When Donatos set out to understand consumers’ perception of its brand, the chain asked people to “give us the brutal truth,” says CEO Tom Krouse. It learned that it already had all the right elements—it’s transparent, uses fresh ingredients and gives back to the community—it just wasn’t showing it. “We were communicating more like the same old fast-food pizza chains,” says Krouse. So Donatos launched a brand refresh, which included a new design.
“The environment is intended to transcend fast food,” says Krouse of the prototype that opened in Donatos’ hometown of Columbus, Ohio, in December, followed by a unit in Nashville in February. While delivery is the cornerstone of Donatos’ business, the chain upgraded the dine-in experience with live entertainment, local beers on tap and real silverware and plates.
To appeal to millennials’ desire to understand what’s in their food, Donatos offers more transparency. Now its semi-open kitchen sits behind a red glass wall, which allows guests to “see the energy without seeing every single thing in a kitchen,” Krouse says.
“[We’re] trying to be more true to who we are,” he adds. So, along with the new look, Donatos is reworking its marketing to better communicate the aspects of its operation that today’s diners find attractive.
“[Franchisees are] very excited about it,” says Krouse. With the new look, investment remains low for franchisees against competitors, perhaps partly why enthusiasm is high. “We’re trying to calm them down because we want to learn and optimize.”
Locations: Columbus, Ohio and Nashville
Footprint: 2,000-2,200 square feet
Seating: 40-50 plus patio
Key features: Semi-open kitchen, music stage, bar with local beers on tap, sustainable packaging, upgraded POS system