Domino's CEO Patrick Doyle has never broken a sweat over the abrupt rise of the fast casual pizza category — a category that has produced rapidly growing concepts seemingly overnight.
During the company's Investor Day last week, he reminded attendees of the big pizza chains' gain in market share over regionals and independents, and touted the technology advantages that are enabled by a much bigger budget.
Still, he knows just as we all do that the trend can't be ignored. Top-your-own, quick-serve pizza brands are popping up all over the country, signing franchise deals a handful at a time, and many of them are backed by financial big-hitters such as Chipotle and BWWs.
Domino's executives say that fast casual pizza isn't "just competition for pizza" brands, but rather for the informal eating out category in general, particularly during the lunch daypart. And, although Doyle insists Domino's newly-mandated store remodel is not in response to this emerging category, the motivation seems familiar.
"The most important definition of fast casual, to a great extent, is giving consumers what they want today versus what the business was built around 25 or so years ago," he said. "And what consumers are asking for is better quality food in a better environment with an open kitchen that can be purchased quickly."
Doyle adds that the fast casual concept wasn't created by business minds as much as it was by consumers who were asking for such attributes. And, "that list, the one thing on it that wasn't complete for Domino's is the better looking restaurant," he said.
Consequently, at the Investor Day meeting, Doyle announced that a store remodel has been mandated by the company by 2017.
"We've got competitors who may not open up their kitchens because they don't use fresh dough. We're proud of what we're doing and we want customers to see our ingredients," he said. "It's not in response to others saying they want to get into fast casual. New players aren't affecting bigger players ...
"But what we're doing is listening to customers and doing what they want."
Alicia Kelso has been a professional journalist for 15 years. Her work with QSRweb.com and PizzaMarketplace.com has been featured in publications around the world, including Good Morning America, Voice of Russia radio, Consumerist.com and Franchise Asia magazine.