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Fighting Domino’s Dominance


Bloomberg recently reported that “a push by upstart restaurant chains to challenge the dominance of Domino’s Pizza Inc. and Pizza Hut isn’t going well.” Pie Five, a fast-casual pizza concept, was cited as a partial casualty after the chain shuttered locations in Illinois, Colorado and Minnesota. Likewise, Wisconsin-based Toppers Pizza chain is closing four locations in the Chicago area.

What’s causing the failure to launch for these upstarts? Bloomberg points to Domino’s deep discounting as part of the problem, yet plenty of grocerant pizza programs run head-to-head on competitive pricing. For instance, Whole Foods Market celebrated Pi Day on March 14 with $3.14 off both large bakery pies and large take-and-bake pizzas. Oklahoma-based Doc’s Food Stores combats slower nights with two-for-one deals.

Bloomberg also cites Domino’s commitment to mobile ordering as a factor in the push to solidify market share. A recent ad campaign showcases the high-tech advantage of the Domino’s Tracker, an online and mobile phone tool that allows customers to follow a pizza order as it makes its way through the store and out the door for delivery.

Yet some grocerants are proving they don’t need to win on speed and technology because they have another advantage: convenience. Minnesota-based Coborn’s, for example, has added a new brick oven pizza program at two of its locations. Pizzas start at $6.99, according to Kevin Hurd, Coborn’s communications and engagement specialist, and can be customized with more than 40 ingredients. The pies are done in about 10 to 15 minutes, the perfect amount of time for picking up a few groceries.

Mike Kostyo, senior publications manager at Chicago-based research firm Datassential, urges grocerants to stay up to speed with fast casual eateries and exceed the delivery giants when it comes to customization and on-trend ingredients. Recent grocerant research shows “more than 40 percent of customers said they are highly interested in customizable pizza options, yet only 23 percent of supermarkets offer customers the option, and only 10 percent of operators are interesting in adding it,” he says. Kostyo sees potato-topped pizzas, Sriracha drizzles and roasted vegetables as some of the fastest-growing ingredients on pizza menus.

“Don’t be afraid to try some trendy ingredients,” says Kostyo. “In some segments, barbecued chicken is more prevalent than pepperoni right now.”

Grocerant-Ready Ideas:

  • “Pizza in 15 minutes” shopper pledge, with discounts for time overages
  • A slice and a trip to the salad bar at a set price for lunch specials
  • Family-sized pizza meal deals for Friday movie nights at home
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