The fast food industry is an overly-saturated one in America. Let's face it, in most areas of the United States, you can't drive more than a mile without running into at least one popular chain restaurant. Whether it's Starbucks, McDonald's, Wendy's, or Pizza Hut, fast food is everywhere.
But among those many giants of the industry, only some get to the top of the food chain and even fewer claim the number one spot.
So what chain is number one in the country as of 2016? Recent numbers say that Domino's Pizza could be the victor this year.
Truthfully, this was simultaneously shocking and unsurprising.
While Domino’s is a go-to for a drunken Saturday night, it seems to me that a chain that’s more frequently in the public eye, like McDonald’s or Burger King, would be more likely to come out on top.
Although you may see fewer Domino's locations than other popular restaurants, that doesn't necessarily dictate how well the chain is doing financially. And according to the most recent numbers from Business Insider, Domino's is doing very, very well.
On July 21, 2016, Domino's reported that their U.S. same-store sales have gone up 9.7% in the second quarter. This makes for Domino's 21st consecutive quarter of positive sales momentum.
Without anyone noticing too much, Domino's has been steadily rising to the top in the last few years.
So what, in the last 21 quarters, has gotten Domino's to the top spot today? Business experts believe there are four main reasons that could be attributed to the growing success of the chain.
2009 may seem like a long time ago to some of us, but it's really only been seven years since Domino's made a change to the chain's standard pizza recipe. In 2009, Domino’s upgraded their crust with a garlic-butter-herb seasoning. The chain proceeded to evolve their sauce and cheese as well, after months of taste testing.
A distinct turn-around in sales can be drawn back to this change in recipe, most likely because Domino's made a decided improvement in the quality of the core product, distinguishing the chain from competitors like Pizza Hut and Papa John's.
Just a year before Domino's made a change in recipe, the company also made a change in marketing personnel. Russell Weiner quit his position as Vice President of Pepsi in 2008 to join Domino's in the midst of a huge sales decline. The marketing strategy Weiner implemented resonated well with audiences; it was honest, self-deprecating, and funny.
Under this successful marketing campaign, Domino's thrived in the years to come, and the campaign ultimately got Weiner promoted President in 2014. In the past two years, with a marketing-minded leader at the helm, Domino's has managed to stay on top of trends and appeal to various audiences.
You'll notice, at the heart of the company, there are still ideas Weiner originally instilled; transparency with customers, as well as fun, quirky commercials aimed to appeal to millennial audiences.
This is one of the most recent changes for Domino's — and it's a big one. Digital ordering accounted for half of Domino's U.S. sales in the second quarter, mainly due to the popular online loyalty program. Domino's has expanded online ordering to over 15 platforms, including Apple Watch and Samsung TV.
This ease of "one click" ordering (made especially easy with their ordering app for iPhone and Android) was pioneered by Domino's in 2008 and has played one of the largest roles in launching the chain to the top. Not hard to see why, considering we live in an age where consumers are glued to their various devices and expect instant gratification. Well played, Domino's.
All too often in today's market, fast food companies will try to offer a range of products to draw in different groups of consumers. While this seems like a smart sales ploy on the surface, this often confuses the message and brand these companies have worked hard to create.
Focus on one specific market is a more likely recipe for success, which Domino's has clearly proved true. Although the chain does sell a variety of items, Domino's has found success in recent years when focusing almost only on the core product: pizza. This has helped consumers recognize Domino's as a go-to chain for this niche, and has consequently increased sales.
While Domino's continues to grow and clarify the company brand, competitors that were once a threat to the chain are doing the opposite. Or, at the very least, they're struggling to do what Domino's does quite as well.
For instance, Papa John's, a major competitor, has been falling behind Domino's both in online page views and in sales over the past two or three years. While Papa John's also boasts an online ordering system, the company site saw 9 million views a month, compared to Domino's 9.7 million a month, according to Business Insider.
Similarly, Papa John's made $3 billion in sales in 2014. This is certainly nothing to scoff at, but it's not as impressive compared to the $8 billion in sales Domino's made that same year. And two years later, this rift in page views and sales has only grown in Domino's favor.
Even non-pizza fast food chains are failing to do what Domino's is succeeding at. McDonald's, for example, has been struggling to find an appealing brand as their general aesthetic and company model has been gradually becoming irrelevant.
Instead of narrowing down to a clear, concise focus, Burger King has been attempting to release bizarre fast food stunts in the last few months, trying to imitate Taco Bell’s success with the Doritos Locos Tacos.
Between the improved quality of the food, clever marketing tactics, innovation in online ordering, and the sole focus in one main product, Domino's is poised to take over the quick service restaurant industry on all fronts.
As for their competitors? Other chains would be wise to watch and learn.