The CEO and corporate head of Domino’s know that clear communication and foresight are vital ingredients in a successful business. They tell Sarah O’Carroll how they are coping with big business, engaging their employees and shaping their future
While companies the world over are slashing staff,
Domino’s Pizza is on a recruitment drive to find
2500 new employees in Australia and New Zealand.
It reported an $11.8 million net profit last August, up 27 per
cent from the year previous.
In the first half of this year it opened 15 new stores –
including 11 stores in Europe and four in Australia and New
Zealand – bringing the total number of stores in the network
to 756. As the economy slides, Domino’s climbs.
This growth might not be unexpected, given that more
people are leaving cafes and restaurants and migrating to
more affordable meals to save cash during the downturn.
And although the commercial food sector is tipped to decline
by more than 2 per cent in 2009-10, according to the Fast
Food in Australia 2009 report, the fast food industry is not
going to suffer the same fate. In fact, sales in fast food are pre
dicted to grow.
This is good news for one of Australia’s leading food and
beverage retailers – Domino’s Pizza.
But, according to CEO Don Meij, that doesn’t mean it’s
time for Domino’s to rest on its laurels. As consumers trade
down their dining choices in these uncertain times the group
can’t simply sit back and enjoy the ride, he says. It must adapt
as much as every other company in changing times – but just
in different ways.
“In the current environment there has been a move by
people to supermarkets and cheaper alternatives,” says Meij.
“While we fit into the cheaper alternatives,we still have to earn
that business – which we are doing – but it’s not a fait accom
pli that we just get that business. There are many other afford
able meal solutions that are doing well. And it’s clear to see
that those that are doing well are the ones that have a good
“The way it works is that a customer will buy a pizza on
average once every fortnight. If you don’t impress them they
have myriad options to buy elsewhere, so to get them back
every couple of weeks they have to like what they are getting
– the image, the service.”
That’s why, even with things going so well in the fast food
sector, Meij and his team have upped the ante on some core
strategies such as recruitment and encouraging an entrepre
Domino’s entrepreneurial culture
Tough economic times and job losses have led to a trend
where some people are using their redundancy payouts to buy
into franchises. Domino’s says interest is so strong the com
pany has had more than 200 applications since January – a
75 per cent increase on the same period last year. Many of
the applicants are senior white-collar workers from the finan
cial sector who have taken redundancies.
The pizza chain has been able to use this trend to its
advantage to attract young ambitious workers – such peo
ple fall into line with the strong entrepreneurial culture the
company has nurtured.
This culture helps to not only attract motivated employ
ees but also retain them. From day one when an employee
starts as a pizza maker, delivery person or manager, they are
clearly shown the different career paths that are available to
them within Domino’s.
According to Kerri Hayman, head of corporate opera
tions, employees can see clearly a career path through
“One example is they could go the corporate route,”
“For example from delivery person, to store manager, to
regional manager to operations manager etc. But what is
pretty unique to Domino’s – and what we encourage very
much – is the entrepreneurial route. This is great for young
employees who dream to own their own business.”
Meij started out as a pizza delivery driver 22 years ago.
He then went on to operations, became a sub-franchisee,
owned 17 of his own stores, then used equity from that to
buy part of Domino’s. Now he is the CEO.
Hayman had a similar journey.
“It’s a very common career path within Domino’s,” she
says. “So from day one a new employee is shown where they
could possibly go within the company and the types of salaries
each level attracts.
Domino’s is a good example of a company which has used
the economic downturn to its advantage and stepped up mar
keting and recruiting policies since economies have slowed.
One such example is what global CEO Dave Brandon
touted as “Domino’s big taste bailout”.
Filmed in Washington DC, television advertisements
showed Brandon travelling from Capitol Hill via Wall Street
to Main Street, with an offer to deliver three or more medium
pizzas – or oven-baked sandwiches – for just $5 each to
“We know times are hard – it’s a reality we are all facing,”
says Brandon in the ads. “But I didn’t go to Washington to
ask for a bailout. Instead, we are giving one. I’m proud to be
able to offer our consumers a promotion with such a great
deal on pizza. By adding our oven-baked sandwiches to the
mix we are further increasing the number of taste varieties
to the offering.”
Using this downturn to its advantage is important, accord
ing to Meij, because now the company is vying for a new pool
of customers who have turned to the cheaper alternative.
Although it hasn’t had to restructure the way other
companies have needed to in this environment, it says it has
still been vital to innovate and communicate to stay ahead
“Although there is a good air of confidence among employ
ees we still have to constantly communicate with staff,” says
Meij. “Where we’ve had to energise our team is that we have
had to change our strategy so that it is suited to the current
economy. And staff have to be clear on these changes.”
… and communicate
Domino’s was active from November to March in launching
its biggest new menu in history.
A total of 15 new products have been addedand their
smooth introduction has required an immense amount
This fast – and clear – talking called for road trips to
meet franchisees, town meetings and meetings with all man
agers to explain the new strategies. Technology has been a
big player in this. Because of the huge landmass of Aus
tralia and NZ and their far-reaching points, Domino’s use
of technology has been vital to this communication.
“Video communication and video training pieces have
been vital in explaining to staff why we were doing what
we’re doing,” says Meij. “It can be streamed into the
store and explained immediately. Just like every other
company, we have had to adapt – but in our case it’s
because we are winning.”
Without technology such as the services the company has
used with Premiere Global Services it would be virtually
impossible to communicate over the huge landmass of Aus
tralia and New Zealand, says Meij.
Competition is healthy
Advanced communication systems have also been key to
motivating employees through competitions such as
Each store is linked live 24 hours a day and management
can see live on screen how each store is doing in real time in
terms of sales and service. Through a live tracking system
which measures results, stores can also see their results and
performance against every other store in Australia live.
The system measures sales, the products being sold,
and general productivity. Updates of this are also sent
directly to Meij, which he receives on his BlackBerry live
every 30 seconds.
“Through staff surveys we have found that team members
really liked seeing themselves competing against other stores
in real time,” says Hayman. “Through competitions such as
Store Wars, workers become proud of their store. We find they
really enjoyed the friendly competitiveness of Domino’s. Fun
at work makes them want to stay and instead of watching
the clock they’re racing the clock.”
Cutting-edge technology has had a large part to play in
Domino’s success according to Meij, particularly in the area
The launch of a separate job site has made the whole
process of recruitment a lot more transparent and easier to
manage. The site, which connects to the company’s main
page, is specifically for recruitment and contains profile
videos and more detailed application forms.
“It is a much more transparent measurement system so
we can see who is being hired and who is being replied to,”
says Meij. “It gives us more transparency. [Under] the old
way when somebody applied online we had no way to mon
itor back up the stream to know if people had been hired
or followed through.”
Hayman says it’s a great tool for managers and allows
them to tap into a much broader pool of candidates.
“We used to have a local approach, but now it’s much
more a national approach,” she says. “It gives us a better
window to the applicant as they can find out a lot of info
about us before applying and through a filtering questionnaire
we can determine quite early if they’re the right person. It has
revolutionised our recruitment.”
Domino’s was previously feeling the pain of the skills
shortage that gripped Australia and continuously struggled
to get staff. Now, with increasing unemployment in other
sectors it has really put a drive on to recruit new people.
“In the previous economy we were always short of staff.
Because of the tight employment environment we found it dif
ficult to get people,” says Meij. “This is the reason we need
an additional 2500 people. We were already short on staff
but now we are growing as well.”
Positions the franchise is short on vary from store
to store and include everything from drivers, to pizza
makers to store managers.
“Different stores have different needs – from delivery
drivers to people applying straight to be managers who want
a career with us,” says Hayman.
Now, with increasing unemployment levels, Domino’s is
generating a lot more interest.
“We are finding that there is a different kind of candi
date coming our way – which is very encouraging for us,”