Customers love exhibition kitchens, especially when a dining room is small enough to allow an up-close-and-personal view of the restaurant’s culinary team in action. Will patrons of Domino’s Pizza get a similar sense of intimacy and excitement while picking up their order in a unit tricked out with the chain’s new “Pizza Theater” store design?
Give Domino’s credit. This nearly 10,000-store chain is swinging for the fences with its version of the open kitchen concept. “The Domino’s Pizza store of the future will have its pizza-making artists on display as they hand-toss (emphasis on the ‘toss’!) fresh dough and custom-make customers’ orders,” the company promises.
There’s more to the store-of-the-future setup. Other features include “a comfortable lobby, open-area viewing of the food preparation process, including a step platform for children to see the action, and the ability to order from a kiosk and track carryout orders electronically. The stores will also feature chalk boards to allow customers to express their creativity or to leave feedback for the store’s team members,” the company says. Also adding to the ambiance: flat-screen TVs.
We’re not too sure how the chalkboard commentary idea is going to play out in the current era of scorched-earth online reviews, so let’s hope Domino’s keeps an eraser handy. But other than that, the company is making needed improvements to its units. Let’s face it, the customer areas at many current Domino’s units are no-frills affairs that could use some sprucing up.
They’ll get that and more as the store of the future concept works its way through the Domino’s system. A dozen of these new-format stores have already opened. More are on the way, and the company has come up with a new, streamlined logo that will be a key visual component of its new design. Retrofits of existing stores aren’t part of the plan, but new units will be built to store-of-the-future specs.
One reason Domino’s made this move was because more of its customers opt to pick up their pizzas in person, rather that have them delivered. The company estimates that 30 percent of its volume now comes via in-store pickups. Onsite guests will likely be impressed by the new design’s customer-friendly features and upgraded store ambiance, but we’re scratching our heads about how the 70 percent of Domino’s patrons who never set food inside the store will benefit from this change.
Still, Domino’s may be on the right track with its open kitchen concept. It’s a proven format in large-scale restaurants that’s been showing up in smaller and smaller restaurants as of late. It’s even what they use at Sons & Daughters in San Francisco, a 29-seat restaurant that holds one Michelin star.
Domino’s has previously shown the ability to listen to its customers and make gutsy changes based on what it hears. So keep an eye on how its “store of the future” initiative plays out. In the meantime, other operators may wish to consider the merits of an open kitchen setup the next time they build a new restaurant or remodel the one they already have.