Domino’s to deliver new look, approach

'Pizza Theater' aims to entice customers into N.W. stores



TACOMA — J.C. Penney got it wrong, New Coke sank, and South Lake Union Transit didn’t quite pass the brand-acronym test.

Domino’s Pizza hopes to get it right, and the revolution is being born here in the Puget Sound area.

The very first iteration of the New Domino’s — featuring “Pizza Theater” — arrived last year on South Hill inside one of Mike Brown’s eight franchise operations.

The latest example of the company’s rebranding effort, again owned by Brown, opens today on Canyon Road. It’s all about welcoming the customer inside the store.

Previously in this area, and currently in most of the company’s 10,000 stores worldwide, the atmosphere is industrial and the operation is aimed at delivery. It’s the kind of a place where low expectations of a friendly welcome are fully realized.

That’s changed, and the change began, said Joe Sieve, director of strategic market growth, with a campaign that focused on transparency and a “we’ve listened to you” customer outreach.

“We’ve re-imagined the entire brand,” he said Wednesday while visiting Brown’s new store at 11416 Canyon Road.

He said he sees the Puget Sound area as a “fortress market” for Domino’s, and he said the company is “re-imagining every store in this area.”

This re-imagination means that every store will be remodeled or relocated. All newly built stores will feature Pizza Theater.

And that means pizza will be made within view of customers. There will be a video monitor in each store that lists every pie and where it is in the preparation cycle.

“This is template for what the brand will look like,” Sieve said.

It means employees will greet people who walk in the door. There will be a place to sit, and a place to eat if the customers have more on their mind than carryout. It means there will be new products, and the upsell includes salads made on site, cake, cookies, added beverages and yogurt shooters. Look for wood floors, real tile on the walls and a chalkboard for antsy children to draw on.

The company chose this region for the rollout for several reasons. “This area has strong franchisees who work well together, one of the most cohesive,” Sieve said. Also, “This is a strong economic part of the country.”

Brown has been a franchisee since 1994, working his way to ownership after beginning in 1984 as a Domino’s warehouseman.

Today he operates two new locations, two that have been remodeled, one that has been relocated and three that are in the permitting process for relocation. He began with 38 employees and now counts more than 200.

At his store in South Tacoma, there are 61 seats for customers. At his new store in downtown Tacoma, there are 51.

His South Hill store, the first ever to feature the new design, opened in April 2012.

“I’ve always admired the model of Starbucks,” he said Wednesday. “I felt this was the same sort of model. South Hill was our first leap of faith. The customers were pretty positive about the idea. It was a place to sit down instead of staring at a wall. When I started, we did about 10 percent carryout. Now we do 35 percent carryout, with the remainder being delivery.” Some franchises will sell slices.

“You can’t tell your customers what they want,” said Brown. “They told us they wanted bigger lobbies, and they wanted to be greeted. We’ve always been regarded as the fastest delivery, but the lowest in terms of customer service and product quality. Now, we’re starting to lead those categories.”

There has been an added benefit. “It’s easier to hire people when they see a store like this,” he said. “I get a lot more applicants into these stores.”

As the economy continues to improve, the company continues to hire more employees. In February, Domino’s issued a news release saying it planned to hire 800 new employees in the region.

And it seems to be working.

“Mike is the American dream,” Sieve said, of Mike Brown.

Brown said he’s thinking about expanding out along the Mountain Highway, maybe in Graham, or over in the Tri-Cities.

“I wouldn’t mind having 30 or 40 stores,” he said.