?
My client is our CEO and the stores operations team, so my relationship with a client is different.

Name the three strongest traits any leader should have and why.
Follows the Golden Rule: “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you” speaks for itself.

Honesty: Your word is your honor, without that, you are a liar.

Consistency: With this your subordinates will always know what is going to happen in any situation you face.

How do you like to spend your down time?
When owning a house, it is hard to actually have down time. But when I do, I love to go camping and get away. Being in the outdoors is the best way to relax and actually unwind. Spending that time with my wife and our pets in the woods is the only way to spend my down time.

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Story by Michael J. Pallerino, editor of Commercial Construction & Renovation magazine. Over the past 30-plus years, he has won numerous awards, including the “Jesse H. Neal Editorial Achievement Award,” recognized as the Pulitzer Prize for business-to-business magazines. He can be reached at mikep@ccr-mag.com.

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