When you teach middle school and you tell your 8th grade computer science classes that you’re going to be out the following day because you’ve been invited to Domino’s global headquarters, they want to know:
- 1) Are you going to get to eat pizza?
- 2) Will you bring us some?
When the invitation from Domino’s landed in my inbox inviting me to Innovation Insiders Day, I was curious. Like you and my students, I’ve consumed plenty of Domino’s pizza but wondered what kind of innovations Domino’s would share with me during a trip to their Ann Arbor, Michigan headquarters. As it turns out— a lot.
6 Surprising Facts About Domino’s That Are About More Than Pizza
We think of Domino’s as a pizza company first but they’re so much more than hand tossed pizza, wings, and those sinfully delicious lava cakes. The food they deliver is just one of the products Domino’s is constantly innovating. Beyond the consumables, this forward-thinking company is tech savvy and innovative, taking risks to constantly improve more than their pizza.
My day at world headquarters was fascinating. I walked away inspired, feeling a deeper connection, and appreciation to a company that I’ve always loved. Here are 6 surprising facts about Domino’s that are about more than their pizza.
Domino’s Considers Itself an E-Commerce Company
Domino’s Ann Arbor headquarters is home to one of the top 5 most innovative information technology (IT) departments in the US. Over half the company’s employees at global headquarters work in IT on project teams that integrate marketing, technology, and data science. This allows project teams to accelerate innovation through organizational structure since many companies keep these departments separate. This integration ensures that all project members are working towards the same objectives.
Domino’s is Constantly Testing
Project teams work together in a space called Domino’s Innovation Garage (or DIG for short) where they’re constantly testing the user experience. Their time and monetary investment in testing is the same regardless if they’re testing their pizza ordering process or evaluating user interfaces for fundraising strategies for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital who is their designated charity partner.
For example, when you order a pizza on your mobile device through the app, chances are you’ve just become part of 3 different A/B tests. If you were sitting next to your friend ordering pizza through the app at the same time, chances are you’d experience the ordering process in different ways. That’s because Domino’s is constantly testing their user experience in order to make improvements.
Domino’s Won’t Share Your Data
With all the testing that goes on behind the scenes, you’d think that this tech company that just happens to make pizza would be selling your data but that’s not the case. Dennis Maloney, Chief Digital Officer for Domino’s, believes that in order to be the best e-commerce company out there, it’s important to keep IT in-house and own the technology.
Having on-site project teams that consist of programmers, marketers, and individuals in operations roles means that Domino’s can make decisions quickly, be nimble and pivot, test, and use data gathered to implement the best ideas as they continue to innovate.
Domino’s Believes That Taking Risks and Failing Fast Leads to Innovation
Try. Innovate. Be willing to fail. Try again. This is the cycle described to us by Kelly Garcia, CTO of Domino’s. As a company with a tradition of being a tech innovator, they’re used to taking big risks and failing fast. For some companies this is a process that takes years. Domino’s cycle happens in months.
Early risks by the company included going all-in on the delivery model and creating- then eliminating- the 30 minute guarantee. They’ve also taken big bets on technology such as ordering pizza via emojis, creating ‘Dom” for voice ordering, going all in on their ‘Anyware‘ platform, and testing autonomous delivery.
Here are 6 things the company learns from taking risks:
- Great, unforeseen opportunities come from risk taking
- Taking risks show confidence and helps you stand out
- We learn from risks— those lessons may lead us on a new path
- Success won’t fall into our laps— we have to pursue it
- You don’t achieve your dreams by playing it safe
- Embracing risk-taking helps you overcome a fear of failure
The Best Way to Learn is to Listen to Your Harshest Critics
What company is willing to admit that they have a bad product and confront their harshest critics head on? Domino’s did.
If you were to rewind the clock 10 years and Domino’s wasn’t known for having the best pizza. Customers who criticized Domino’s pizza saying things like:
- “Domino’s pizza crust, to me, is like cardboard”
- “Worst excuse for pizza I’ve ever had”
- “Sauce tastes like ketchup”
“You can either use negative comments to get you down or use them to excite and energize your process and make a better pizza. We did the latter,” said Patrick Doyle, President of Domino’s.
Domino’s confronted this harsh criticism by launching PizzaTurnaround.com, an effort to show the world how they reinvented pizza from the crust up. In December 2009 they started over with a new recipe, hung consumer comments in pizza kitchens, and delivered pizza to their critics. PizzaTurnaround.com showed the world what consumers really thought of their pizza but it also inspired innovation by a brand that knows the possibility of failure can lead to important change.
Domino’s Says They’re a “Brand in Progress”
“If you’re not taking risks,” said Kelly Garcia, CTO of Domino’s, “you’re becoming complacent.”
I sat listening to Kelly in the Domino’s Innovation Garage (DIG), a space that is looking at how new technology can lead to new products and processes for the company. We had the opportunity to peek at GPS technology that will allow consumers to track their pizza from the minute it leaves the store, e-Bikes that are already in place in markets like Seattle where bike messengers provide efficient delivery now that they have the e-boost to get them up the city’s many hills, along with delivery robots and autonomous vehicles that could be the way pizza arrives at our doorsteps in the not so distant future.
Learning from Domino’s I Shared with my Students
The future of pizza delivery will look very different for my 8th grade students who, of course, wanted to know if I brought them any pizza when I returned the next day. While I didn’t bring them my leftovers, I shared how I got to make my own pizza in the Pizza Theater (the heart of headquarters) and had plenty of learning to share with them about why what they were doing in our high school level technology class is important.
Like you, they think of Domino’s as a pizza company and were very surprised to learn about all the technology innovation that the company is doing behind the scenes. I told them the coding they were learning in my class could help them get a job at a company like Domino’s one day which I think made the wheels in their heads turn or maybe they were just dreaming of pizza!
Don’t tell my 8th graders but Domino’s is making their pizza dreams come true thanks to the gift card they sent for a class pizza party! Hooray for pizza for all to inspire a next generation to pursue fields of IT!
Huge thanks to Domino’s for inviting me to join them at Domino’s Innovation Insiders Day. For more information follow the hashtag #DPZInnovation on Twitter and Instagram. All expenses were paid by Domino’s and all opinions were my own.