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Domino’s Pizza CEO on how the company has changed

Jeremy Hobson Feb 23, 2012

Jeremy Hobson: There is a big global company that’s based here in Michigan that has nothing to do with cars. Well, I guess it has something to do with cars, because the product has to be delivered. I’m talking about Domino’s Pizza.

I stopped by a local branch for a chat with the company’s CEO Patrick Doyle. We started our conversation — as a lot of conversations around here start — talking about the weather. It had just started snowing outside.

Patrick Doyle: Snow is a wonderful thing for business. Seriously.

Hobson: Really?

Doyle: Oh, absolutely. People stay home and say: eh, I’m not gonna go out; I’ll order in.

Hobson: Well, what are you seeing about the global economy right now? What is Domino’s Pizza, and all of the documents that you get to see — inside your earnings reports and where the money’s coming in — what is it telling you about the global economy right now?

Doyle: It’s actually held up remarkably well. We definitely felt it in Greece, but we haven’t felt it in the rest of Europe; Asia’s still clicking along. And domestically, we’ve held up pretty well through this economy as well.

Hobson: People in Greece have been ordering less pizza?

Doyle: Yeah, absolutely. I mean, when it’s that severe, we’re definitely going to feel it. Employed people buy more pizza than unemployed people. But the rest of the world has held up pretty darn well.

Hobson: Who’s doing the best right now?

Doyle: India has been our fastest growing market.

Hobson: And in India, some of the pizzas are a little bit different than they are here, I hear.

Doyle: They are. First of all, you sell a lot more vegetarian pizzas there. It’s very easy to localize pizza, so you can put paneers on the pizza and all sorts of localized flavors and toppings. It works very well.

Hobson: Now Domino’s is a company that has been through a lot over the decades. One thing that happened — which is particularly interesting given the election right now — is that many years ago you were taken over by Bain Capital, Mitt Romney’s former company. What did that do for Domino’s? Was there an effect of that — a good effect, a bad effect? What happened?

Doyle: Certainly overall, our relationship with Bain Capital was fabulous. Bain Capital brought in professional management routines and practices that strengthened the business a lot.

Hobson: What’s the lasting legacy, though, that a consumer would notice, of, you can say: this is what Bain did for us?

Doyle: Bain is the owner — I mean, they brought in the management team that ultimately did a lot of these things. But I think certainly the big thing now has been the change in the pizza, and better tasting people. That’s bringing people back around to the brand, who hadn’t tried the brand in a long time. And they’re coming back and saying: you know what? This is pretty darn good pizza, and —

Hobson: But you did that a couple years ago, right?

Doyle: Yeah, we did. Bain was still involved; we actually still have one Bain partner on our board. And so, they’ve been involved all along through at the corporate governance level.

Hobson: Now let me ask you about changing the recipe, because this was a very risky strategy. You not only changed the recipe of the pizza, you went out and said: our previous recipe was bad; our pizza tasted bad.

Doyle: If you want to get an organization’s attention, burn the bridge behind them, right? I mean, there was no way we could go back after the way we launched it. But, we were always the fast delivery guys. That’s what we were known for — the old 30 minute guarantee legacy. We finally realized there was simply no conflict between continuing to be fast on the delivery and making the best pizza we could possibly make.

Hobson: Patrick Doyle is the CEO of Domino’s Pizza. Thanks so much for talking with us.

Doyle: Thanks Jeremy, great to meet you.

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