Behind Domino's Pizza's recipe for success

Domino’s Pizza is hotter than ever.

One big reason has to do with marketing seven years ago that helped save the day when the flat-bread company was flatlining.

If you work for Domino’s, there is one skill you must master: how to make a pizza. In-store training is a requirement for all corporate employees at its Ann Arbor, Michigan, headquarters, no matter their position, CBS News correspondent Michelle Miller reports.

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Domino’s Pizza

CBS News

It’s one rule CEO Patrick Doyle left in place after taking over the helm of the global chain in 2010, a time very different than today.

“How is business?” Miller asked.

“Business is really good,” Doyle said.

So good, the business world is buzzing. In the last seven years, the company has outperformed Amazon, Apple, Facebook and Google with its stock going from $9 a share to over $180 today.

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Domino’s Pizza CEO Patrick Doyle 

CBS News

“We were double digit up in our same-store sales each of the last two years. We’re building stores. You know, we’re excited,” Doyle said.

To understand that excitement, you have to rewind a decade.

“2006 to 2008 we had negative sales in the U.S. People just felt like there were better pizzas and ‘you know what? I’m gonna buy from somebody else,’” Doyle said.

“So it was a question of taste?” Miller asked.

“Oh, absolutely,” Doyle said.

Just before the U.S. economy went belly up in 2008, Domino’s had a gut check of its own.

“People were losing their homes and their mortgages,” said Russell Weiner, president of Domino’s U.S. stores. “And all every American wanted was for someone to just stand up and tell ‘em the truth, to listen to their problem and to do the right thing.”

That meant dumping their decades-long marketing campaign, which branded Domino’s on speed – and doing the unthinkable: shooting a series of commercials inside their own test kitchen admitting their pizza wasn’t so hot.

Domino's® Pizza Turnaround by Domino's Pizza on YouTube

“Domino’s Pizza crust to me is like cardboard,” the commercial said.

“Why did you think it was going to work?” Miller asked.

“Because it was so different,” Doyle said. “We knew if we walked out and showed a commercial talking about how bad our product is, it’s going to break through. … The question is, are you going to persuade them that it’s better? We went on air on a Monday, and by Wednesday, our sales were up double digit. And we hadn’t even told them how we’d fixed it.”

Fixing it took nearly two years, a herculean task for head chef Roxanne Swamba and her team.

“We’ve changed the flavor of the cheese, the way it melts out. We’ve changed the sauce. And then we’ve added the garlic butter to the crust at the end, which, you know, most people leave their crust at the end, but now you have a flavored crust that when you didn’t eat it, you can eat it now,” Swamba said.

But taste wasn’t the only thing that evolved. The company, which two brothers launched back in 1960, had grown to 2,000 stores around the world by the year 2000. It took another decade before it fully moved into the 21st century.

“In 2009, we decided that technology was going to be a big deal,” Doyle said. Domino’s has more people working in IT than anywhere else in the company, he said.

“It was pretty clear to us that customers, how they were going to be ordering from us in the future was going to change,” Doyle said.

That meant developing new ways for customers to order.

“I think one of the coolest is being able to place an order using a pizza emoji [using Twitter],” Domino’s Chief Digital Officer Dennis Maloney said.

For Doyle, it all fits with a product that he says is nearly foolproof.

“The big advantage we have with pizza is, number one, it is still the most popular food,” he said. “We beat burgers and we beat any tacos. We beat anything else. … The other really big advantage though that we have for our model is it delivers well. And there are a lot of foods that don’t deliver well.”