CEO Q&A: Patrick Doyle, Domino's Pizza

Brittaney Kiefer talks to Domino's Pizza CEO Patrick Doyle about franchisee success stories and leveraging social to understand consumers.

Domino's recently launched a Spanish-language marketing campaign that highlights a Hispanic franchisee's success story. What is the goal of this message?
We've been advertising in Spanish for at least 15 years now, so specifically targeting the Hispanic community is not new for us. What is new is really talking about the people in our company and the success they have had, specifically in this case Mauricio “Reece” Arroyave (below). It's a great example of what's happening in our system.

More than 90% of about 1,000 franchisees started at our stores as workers, most as drivers, and have worked up through the company to manage or buy a store and have great success. It's a compelling story about opportunity, and something we're going to be talking about on a national basis.

We're pretty unique in that most of our system is owned by people who have worked up through it. As people are coming out of the economic downturn and looking for opportunities, this is a story within Domino's that consumers found compelling.

How do you stand out in the industry?
Our heritage is around delivery. When we relaunched about three and a half years ago, it was not about fixing our pizza but about an approach to communication with our consumers and accountability to their experiences. The tone of that communication and the approach we've taken is very different, not only in the pizza industry, but more broadly within the marketing world.

It's grounded by being honest and direct about things that we do well and not so well. That approach has been pretty innovative and that builds trust with customers.

For example, we had a deep-dish product that we served for many years that frankly wasn't that good. We listened to customers and made a new pan pizza that performed very well for us in Q1 2013. That has set us apart and it has done great for us.

How do you listen to customers?
We use everything from classic consumer insights and marketing research to focus groups and quantitative research. Social media has become a very big part of that process. Consumers trust their friends and family more than they trust big brands.

Where friends and family are having that conversation today is something you can listen to. What is being said about our brand online is far more important than what we say about our brand. That process of listening and responding with real changes is a big part of how we manage our brand.

How has Domino's innovated in technology and mobile?
We're one of the largest e-commerce companies in the US, and that cue has come from customers. They want to order Domino's from wherever they are, using whatever device they are holding.

We launched a Windows 8 app last month, which was key because it was the last of the major platforms for which we did not have an app. We have apps for Kindle, Android, and iPhone. The Windows app populates the field for you, uses voice recognition, and is easier for customers to use.

It's a very interesting step forward. In technology in general, there is a continual move away from keyboards and typing. This is the direction in which technology is moving and something our customers are interested in.

Talk about the brand's global growth.
Ninety-five percent of people in the world live outside the US, and about half of our business is outside the US today. The biggest opportunity long term for us is international. You're going to see the vast majority of our store growth coming out of international; we were approaching 500 store net growth in global last year. It's going to continue to be an area of huge focus for us, especially with the scale of increase in the middle class in a lot of emerging markets.

The fastest-growing market for us is India. We're the largest restaurant chain there from outside India. We grew more than 100 stores last year, and the opportunity there is enormous. In India, about half of the menu looks similar to what we have globally and half is localized. We've got paneers and sauces that are very localized. One of the joys is that localizing pizza in markets is generally very straightforward. The sauce and cheese can be the same everywhere and we'll happily adapt the toppings.

What's coming up for Domino's in the next six to nine months?
You're going to see a continued focus on who we are as a brand and on the people who work within our system, going back to the opportunity we have at Domino's.

We've been talking more about the brand, the quality of the products, and people working here than the new product of the month. That's the approach that a lot of the restaurant industry takes, but we've been in a very different place. We're still launching new things but on a smaller frequency. Our approach is to be responsive to things customers have said they wanted from us.

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