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People come together around a meal. So many of our great ideas, conversations and social occasions occur around food in a restaurant—and in 2020 we were stripped of those opportunities.
The ability to sit in a restaurant, to gather amongst friends and strangers alike, transformed from something we desired to something we must avoid at all costs. The coronavirus pandemic altered how every part of our society operates, with the hospitality industry among those most greatly affected.
Domino’s entered 2020 just like many other restaurant companies did: with strategies in place, plans and projects that we had on the calendar. And just a few weeks in, as COVID started to make its way around the world – and here in North America – we really had to make a quick pivot.
We’re a 60-year-old brand, but we had to rewrite most of our standard operating procedures, at the store level, in about six weeks to adapt to this new, contactless world.
We completely revamped our tech development roadmap for 2020 to adapt to this new environment. For example, we launched Domino’s Carside Delivery, which is a contactless solution for carry-out where one of our team members would bring your pizza out and place it right in your vehicle.
Domino’s also has more than 17,000 locations worldwide in over 90 countries, so we had to dramatically change the frequency of communication with our franchisees. We held twice-weekly calls in the U.S. (where we have over 6,200 locations) and weekly webinars with our international master franchisees. We did all this while also changing the method in which we communicated, such as holding virtual town halls – which I hosted — on a weekly basis to keep our team members informed and ensure they could continue operations.
We felt very privileged to be in a position to stay open, when so many other businesses had to close, and we took that privilege very seriously, making commitments to our team members, our customers and our community to operate in a safe and effective manner.
The last 10 months have been unlike any other, but there are learnings and takeaways that have risen from these difficult times, which can carry us into the future.
The acceleration of online ordering – and digital infrastructure – is a massive push for our industry, which will now be more prepared to pivot and handle future adversity.
In recent years, Domino’s added Hotspots, where we worked with almost 800 franchisees and their thousands of delivery drivers to incorporate geo-fencing into its digital ordering process, meaning we could deliver to more than 200,000 outdoor locations—without needing a numerical street address.
We also had a pre-established zero-click ordering, where customers could load a preferred order into the app and have it sent within 10 seconds. Domino’s cloud-based AnyWare platform enabled ordering via any digital channel, including desktop, smartphone, social media, Smart TVs, digital assistants and gaming consoles.
Those early innovations led to digital ordering already composing about 70 per cent of Domino’s sales—and better helped up navigate the incoming pandemic. The change in consumer habits, due to COVID-19, immediately increased our digital ordering by about five more percentage points as the entire restaurant industry saw a broad shift towards online ordering.
While delivery will likely come down from the COVID-19 highs, I think it’s going to maintain a level above where it was before the pandemic. That’s a good thing for our business, as delivery and at-home consumption has been a big part of Domino’s for 60 years.
We’ve made adjustments that will improve our ability to operate on a day-to-day basis and we’ve proven that office operations can make great achievements in a flexible working environment, which can make our industry more attractive for job seekers in the future.
COVID-19 also forced us to become very creative – and innovative – on how we wanted to keep our business operating. We asked ourselves, “what do we need to do to put the safety of our team members and our customers first?” and from that, we implemented options such as our contactless curbside pickup—and reinvigorated our commitment to being engaged in our community.
We put in a program called “Feed the Need,” where we donated food and labour—and went out and gave away 10 million slices of pizza to thousands of people, including kids that were not able to replace missing lunchtime meals as a result of schools being shut down.
That got our system excited, because what do we do for a living?
We feed people.
And when there are people in need, with us again having that privilege to still be open, we felt like it was our corporate responsibility to help feed those people in times of need.
In a time with so many families and businesses struggling, for the restaurant industry to lead by example and show everyone that we are in this together and that we want to help – and are still able to help – even when we’re vulnerable…that is be invaluable to reminding people that our industry will always be there for people.
I know that Domino’s, of course, wasn’t the only company to give back to the community, so let’s give a round of applause to everyone that did what they could to support their community.
It has been a pretty wild ride, to say the least, but I see 2021 as being a big bounce-back year for the restaurant industry.
As the vaccine gets distributed and things return more to normal, people are going to want to go out and eat again. It’s my sincere hope that the operators who are struggling now will be able to hang on because we, as an industry, serve a very vital need in our society—not just the physical need of feeding people, but we also serve a very important purpose in society.
I think we’re a stronger company – and a stronger industry – having gone through COVID with an innovative spirit and a capacity to change, which will serve us well into the future.
So hold your heads up, keep helping those around you, and continue perfecting how to be the best version of your business and yourself, as 2021 will see us return to what we do best:
Fostering great ideas, conversations and social occasions as people, once again, come together around a meal.
Ritch Allison is the Chief Executive Officer of Domino’s Pizza, the world’s largest pizza company in terms of retail sales. Domino’s operates more than 17,000 stores in more than 90 markets around the world, including several hundred in Canada.
Catch Ritch Allison give his keynote speech at RC Show 2021’s “Delivering During the Pandemic: Fireside Chat With Domino’s CEO” on Monday, March 1, 3:00PM-3:30PM on the Speaker Stage