Financing

Domino's wants you to know that its food is delicious

The pizza giant believes it has good products. It just needs to do a better job of telling customers about it. The company is also promising a lot more menu innovation.
Domino's
Domino's plans more menu innovation like the New York-Style Pizza. | Photo courtesy of Domino's.

Domino’s Pizza was struggling before 2008. Its sales were weak. Its stock was trading in the low single digits and the brand was a popular pick for a bankruptcy filing.

The Ann Arbor, Mich.-based chain famously revamped its pizza recipe, admitted in ads that its old recipe was terrible and ignited a comeback that lasted well over a decade.

The brand is looking to do that again. Well, sort of.

Domino’s isn’t planning to change its pizza recipe this time. But it does want to market its quality more often than it has been.

“The difference between now and 2008, in 2008 we did not have the most delicious food,” CEO Russell Weiner told analysts this week, according to a transcript on the financial services site AlphaSense. “Today we have the most delicious food. But people don’t think of us for that. So we need to go about changing that.”

Weiner is a longtime veteran of Domino’s and was involved in the marketing campaign that ignited the brand’s turnaround.

That turnaround was more complicated than simply changing the pizza recipe. The company went to a single point-of-sale system. It ensured franchisees could make money. It then made frequent investments in technology and then marketed that technology to promote ease of ordering.

The result has vaulted the chain past Pizza Hut to become the world’s largest pizza chain. That included a more than a decade-long run of uninterrupted same-store sales growth.

“It’s been a crazy ride, a wild ride,” Weiner said.

Yet the past two-plus years, in his words, “were not Domino’s years as far as I’m concerned.” The brand’s same-store sales declined for much of that period. It lost key sales to third-party delivery companies and to key competitors.

The company’s sales have improved of late, however, behind the type of marketing that got the chain going the last time.

Domino’s “Emergency Pizza” campaign last year fueled strong sales growth that continued into 2024. Effectively a buy-one, get-one offer, the campaign drove traffic to its locations because customers could only redeem those free pizzas at a later date. “Emergency Pizza performed better than any buy-one, get-one-free I’ve done in my career,” Weiner said in April.

Results in the first quarter were particularly impressive. Same-store sales rose 5.6% in the period. Same-store sales declined 2% at Papa Johns, despite a new ad campaign. They declined 4.6% at Pizza Hut. Rival chains typically ebb and flow together. But the first-quarter results show Domino’s grabbed market share.

Weiner believes the company can grab more share by marketing its product. “We’re not changing,” he said. “Really clear, we’re not changing the product. The product still scores amazing. It’s a great product. But we can romance it more.”

How will the company do that? Weiner said the company plans a new website next year, for instance. And it’ll be present in more of the company’s advertising.

“This is us saying, ‘Hey you know what, what good is it if the pizza tastes great but people don’t know about it?’” Weiner said. “That’s the big difference. We don’t have to change the product. We just have to talk about it and show it differently.”

He is also promising more innovation, which is a departure from his historic view on the chain’s marketing efforts. The company plans two new products per year.

“I was not big into product innovation in the past, frankly, because a lot of what we sell are plain pepperoni, cheese, sausage pizzas,” he said. “Every time you launch something, the idea has to be great. So how many great ideas can you have here? So I’ve purposely kept us, even as CMO, away from new products.”

Instead, he said, the company innovated with consumer-facing technology. But then, he said, “when this research came back, we looked at it, we said, ‘hey, you know what? We’re not innovating enough.’ So not only do we need to show our product better, but we’ve now committed to two product innovations a year.”

Domino’s has already introduced its first innovation, New York-Style Pizza, going after rivals that have already introduced similar products. Weiner said that product will remain on the menu, as it goes after a different customer that doesn’t like the chain’s traditional crust.

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