James Monaghan sold his share in DomiNick’s—precursor to the world’s second-largest pizza chain—to brother Tom for a Volkswagen Beetle.
With a $75 down payment and a loan of $500, brothers Tom and James Monaghan bought their first pizza store, called DomiNick’s, in Ypsilanti, Michigan, in 1960. James ended up selling his stake in the company months later to his brother for a Volkswagen Beetle, when the company still operated in the red. Probably not the smartest move.
“The initial days were slow; it was December, and kids weren’t out much,” explains Tim McIntyre, vice president of communications for Domino’s Pizza (dominos.com), now based in Ann Arbor, Michigan. “Delivering pizza to the dorms is what helped turn the business around.” In 1965, Tom renamed the business Domino’s, and by 1967, the first franchise store in Ypsilanti opened up, beginning one massive domino effect: Domino’s opened its 10,000th store in 2012 in Istanbul, Turkey.
As in the early days, the business’ focus on delivery was key to its success. “We did not invent delivery, but Domino’s was the first pizzeria to focus on it almost entirely,” McIntyre says. Tom further revolutionized the pizza industry with the 30-minute delivery guarantee introduced in the mid-’80s. And, over the years, several pizza innovations have been developed with the help of Domino’s, including the pizza screen, the conveyor oven, the corrugated pizza box and hot bag technology.
Tom eventually sold the company in 1998 for $1 billion—so much for that VW Beetle—and the company became publicly traded in 2004. But in recent years, the company has undergone major changes, introducing new menu items such as Breadbowl Pastas, oven-baked sandwiches, and the American Legends premium pizza line; the highly successful Pizza Tracker System as part of the online ordering process; the unveiling of a completely new recipe amid a self-deprecating marketing campaign; and ads designed to show greater transparency for the business. But McIntyre insists that the opportunities Domino’s offers its employees will never change. “Nearly 90% of all franchisees in the United States started as pizza delivery drivers or assistant managers,” he says. “The success of our people is among the greatest successes of our brand.” –Tracy Morin