Russell Weiner, chief marketing officer for Domino’s Pizza, does not mince words when asked to describe the last two years at the pizza chain.
“There you go,” he says. “One word.”
Of course, Weiner, who arrived in September 2008 from Pepsi Co. because the “company had to transform” after two and a half years of negative sales, has reason to be dramatic, if not downright giddy. Same-store sales for the first quarter of 2010 had, at the time of the interview, recently been released, and Domino’s was reporting a bump over
Q1 of 2009—to the tune of 14.3 percent.
“We’ve looked back as far as we can look at major chains, and the closest we found to the 14.3 was years ago, McDonald’s had done it, but it was a 14.2,” Weiner says. “That’s why, for me, it’s a wow.”
The phenomenal growth at Domino’s in the first quarter of 2010 is the goal the company set out for in 2009 with its “New and Inspired” pizza recipe, and is, in many ways, the validation of several changes the company implemented in the last two years.
Patrick Doyle is the CEO of Ann Arbor, Michigan–based Domino’s Pizza who took over from David Brandon in January. He uses a few extra words to describe the transitive nature of the time period that began with the company’s introduction of its Oven Baked Sandwiches in August of 2008.
“It has clearly been a pivotal time for this brand and this system,” Doyle says.
Systemwide sales in 2009 weren’t off the charts; the company recorded domestic sales of $3.03 billion in 2009, a hair less than the $3.037 billion it accounted for in 2008. In fact, Domino’s tumbled a spot on the QSR 50 list, surpassed by Chick-fil-A as it fell from No. 13 to No. 14.
But the Q1 numbers in 2010 are not an anomaly and represent the return of something much bigger than the systemwide sales of 2009 could ever define, Doyle says.
“The success we had in the first quarter of 2010 is really a function of the groundwork that we laid in 2009,” he says.
Weiner likes to compare the process of rolling out Domino’s new pizza to a play with multiple acts. In Act I, the company listened to its critics and rolled out a new pizza recipe. Acts II, III, and IV represented the steps Domino’s took to advertise the new pizza.
The new pizza recipe, though, was not the only performance Domino’s used to reinvent itself. In fact, by the time the new recipe launched, the company was already putting on a show.